Archive for obsession

THE SNOWBALL: WARREN BUFFETT AND THE BUSINESS OF LIFE By Alice Shroeder – Reviewed

Posted in Life..., Personal Finance, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Despite this being an epic book, I expected more.

How can you sum up the Oracle of Omaha? The most successful investor in the history of investing?

For a man over seventy years old, having his life described in a little over 700 pages gives us about a 100 pages per ten years. Even though the first page is so awash with description (of Buffett sitting in his office) that it’s difficult to read, what we don’t get in the full Warren Buffett. We get a version, the tight-fisted, thrifty, intelligent, teacher, who’s more at ease with numbers than he is with human beings, and certainly more comfortable dealing with a class room full of students than he is with his own children. A man obsessed with making money and keeping it. To the point where much of the time his family acted almost, but not quite, as a distraction, and Buffett doesn’t particularly like distractions.

The failure of this book is the lack of detail about some of Buffett’s investments. Probably the most important part of his life, not only for him but also for most of his readers. We get the glamorous stuff, and we also get the dirty stuff, but where’s the detail of the stuff that made him his money?

Most of the information contained in the book can be found on Buffett’s wikipedia entry. The details of his earlier life are interesting, and the milestones he achieved in his early years are quite extraordinary. But I want a map. I want to see what he invested in, at how much and why: I want a description of how he made his billions. I don’t understand how a book so huge and detailed about Buffett’s life but be so bereft of such important details.

For a financial analyst Shroeder doesn’t seem very interested in the money.

This is certainly an interesting book, and Warren’s life as a self-made man certainly holds your attention. But the missing details of his investments, the things that are skipped over, or just not even mentioned, serve to give us only half an image of this great investor.

Buffett is still my hero, with the knowledge gained from this book even more so. We share much in common, he had a paper-round, as did I. Buffett was making money as a child, as did I, once getting in trouble at school for telling my friends toys. Buffett also skirted a bit too close to the law, well, I’m refusing to comment on that! He was also buying shares before he was sixteen. I bought shares in my mother’s name because I was too young to have them in my own. Unfortunately, and I really don’t know what happened (perhaps discovering horror novels), but our paths diverged and I’m not a billionaire.

This is a personal and probably the most detailed of the books on Buffett, and yet it still doesn’t manage to capture the complete man. It does capture most of him, and it’s a moving story, but I almost feel short changed.

Amazing book, and yet still slightly disappointing.

Power Reading

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Since almost the beginning of this year, I’ve been, what I like to think of as, power reading. Taking the advice of Stephen King, not personally I’m afraid, but from his book On Writing, I’ve been reading as much as possible. Power reading, basically ever spare minute has been involved in reading, a spare moment at work, during the adverts of tv programmes (which I’ve cut back on), I’ve also started listening to audiobooks, so that H G Wells and Andre Norton tell me tales as I walk to work and wait for the opening credits at the cinema.

I haven’t played with my xbox since January.

I haven’t played with my girlfriend since May. She’s a damn sight harder not to play with than my xbox!

Every spare moment has been absorbed with reading.

It’s got to the point where my life is no longer split up into minutes, hours, days and weeks, but pages. While I run my bath I think I have time for twelve pages, between adverts is a two page stretch. Time is now counted in pages. Which of course becomes a little difficult when changing books, so it may well be time to demand that publishers don’t try to cram too many words onto a page and try to work between them to come up with the perfect number, with the perfect font size and just stick to that for every book. Harmonisation of words to a page is my new cause!

Anyways, this power reading over the last few months has become something of an obsession as I try to work through my quite considerable collection of books. I’ve managed to buy very few books this year, only about twenty, which isn’t too bad for me. But it still means I have about a thousand to go. Yikes!

Now, since the power reading marathon started I think I’ve managed to do a book in an average of three days. I can’t remember taking longer than four days to read a book this year. I have tried to stick to books of between three and four hundred pages. When power reading I find it’s more of a sprint to the end, so longer novels can get a bit sticky.

But this weekend I’m going to Copenhagen, to suffer the delights of Trivoli and another Scandinavian Capital City (last weekend away in July was to Stockholm). I know, poor me. My girlf loves all that is Scandinavian, and I can’t refuse a holiday opportunity, so on Friday off we go. But last Wednesday this left me with a dilemma. Do I start a nice short book and rush through it before we leave, or pick a huge book that will take me over the weekend. I pack light, and when I say light I mean minimal. We’ll be there for three nights, so I need three t-shirts, three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, a camera and charger, ipod and charger, phone and charger, toiletries (consisting of mini mouthwash, mini toothpaste, toothbrush, mini shower gel), and what I wear on the flight: jeans, t-shirt, waterproof jacket, sunglasses, trainers, socks and pants. I will take a small rucksack and it will be half filled, at most. So there is only room for one solitary book. Hence the dilemma.

I could probably have read a book in between, but I thought I’d use this opportunity to have a bit of a slow down, to take a break from the breakneck reading. So I chose an epic, a collection of novels, by the aforementioned King. Four Past Midnight, the paperback version obviously, to minimise weight in my rucksack. So I’m taking a break and having a rest, and will be intent on enjoying Copenhagen over the weekend, and once I get back and I’ve finished the epic collection of Mr King, I’ll be back on course for some more power reading, at least until I go to Berlin in October. Such a hard life!