The Snowball

Paperback $22.00

Bantam | Oct 27, 2009 | 832 Pages | 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 | ISBN 9780553384611

  • Paperback$22.00

    Bantam | Oct 27, 2009 | 832 Pages | 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 | ISBN 9780553384611

  • Hardcover$37.00

    Bantam | Sep 29, 2008 | 976 Pages | 6-1/4 x 9-1/4 | ISBN 9780553805093

  • Ebook$13.99

    Bantam | Sep 29, 2008 | ISBN 9780553905496

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    Random House Audio | Sep 29, 2008 | 2221 Minutes | ISBN 9781415948019

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    Random House Audio | Sep 29, 2008 | 600 Minutes | ISBN 9780739334072

Awards

People Magazine “Top Ten Books” WINNER 2008

Publishers Weekly Best Books of 2008 WINNER

The Globe and Mail “Top 10 Business Books” WINNER 2008

The Washington Post “Best Books” WINNER 2008

Praise

“The mandatory book to read in these treacherous times of financial crisis.…A thoughtful and intimate biography of the globe’s wisest investor.” –Forbes

“Will mesmerize anyone interested in who Mr. Buffett is or how he got that way.” The Snowball tells a fascinating story.”–New York Times

“If the replication of any great achievement first requires knowledge of how it was done, then The Snowball, the most detailed glimpse inside Warren Buffett and his world that we likely will ever get, should become a Bible for capitalists.” —Washington Post

Anyone who has been watching events unfold in recent months–which would be everyone–can now appreciate the wisdom of Buffett….The most authoritative portrait of one of the most important American investors of our time.”–Los Angeles Times

“Even people who don’t care a whit about business will be intrigued by this portrait… 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.” —Time Magazine

"Schroeder… has a meat-and-potatoes style that matches the homespun wisdom of her subject…Now more than ever, Buffett’s emphasis on fundamentals seems like genius. It’s the perfect moment for a great book on an immensely inspiring capitalist."—People, four stars

“Schroeder…is well equipped to elucidate Buffett’s deals…[and] Buffett’s life abounds with good stories.”—New Yorker

“You will learn a lot about one of the nation’s most compelling and important men from reading The Snowball.” —Boston Globe

“In The Snowball, novice biographer Alice Schroeder gives us one of the most detailed, candid life stories ever published…It is almost impossible to stop reading.” —Christian Science Monitor

“A penetrating and personal look at the Oracle of Omaha…An astute, and at times riveting, read–especially now.”—BusinessWeek

“Everyone knows that in a deep and liquid capital market like that of the US, it is just about impossible to beat the stock market averages over anything more than the short term. But Buffett has been ahead of the curve for most of the past 50 years, making him one of the world’s richest people. Alice Schroeder’s massive authorized biography, The Snowball, provides some clues about how he’s done it.” —Financial Times

“In this startlingly frank account of Buffett’s life, Schroeder, a former managing director at Morgan Stanley–and hand picked by Buffett to be his biographer–strips away the mystery that has long cloaked the word’s richest man to reveal a life and fortune erected around lucid and inspired business vision and unimaginable personal complexity.” —Publishers Weekly

“This massive–and highly readable–text (produced with Buffett’s full cooperation) is an unvarnished and well-paced biography that is essential for all public and academic business collections.” —Library Journal

“For students of the Oracle of Omaha, or even those looking for a little reassurance during the crisis, Schroeder’s book is a fascinating study of America’s most successful investor.” —New York Post

“… Alice Schroeder’s accumulation of detail, her vivid, artless descriptions of people and places, and the resulting narrative fluidity make this a compelling book. It has the bouncing vitality of an early Sinclair Lewis novel…”—Times Literary Supplement

“If you’ve looked at your 401(k) statement and started to fear that everyone in financial markets is either greedy, predatory or incompetent, do yourself a favor. Take $35 out of the mattress and buy a copy of Alice Schroeder’s The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life. At a time like this, it’s a real comfort: Buffet is living proof there’s at least one wholly rational person managing money…an excellent and highly enjoyable look at the business titan.” —Houston Chronicle

“Ms. Schroeder does a good job of pulling…volunteered disclosures out of Mr. Buffett but her real contribution is her own investment expertise which enables her to make the convoluted financing schemes over the last 50 years understandable to lay readers and truly instructive to the business information junkie.” —Washington Times

“This is a fast-paced, precisely drawn profile of a man who, despite his high visibility in the financial world, isn’t someone we’ve known much about… We do now.” —Kansas City Star

“This massive—and highly readable—text (produced with Buffett’s full cooperation) is an unvarnished and well-paced biography that is essential for all public and academic business collections.”—LibraryJournal.com

"Top-notch biographies demand thorough research and crisp, finely honed writing. Schroeder exhibits both…. It’s hard to imagine a more complete account of Buffett’s life had he written it himself."—Buffalo News

“Riveting and encyclopedic…. The overall power of the story carries “The Snowball” forward. There is much to be learned from it.”—wsj.com

“[A] monumental biography … Schroeder got the best access yet of any Buffett biographer … she deals out marvelously funny and poignant stories about Buffett and the conglomerate he runs, Berkshire Hathaway.”—Forbes.com

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.

 



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.

 



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.

 



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.

 



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.

 



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.

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Alice Schroeder discusses Warren Buffett and The Snowball

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