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The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life


The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life Cover



Author Q & A

Q&A with Alice Schroeder, author of

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life

When did you first meet Warren Buffett, and what was your first impression?

His company, Berkshire Hathaway, bought a company whose stock I followed while working as a Wall Street analyst. I sent him a letter asking to bring some clients to Omaha to meet with him. He called me back in person. I was immensely flattered and impressed that someone like him would call me. He came across as down-to-earth and grandfatherly.

Because you were essentially handpicked by Buffett to write his biography, was it ever difficult to remain objective throughout the process?

By the time I started the book I’d known him for five years. My initial awe gave way to curiosity as I began to understand him as a human being. He became a fascinating puzzle that I wanted to solve. Gradually, I realized that writing the book meant putting my relationship with him on the line. Whether your subject will do future interviews with you, how he will react to what you’ve written, whether he or his powerful friends will approve of you afterward — until you accept the worst outcomes to these questions, the relationship is steering the writing. As somebody once put it, you have to write as though both you and your subject are dead. That’s a tall order, but I tried.

What does the title–The Snowball–signify?

The snowball — snowballing — is a common metaphor for compounding. Warren has a saying about success: “Life is like a snowball — all you need is wet snow and a really long hill.” But mostly when we think of something that snowballs, it rolls along by itself. Warren Buffett’s snowball, on the other hand, was created with immense energy and meticulous care.

You spent thousands of hours with Buffett, his associates, friends, and family to gather the information needed to write this book. What was it like to have such unprecedented access to a man who has remained private (at least by today’s celebrity standards)?

One day early on, his assistant, Debbie Bosanek, walked into the office, saying, “Warren, Senator So-and-so is on the phone for you.” “I’ll call him back later,” Warren said. “Alice and I are going out for a milk shake.” That was my introduction to how he prioritizes his time — milk shakes over politicians. Gradually I got used to the routine and faded into the landscape of the office while watching the other awed visitors tiptoe in and out. When we weren’t doing formal interviews I hung around in his office going through files while he read and talked on the phone. I learned a lot through osmosis.

The public has observed one side of Buffett–that of a successful businessman and investor. After glimpsing both his public and private sides, what do you think might surprise readers most about “the Oracle of Omaha”?

He’s wittier and more interesting when he’s not onstage. The book is full of quotes from our conversations, and I think readers are going to enjoy getting to know Warren Buffett, unplugged.

The Snowball is being called both a life story and a “biography of ideas.” Do you expect it to appeal to fans of biographies and business/finance titles equally?

I think The Snowball should be of interest to both audiences, but as I wrote I envisioned telling the story aloud to my best friend from college, a housewife and mother of two who lives in Texas. Warren’s story is filled with life lessons; I hope that readers will finish the book with some ideas they can use in their own lives.

Buffett has always said he will not write a memoir. Do you think he’ll ever change his mind?

Warren has always said that of all the ways he has to invest his time, one of the least rewarding for him would be to write a memoir. For that reason and many others, I don't think he'll ever do it.

What authors and books have influenced your own work?

I started reading, literally, in my crib, and certain writers' voices echo in my head. But for this book, early in the project, Don Graham, publisher of the Washington Post, gave me some important advice. If you don’t do for Buffett what Boswell did in Life of Johnson, he said, it will be a huge loss to posterity. Boswell portrayed not just Samuel Johnson’s story but his life and times and all of the fascinating characters with whom he surrounded himself. I would never pretend to be another Boswell, but with Don’s encouragement The Snowball aspires to capture the traveling carnival of Warren Buffett’s life.

What’s next for you–more books?

First I’d like to go on my honeymoon. I got married in April (to David Moyer, an executive search consultant). Who knows what will happen after that?

Anything else you’d like to add?

It was an honor and a privilege to write this book. Warren’s decision to cooperate with me changed my life in many ways, but especially by allowing me to spend five years contemplating what is really important in life. I will always be grateful for that.

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

Schroeder, Alice
Random House Audio Publishing Group
Read by:
McGonagle, Richard
McGonagle, Richard
McGonagle, Richard
Capitalists and financiers
Investments -- United States.
Edition Description:
Eight CD
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
6.00x5.00x1.15 in. .56 lbs.
Media Run Time:

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Audio Books » Business » Business and Finance
Audio Books » Nonfiction
Biography » Business

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life New Compact Disc
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Product details pages Random House Audible - English 9780739334065 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Successful investor Warren Buffett sits down with author Schroeder to give readers deep and erudite insights into his work and personal life. Detailing his views on current trends in the economy and society, Buffet speaks with tremendous wisdom about everything from his family to his business ethics. Richard McGonagle gives an eloquent, straightforward reading. He has a knack for delivering words with a profound importance in his voice, drawing in listeners and holding their interest for hours. Schroeder reads her introduction and sets the tone for this revealing biography. A Bantam hardcover (reviewed online). (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Synopsis" by , At last comes the book recounting the life and times of Warren Buffett that the legendary Omaha investor has refused to write himself. Abridged. 8 CDs.
"Synopsis" by , US
"Synopsis" by , Here is THE audiobook recounting the life and times of one of the most respected men in the world, Warren Buffett. The legendary Omaha investor has never written a memoir, but now he has allowed one writer, Alice Schroeder, unprecedented access to explore directly with him and with those closest to him his work, opinions, struggles, triumphs, follies, and wisdom. The result is the personally revealing and complete biography of the man known everywhere as “The Oracle of Omaha.”

Although the media track him constantly, Buffett himself has never told his full life story. His reality is private, especially by celebrity standards. Indeed, while the homespun persona that the public sees is true as far as it goes, it goes only so far. Warren Buffett is an array of paradoxes. He set out to prove that nice guys can finish first. Over the years he treated his investors as partners, acted as their steward, and championed honesty as an investor, CEO, board member, essayist, and speaker. At the same time he became the worlds richest man, all from the modest Omaha headquarters of his company Berkshire Hathaway. None of this fits the term “simple.”

When Alice Schroeder met Warren Buffett she was an insurance industry analyst and a gifted writer known for her keen perception and business acumen. Her writings on finance impressed him, and as she came to know him she realized that while much had been written on the subject of his investing style, no one had moved beyond that to explore his larger philosophy, which is bound up in a complex personality and the details of his life. Out of this came his decision to cooperate with her on the book about himself that he would never write.

Never before has Buffett spent countless hours responding to a writers questions, talking, giving complete access to his wife, children, friends, and business associates—opening his files, recalling his childhood. It was an act of courage, as The Snowball makes immensely clear. Being human, his own life, like most lives, has been a mix of strengths and frailties. Yet notable though his wealth may be, Buffetts legacy will not be his ranking on the scorecard of wealth; it will be his principles and ideas that have enriched peoples lives. This audiobook tells you why Warren Buffett is the most fascinating American success story of our time.

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