The Snowball, by Alice Schroeder is about “Warren Buffet and the Business of Life.”
Warren Buffet is obviously the most successful investor in the world. So The Snowball should be of huge interested to anyone who is considering a career in money management.
The Snowball is an incredibly in-depth look at how the “Oracle of Omaha” got to be where he is today. And to make matters better: This is the only biography Buffet has ever actively cooperated with, so you know this memoir is instructive.
It’s also a cool story about success. And there are some clear takeaway lessons that any ambitious person can use to improve their own standing in life (even if you think capital allocation is a yawn).
But before we really get started with this book review: There’s something else worth mentioning to you.
I read this book recently, and I actually took notes while reading it. So I have a pretty good handle on the content and I will do my best to give you an honest and accurate review so you can decide if you want to The Snowball (or someone in your family).
Let’s cut to the chase:
Why The Snowball is Worth Reading:
The Snowball is much more thorough than most biographies. The result is, you really feel like you’re walking in Warren Buffet’s shoes, throughout each year of his life. If that doesn’t sound like a learning opportunity… well… you might just be a lost cause.
I’m kidding of course. But please, understand:
The Snowball is ripe with anecdotes and examples that you can easily extract lessons from. And as I alluded to earlier, these lessons aren’t restricted to the world of finance.
Because the truth is…
To be as successful at anything as Warren Buffet is at investing would be a huge accomplishment. Accordingly, understanding how Buffet views his “craft” of capital allocation is incredibly insightful. Throughout the book it’s clear that Warren focuses on studying companies and investment opportunities for the entirety of his waking hours.
And at one point:
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are discussing success. And they both agree that the most important factor in success is focus. I found this passage to be incredibly eye-opening because not only are two titans of industry discussing strategies to win. But they also agreed on the most important factor in making it big. This lesson in itself made the book worth it for me.
But we’re really just getting started. Because The Snowball has over 700 pages of great ideas.
Another neat aspect of The Snowball is all of the lessons on human nature and psychology. Warren Buffet is an incredibly rational guy. So the book is peppered with advice about how you can make smarter decisions (and examples of people who don’t).
You’ll learn some common fallacies that affect almost everyone, even at the highest levels of business, and how they apply in real life situations that have happened.
And since Warren Buffet has been making big-stakes deals for so long, there are no shortage of awe-inspiring examples. But let me share my favorite part of The Snowball with you…
My Favorite Thing About The Snowball:
The Snowball starts out by profiling Warren’s family, including his parents and grandparents. Then it talks about his sisters, brothers and aunts. So when Warren finally comes into the picture, you meet him in the context of his humble Omaha roots.
And here’s the best part:
Since The Snowball profiles Warren Buffet in this step-by-step manner, you really see up close and in detail how he went from a lowly newspaper delivery boy to a billionaire owner of a private jet company. More specifically…
I always wondered how Warren Buffet got his first big pay check. I mean, once somebody has a couple million surely they can invest it and earn a good return. So what I really found fascinating in The Snowball was that it showed exactly how Warren earned his first nest egg
You learn in detail about how Warren first became interested in investing. Then you watch him stumble along until he picks up a certain book, and meets a certain man. You see what helps him and what hinders him along the way. Each turning point gives surprising insight into how Warren Buffet actually got rich.
And from there… (as per the title)… things quickly snowball.
But it was learning about the formative years and the early stages of Warren Buffet’s investing career that really had an impact on me. And given Warren’s stature as the most successful investor alive, I think you can probably benefit too.
Now before we get too carried away, there’s one last thing you should know before deciding if you want to buy The Snowball or not. So let me just share with you…
What The Snowball Doesn’t Teach:
The Snowball is an incredibly comprehensive look at the life and business decisions of Warren Buffet. It gives amazing insight into his personality, and what he sacrificed to get where he is. But buying a book for the wrong reason sucks. So I want to make one thing clear.
The Snowball does not teach you how to invest like Warren Buffet. I’m sure some of you were hoping for Warren’s investing secrets so you could copy and paste his portfolio. And while the book is absurdly instructive, the lessons are a little bit more abstract.
By understanding how Warren Buffet thinks and lives, you can infer a lot about his investment priorities, and his philosophy towards business and capital allocation. But the book doesn’t talk too much about which financial metrics Buffet uses in his investment decision making, or why he made a particular investment.
The Snowball is just a little bit more big picture.
But don’t fret:
If you want to learn more about Warren Buffet’s direct views on investing, I recommend you read his shareholder letters, which are available as a book, or on berkshirehathaway.com. Buffet has been CEO of Berkshire Hathaway since 1965. And his annual reports are dedicated to explaining his investment decisions, so if that’s your main interest I would recommend you read those.
But just keep in mind: Getting the big picture view of Buffet’s life is an amazing way to put all of his investment advice from the shareholder letters into context. And having read all the Berkshire letters, and The Snowball, I feel qualified to say that.
So let’s wrap this book review up, shall we?
The Snowball – The Final Word
Whether or not you are interested in capital allocation or not, this book is entertaining to read and incredibly educational. The Snowball helps you understand the kind of dedication, patience and determination that is required for lasting legacy and success. It also gives you an accurate look at some of the downsides.
After reading The Snowball I can’t help but feel that Warren Buffet is more of a regular guy than you might think. He has eccentricities like you and me. But he also has focus, passion and a burning desire to improve society. It’s really quite inspiring.
So I hope this book review has given you a good idea of what you can expect from The Snowball. Usually Amazon has discounts so I suggest you buy The Snowball on Amazon to get it cheap (in true Buffet fashion).
The Snowball Book Details and Video Book Review: