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

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I have always wanted to read The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life but never got around to it.  Since I am planning to go to the Berkshire Hathaway Annual General Meeting in April/May of this year, I thought it would be a good idea to read more about Warren Buffett since I heart him so much.  Back in 2010 (yes, over 5 years ago), commenters on this blog suggested that I read The Snowball since I like Warren Buffett so much.  Well, six years later I finally got around to it and I wished I read it earlier.  It's a wonderful read.  I actually cried while reading it and laughed out loud at times.  Thankfully my financially savvy partner has a copy of this book and I borrowed it from him.

The Snowball is a biography written by Alice Schroeder, who worked for Morgan Stanley as a Wall Street Analyst and quit her job to write full time.  I think she did an amazing job writing the biography.  It was certainly a page turner and fascinating to learn about his background, about Warren Buffett's parents and their background, and his grandparents.  In addition to learning about his wife Susie and his three children and his relationship with Astrid.

The Snowball:  Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

the snowballThe book is over 800 pages but has short chapters (that are really page turning, considering it is a biography!) and it really did NOT feel like 800+ pages.  It is one of the few books that I don't fall asleep to when I am reading it!  It starts of talking about Warren Buffett's upbringing, his grandparents and his parents' background.  It also talked about his relationship with his mother and siblings (I did not know that he had a strained relationship with his mother).  It was a chronological encounter of his life so far and included pictures (which I always love) of him growing up and over the years.  Throughout the book Alice Schroeder weaved information about his drive and ambition in relation to the relationships in his life.  She weaved in information about his acquisitions, his investing, and how he ‘crowd sourced' funding for investments.

What I Like About the Book

What I liked about the book as that it was chronological, you really go to understand why Warren Buffett behaves the way he did.  His search for unconditional love and female attention and companionship was evident considering he never got it as a child from his mother.  I enjoyed reading about his childhood and actually laughed out loud when I saw that he found a way to expense his watch for his work as a paper route boy.  He is brilliant!  I also cried when I read about the suffering and pain and anguish he had to go through while his wife Susie was sick.  His personality and the personalities of his loved ones surrounding him were really evident and prominent.

What I really liked about the book was that Alice Schroeder made the world's 3rd richest man seem very, well human.  He counts success not by money but by how one is loved.  I liked that he admitted he was not a family man and he felt he had let his wife down.  I liked that he was obsessive about his wife and daughter's weight (interesting!).  I liked that he set a goal for himself and achieved these goals through hard work and determination, and of course the “Ovarian Lottery”.  I liked the accounts of how he met the prominent influencers in his life, like Charlie Munger, Kay Graham, Sharon Osberg, Bill Gates, and the like.

What I Didn't Like About the Book

To be honest, there really wasn't much that I didn't like.  Sometimes I found the business detailing a bit too descriptive and I found myself tuning out during these times.  I found myself more drawn to the stories about his relationships with his wife an loved ones and how he interacted with those around him.  However without the business side of things I think the book might be too heavily influenced one way or another so it was a nice balance.

Readers, have you read The Snowball:  Warren Buffett and the Business of Life?  What did you think of it?

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Young is a writer and former owner of Young and Thrifty and the main "twitter' behind Young and Thrifty's twitter account. She lives in Vancouver, BC and enjoys long walks on the beach, spending time with her anxious dog, and finding good deals. If you like what you read, consider signing up for email updates.

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