Kempton’s Review/Best of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”

I am going to share with you some of my favourite text in my review of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” by Alice Schroeder. You see, when I read a good book I will underline the text, add notes in the margin, and sometimes dog-ear my books quite heavily and proudly (for a while, a photo of me holding Bill Buxton’s book was posted on Bill’s site).

So for this 960 Pages, 62 Chapters + Afterword biography about Warren, I will highlight some of my favourite text in each of the 62 Chapters + Afterword and then take a picture of the marked up pages. Enjoy.

NOTE: See bottom of this article to see additional notes, video ofAlice speaking at a conference, etc.

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PART ONE / The Bubble

Chapter 1 – The Less Flattering Version

I don’t know many people who has the humility to tell their biographer, “Whenever my version is different from somebody else’s … use the less flattering version.

(note: click on photo to see a large & clearly readable version of the text)

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Chapter 2 – Sun Valley

I see, I finally know where did Warren first come up with his explanations using the automobiles and airplanes industries. He did it at Sun Valley and then later used them in his 2000 annual letter to shareholders. (If you are too cheap (big smile) to buy this book, download and read some of Warren annual letters to shareholders and gain some investment insights for free.)

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Chapter 3 – Creatures of Habit

Wow, I know Warren reads a lot, but I have no idea that he reads this much. And he also read “… newsletters from writers he admired on the stock and bond market.” My friend, just think for a moment, Warren Buffett reading someone else insights on the stock and bond market. If this is not humble and willing to learn from others, I don’t know what is !!!

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Chapter 4 – Warren, What’s Wrong?

Great insight, “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard. I always pose it this way. I say: ‘Lookit, Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?’ Now, that’s an interesting question.

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PART TWO / The Inner Scorecard

Chapter 5 – The Urge to Preach

Now, can I get someone to work on me? (big smile)

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Chapter 6 – The Bathtub Steeplechase

“But no matter what she [Warren’s mother] thought she was doing, by the time Warren was three years old and their sister Roberta, known as Bertie, was born, “it couldn’t bee put back together,” he says, for him or for Doris. The damage to their souls was done.”

This is the toughest and most insightful chapter for me to read about Warren as I had no idea the challenges that Warren and his sister Doris had to face when they were little. I cry too easily and I did cry when I read this chapter.

I hope when some readers read this section, they will take a moment to reflect upon their own actions towards their children and decide to change. It is never too late. The readers may start reading the book thinking they will get tips on how to get rich, but I hope they will allow what they’ve read/learned to help them grow and change. For the souls of ** your children ** are worth much much more than the money that one may wish to gain from reading the book.

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Chapter 7 – Armistice Day

Those bottle caps. :) “All this free information was lying around untouched — and no one wanted it!” Ask yourself, are there similar untouched and unloved information around you? There may be some use in them after all. :)

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Chapter 8 – A Thousand Ways

I want to pick more than one section in this chapter but I pick this one at the end. I love little kids and I try never talk down to them. And I think Warren’s example here showed clearly why this is important.

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Please leave a comment to talk about your favourite parts of the book. Thanks.

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Chapter 9 – Inky Fingers

I guess everyone can have a “bad boy/girl” phase including Warren. It is almost unbelievable to read that he had grades like Cs, Ds and even D minuses. And Cs in math!

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Chapter 10 – True Crime Stories

Not idea that Warren has his bad boy side too.

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Chapter 11 – Pudgy She Was Not

Cute, no idea Warren used to weight-lift.

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Chapter 12 – Silent Sales

Brilliant in the creating this $25 pinball machine idea and working with barbershops. Simply brilliant.

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Chapter 13 – The Rules of the Racetrack

We learn a lot from our bad decisions and I think Warren learned a lot from this lost in the racetrack. Some lessons, like this lost in the racetrack, have general applicability and can benefit us in unexpected ways.

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Chapter 14 – The Elephant

The one class Warren like in freshman year, “… Industry 101, which discussed different industries and the nuts and bolts of running a business. ‘It was textiles, it was steel, it was petroleum. I can still remember the book. I got a lot of stuff from it. I can remember talking about the laws of capture in petroleum …'”

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Chapter 15 – The Interview

How Warren got rejected by Harvard and how he came to study in Columbia under Benjamin Graham and David Dodd.

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Chapter 16 – Strike One

The truth was that I know the book [Security Analysis] even better than Dodd. I could quote any part of it. At that time, literally, almost in those whole seven or eight hundred pages, I knew every example.

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Chapter 17 – Mount Everest

I had no idea of the private life of Graham is so, shall I say, “colourful”, “About the only way a human being competed with the classic authors for Graham’s attention was to be female and beddable.

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Chapter 18 – Miss Nebraska

Susie and Warren. Very interesting read.

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Note: This and other things in life interrupted my original plan to write a little about each chapter. I hope you will still enjoy the remaining “best of” selections of The Snowball. If you can, please buy a copy of The Snowball and share your “best of” selections with us here by leaving a comment.

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Chapter 19 – Stage Fright

Excerpt (link to a picture of the pages with text highlighted)

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PART THREE – The Racetrack

Chapter 20 Graham-Newman

Excerpt

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Chapter 21 – This Side to Play

Excerpt

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Chapter 22 – Hidden Splendor

Excerpt

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ch23-The Omaha Club

Excerpt

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ch24-The Locomotive

Excerpt

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ch25-The Windmill War

Excerpt

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ch26-Haystacks of Gold

Excerpt

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ch27-Folly

Excerpt

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ch28 Dry Tinder

Excerpt

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ch29 What a Worsted Is

Excerpt

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ch30 Jet Jack

Excerpt

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ch31 The Scaffold Sways the Future

Excerpt

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ch32 Easy, Safe, Profitable, and Pleasant

Excerpt

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ch33 The Unwinding

Excerpt

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PART FOUR – Susie Sings

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ch34 Candy Harry

Excerpt

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ch35 The Sun

Excerpt

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ch36 Two Drowned Rats

Excerpt

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ch37 Newshound

Excerpt

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ch38 Spaghetti Western

Excerpt

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ch39 The Giant

Excerpt

Interestingly complex Blue Chip Stamps chart. (According to Alice, “What you see on the page is the result of many months of work piecing together data from financial statements, legal records and interviews. The chart that appears in the middle of the book is not even complete — and it was prepared by Verne Mckenzie, Berkshire’s controller – even he couldn’t figure out all the strands of spaghetti by 1977 when the Blue Chip case was being settled. It was like being a forensic accountant. Previously this story has been sort of dismissed and trivialized as unimportant, the big bad SEC pursuing Warren and Charlie over nothing much, but in fact it was a more serious situation and if the same thing happened in today’s legal atmosphere the consequences would probably be worse.” Wow, amazing.)

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ch40 How Not to Run a Public Library

Excerpt

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ch41 And Then What?

Excerpt

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ch42 Blue Ribbon

Excerpt

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PART FIVE – The King of Wall Street

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ch43 Pharaoh

Excerpt

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ch44 Rose

Excerpt

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ch45 Call the Tow Truck

Excerpt

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ch46 Rubicon

Excerpt

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ch47 White Nights

Excerpt

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ch48 Thumb-Sucking, and Its Hollow-Cheeked Result

Excerpt

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ch49 The Angry Gods

Excerpt

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ch50 The Lottery

Excerpt

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ch51 To Hell with the Bear

Excerpt

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ch52 Chickenfeed

Excerpt

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PART SIX – Claim Checks

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53 The Genie

Excerpt

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ch54 Semicolon

Excerpt

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ch55 The Last Kay Party

Excerpt

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ch56 By the Rich, for the Rich

Excerpt

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ch57 Oracle

Excerpt

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ch58 Buffetted

Excerpt

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ch59 Winter

Excerpt

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ch60 Frozen Coke

Excerpt

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ch61 The Seventh Fire

Excerpt

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ch62 Claim Checks

Excerpt

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Afterword

Excerpt

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Here is what the book looks like after I am finished. :)

P.S. Here are some links to book reviews, interview videos, etc. that I’ve enjoyed. I hope you will too. From Huffington Post, Alice speaking at Value Investing Conference (starts at 6:00 mark), Business Week, New York Times, WSJ Video, Forbes Video, KCTS9 video (Quoting Alice, “Warren is the great statesman of capitalism around the world”. I like it), Washington Post, Slate video (funny), lengthy book excerpts from Financial Times part 1 and part 2, PBS video, CNN, talk to an audience aired by C-Span.

[HT: Alice’s Facebook fan page]

Again, here is Alice at Value Investing Conference (highly recommended with deep investment insight),

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Oct 2nd, 2008 Update: Check out Warren Buffett’s chat with Charlie Rose (video recorded Oct 1st, 2008) – When a Wise Man Speaks in a Crisis.

Dec 25th, 2008 Update: Finally finished this great bio on Dec 19th (thanks Alice for writing this great book). And now I’ve also picked the “best of” pages from each chapter.

Dec 10th, 2009 Update: Here is an interesting interview of Alice with Jeff Matthews re: Buffett and Snowball.

Oct 15th, 2014 Update: Just read this Michael Lewis review of the book. Love the review! Very insightful even I disagree with some of his views and I think Lewis mis-stated a fact or two.

32 Responses to Kempton’s Review/Best of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”

  1. […] Kempton’s Review/Best of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” […]

  2. […] exhausting. I would rather had spent more time in my own management consulting work, making films, reading books, etc. But I also think, as Canadians, it is our democratic rights and duties to hold our three […]

  3. […] I am looking forward to seeing what Warren Buffett today. In the mean time, I am going to read and review some more “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life”. […]

  4. […] Sept 29, 2008 Update: Wonderful. I actually got my copy last Friday (Sept 26, 2008) ! Here is Kempton’s Review/Best of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” with my favourite sections/quotes of the […]

  5. […] Buffett talking to MBA students Sept 29, 2008 Update: Feel free to check out Kempton’s Review/Best of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” with my favourite sections/quotes of the […]

  6. […] Warren Buffett and the Business of Life – My date with Warren Sept 29, 2008 Update: Here is Kempton’s Review/Best of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” with my favourite sections/quotes of the […]

  7. […] Combined with Courage in a Crisis is Priceless Alice Schroeder, “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” author, appears on CNBC today. The reason for the book title, “Life is Like A […]

  8. […] I am reading and reviewing Warren Buffet’s biography “The Snowball“, I want to take this moment to take stock of my own education and […]

  9. Sam Nash says:

    I read Snowball, Einstein, and The Soul of a Chef (Thomas Keller) in the same month. The common threads between the folks is striking

    1) Focus – All of these guys focused on their passion. Whether it was investing, physics, or cooking
    2) Depth of Knowledge – Thomas Keller knows exactly how he should cut the foie gras for it to cook perfectly, Mr. Buffett knows in moments whether to buy a company. He knows figures for all his companies. He read Moody’s and evaluated every company in there.
    3) The Inner Scorecard – Einstein, Keller and Buffett all measure themselves by their own scorecard and not societies.

  10. kempton says:

    Hi Sam,

    Very interesting combinations of books. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    For Einstein books, one of my favourite is
    http://www.amazon.com/Albert-Einstein-Human-Side/dp/0691023689

    And you may enjoy these French Laundry interviews,
    https://kempton.wordpress.com/2007/10/13/french-laundry-interviews/

    Regards,
    Kempton

  11. […] 960 pages“The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” (check out my review/best of here). Alice Schroeder (link to Alice’s Facebook fan page) has become the de facto expert on all […]

  12. […] Snowball presentation Here is, in my humble opinion, the following is the best Snowball (the biography about Warren Buffett) presentation that Alice has given so far. Enjoy. (Presentation […]

  13. hevangel says:

    I tried to read your book review, but it’s too hard to follow. Too many clicks to the photos. It would be much easier to read if you simply quote the paragraphs in the blog instead of an external link to a blurry picture.

  14. kempton says:

    Horace,

    Thanks for sharing your feedback. Yeah, it does take some extra clicks to read those passages but it saves me tons of time in re-typing the sections. Call me lazy but thats a happy medium for selecting some best of.

    re page sharpness: I’ve checked all the pages to make sure they are readable before I uploaded them

    And, by the way, my “best of” is just my way of praising Alice’s wonderful book, I highly encourage interested readers go buy a copy and read the book themselves and find their own “best of”. I will never say (mine included) reading a book review/best is a replacement for reading the origin. (may be thats why my pages are readable but “blurry” (smile))

  15. […] true capitalist and while he donated his fortune for good of the world, I think, after reading the 960 pages insightful Buffett bio The Snowball, Warren won’t invest for reasons “like rescuing the […]

  16. […] is a quote by Buffett that I love from his biography – The Snowball, “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or […]

  17. […] have read a lot about him but don’t listen to me. Listen and learn from Warren the master […]

  18. […] Schroeder, author of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” and a senior adviser to Morgan Stanley, is a Bloomberg News […]

  19. […] Schroeder, author of “The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life” and a senior adviser to Morgan Stanley, is a Bloomberg News […]

  20. […] Special thanks to Marcelo, Alice and also Sahil for sharing their insight in this Snowball Facebook group discussion thread that helped me to formulate the […]

  21. […] $2.1 million Warren Buffett lunch A Hong Kong based hedge fund manager paid $2.1 million for a lunch with Warren. Some of the questions he asked, he could have found out from reading Alice’s biography about Warren “The Snowball“. […]

  22. […] Milton & Rose Friedman, James Dyson (auto-bio), Dick Haskayne (auto-bio), Warren Buffett (bio), […]

  23. […] this day, it may be fitting to include the following excerpt from The Snowball – by Alice Schroeder (emphasis added), “Warren had a little single oval HO-gauge train set and coveted a more […]

  24. […] Schroeder on Warren Buffett and BNSF After writing the insightful Warren Buffett biography The Snowball, Alice Schroeder has gained my respect and I look forward to read her analysis of Warren’s […]

  25. […] 論 畢菲特 – 鐵路大亨 After writing the insightful Warren Buffett biography The Snowball, Alice Schroeder has gained my respect and I look forward to read her analysis of Warren’s […]

  26. […] condensed” version of The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, [note: see my "best of"/review of The Snowball] Schroeder adds a new 31-page chapter covering events after the hardcover’s publication last […]

  27. […] Railroads, and the Lessons of History” by Alice Schroeder (biography of Warren Buffett, The Snowball) (emphasis […]

  28. […] “big read” was the epic 960 pages, 62 chapters + afterword Warren Buffett: biography “The Snowball” (see review/”best of”) by Alice Schroeder. Wonderful read. Very […]

  29. […] for those who has paid attention to the deal and Warren Buffett’s public opinion of the deal, Alice Schroeder (biographer of Buffett) made some insightful observations in “Buffett Orchestrates Kraft-Cadbury Deal” […]

  30. Tom West says:

    Kempton, this is the best review I have ever read, thank you. I also enjoyed the book and it has changed my entire business approach.

  31. kempton says:

    Tom, Glad you enjoy the review and the book. The snowball is one of the book I enjoy the most in recent years. If you want to read more of Alice’s insight about BRK and Warren, check out her blog at http://www.aliceschroeder.com/ .

  32. […] As a side note, I not only have read Warren’s 62 chapters and 960 pages biography “Snowball”, I also frequently read Alice’s blog. Including, belatedly, this Aug 6 article “Buffett […]

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