When I first heard that Alice Schroeder was writing a biography of Warren Buffett, I was excited. Buffett knows Ms. Schroeder well, and had given her extensive interviews and unprecedented access to his records — this was sure to be the definitive tome on one of the richest and most ethical people in the world.
The result of the collaboration is the 816 page tome The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. It’s an exhaustive look at Buffett’s life and career but it’s also, frankly, exhausting. The problem is that the book is just too long, with seemingly hundreds of pages devoted to Buffett’s friendship with Washington Post matriarch Katherine Graham, and huge amounts of pop psychology discussing his complex relationship with his wife. There is even a detailed discussion of Buffett’s colonoscopy and the polyps that were found — minutiae that only diehard value investors will appreciate.
There is some fascinating material here, especially in the beginning: did you know that The Oracle of Omaha was a bona fide juvenile delinquent, stealing golf clubs from Sears every weekend? But funny anecdotes like that aside, Warren Buffett’s personal life is just not interesting enough to be a major component of a biography. He plays bridge, eats hamburgers, and pals around with Bono. The most interesting story is the business story, and you can get a more interesting look at that in Roger Lownstein’s Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist.