Warren Buffett is America’s wealthiest folk hero. A natural investor since his childhood enterprises selling Coca-Cola and leasing pinball machines to barber shops, Buffett grew into the most successful investor of the 20th century. To admirers around the world, Buffett seems to have unlocked the riddle of finance, all the while becoming that most unlikely of amalgamations: a likable rich guy. Much has been written on the life and investments of Buffett, and longtime investment partner Charlie Munger, but many Warren Buffett biography books simply restate what is already widely known. However, a handful of authors have managed to break through the persona, to understand the essence of what has made Warren Buffett a singular American figure. We’ve selected a handful of books that demonstrate unique insights into the life of the world’s most fascinating billionaire.
The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons For Corporate America by Warren Buffett and Lawrence Cunningham
Warren Buffett is the President, Chairman, and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. BH was a foundering textile company when Buffett acquired it in the mid-’60s. Since then, he transformed it into an insurance group, energy provider, and investment house (among many other enterprises). At present, Berkshire Hathaway’s total assets hover around half a trillion dollars. For the past 45 years, BH has generated an average 19.7% annual return to shareholders, effectively “beating” the market, a near impossible task, historically and statistically speaking.
Buffett has never written a book. But he does provide yearly letters to communicate to his cadre of shareholders. These shareholder letters contain some of the most succinct and brilliant thoughts ever communicated by Buffett. Read sequentially, with the benefit of history, one is able to see the maneuvers that turned calculated risks into incredible wealth. With nary a misstep, Buffett’s letters lay out the roadmap that the 20th century’s most successful company followed. Cunningham serves as editor, making a readable manual out of Buffett’s sometimes scattered prose. But the content is all Buffett. An essential read for anyone interested in Warren Buffett’s insight, in his own words.
The Warren Buffett CEO by Robert P. Miles
Warren Buffett gets a lot of credit for his investment prowess, but many forget that his successes have been a group effort. Berkshire Hathaway has over 100,000 employees. The topmost executives are managed directly by Buffett. When BH acquires a new company, Buffett and Munger sit on the board, directing and growing the corporation from within.
If Buffett wasn’t known as the country’s greatest investor, he could easily be called the country’s greatest manager. His successes in communicating and leading people, who are already competent and qualified on their own, is nearly unrivaled in the investment world. This book follows this story from the perspective of the underlings, the CEOs who looked to Buffett for leadership throughout his career. Good management is a key quality for anyone wanting to make money in a real way. This book brings this ability into sharp focus.
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life by Alice Schroeder
If you are looking for a traditional biography of Warren Buffett, this is the book for you. While not a financial work, specifically, you will see Buffett’s development as a financial mind, from the ground up. Buffett doesn’t stand behind every decision he has ever made, and it is important to see some of the missteps he made as a young man, realizing that even the greatest investors have to overcome mistakes.
If you read these three books, you will have a very well-rounded understanding of Warren Buffett’s life, philosophy, and financial history. Whether or not you will be able to replicate his successes is not as sure, but by understanding how he did what he did, you’ll understand investment, and the world, a bit better.