The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of LifeThe Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder

Rating: 5 of 5 stars ( Goodreads review)

To succeed in business, be patient, look for value, be honest, and have cash in hand. And don’t think about anything else. In fact, be an unrepentent monomaniac. Warren Buffett has become the worlds richest man by making investments that he gets derided for at 10-year intervals, then, when the bubble bursts, he is a saint again…. Buffett is extremely good at making money – and has a rather impressive idea about what to do with it (keep investing, give it all away to someone who is good at giving away money, such as Bill Gates.)

The biography is an impressive work in itself. 838 densely written pages about a man whose personal life has been rather unspectacular (hamburgers and Cherry Coke, poring over stock lists and annual reports). Schroeder is a business writer and financial analyst, so she has real knowledge about deals and can write with authority on complicated cases such as Salomon Brothers. I would have loved to see her write a biography on Bill Gates with the same level of business detail, though we will probably have to wait another decade or so for that to happen.

(Incidentally, I once heard Buffett speak, at the Harvard Business School in, I think, 1991. He was asked about what he thought of the derivatives market, which was beginning to take off at that point, and said that if he was alone on a deserted island with 100 people and the only sustenance was rice, he wouldn’t have put 50 of them to work peddling rice futures….)

Recommended for the budding investor – and as a backgrounder on the financial crisis. It is up to date as of April 2008, which is rather impressive in itself.

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