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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

A detailed, candid exploration of "the oracle of Omaha."

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At the age of 78, Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest self-made tycoons in the history of the world. For a long time, a lot of people have found him fascinating, usually focusing not only on his accumulation of money through an astonishing array of businesses, but also on his home base of Omaha, Neb., and his apparently folksy lifestyle.

Now, in The Snowball, novice biographer Alice Schroeder gives us one of the most detailed, candid life stories ever published. Schroeder shifts from her career as Wall Street analyst and certified public accountant to alternately puff up and tear down Buffett – with his exuberant cooperation.

In chronicling Buffett’s business deals, family ties, and extramarital relationships, Schroeder has probably done a complete job of recounting Buffet’s successes. It is more difficult to imagine that she has been as thorough with Buffett’s dark side.

At times, it seems Buffett uses a cult of personality to disguise what he is really doing to increase his bank accounts and feed his vanity. (The vanity is obvious, despite the folksiness.)

Still, it is equally difficult to imagine that a future biographer of Buffett will achieve a higher ranking on the candor scale. Much of what Schroeder writes she never would have learned without Buffett’s cooperation. Buffett told her that when she heard conflicting accounts, to publish the least flattering. Schroeder follows his advice at least occasionally.

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