The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life By Alice Schroeder Bantam Books; 976 pages
Warren Buffett the investor is widely known: his $5 billion bet on the battered Goldman Sachs on Sept. 23 surely came as no surprise to fans of his coolheaded strategy of buying good firms on the cheap. Buffett the person, on the other hand, is quite a surprise--an emotionally needy husband and absentee father who avoids anyone he fears might criticize him. Even people who don't care a whit about business will be intrigued by this portrait of a boy who endured a verbally abusive mother and grew into a man desperately dependent on a series of women to bolster his psyche--even as he became the richest person on the planet. Schroeder, a former insurance-industry analyst, spent years interviewing Buffett, and the result is a side of the Oracle of Omaha that has rarely been seen. When Buffett's daughter tells him he doesn't have to go to his wife's funeral, he is awash with relief: "'I can't,' he said. To sit there, overwhelmed with thoughts of Susie, in front of everyone, was too much." Even the master is all too human.
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