Warren Buffett and the business of life - by Alice Schroeder

Anyone with an interest in investment should find this a valuable read, it is also a well written account of an interesting life.

To qualify each of those statements, although there are some broad lessons to be learnt for investors, this is not a handy book of investment tips for the novice. Buffett made some horrendous mistakes in his investments, though by and large they make for more interesting reading than his successes. There was no great secret to his investment success. It was largely down to an enormous amount of hard work. Work searching out investment opportunities, work studying investment and business both specific and general. He worked to build up his capital, from the odd business while still at school to getting investment capital from relatives. He worked hard to be honest, scrupulous and above board in all his doings. Over time his business scaled up from one finding small undervalued and unfavoured businesses, to a white knight stepping in to save troubled businesses. The abiding impression is that investment is a serious business that entails a lot of hard work.

As billionaires go Buffett actually led a fairly uneventful life. He liked his home comforts, familiar food, he was loyal to his friends and through overwork tended to neglect his family, something he came to regret later in life. It was not a life of high adventure. But it was a life where commitment and principle were brought to bear, where he formed his own views and stayed true to them. In fact he is probably more likable than admirable. That is not to say there is nothing to admire, just that by the end of the book he comes across as a very decent person.

It is also worth pointing out that this is a long book, it weighs in at over 700 pages, in a small font. This is not just an account of Buffett, at times it also feels like a portrait of most of the people he met, and most of Omaha too. That said where it slowed, it was generally for a reason, setting up a context for what would later prove to be key events.

The author is to be commended, it is well written, thorough, clearly a labour of love. I would hope that most people would find it of interest, though suspect that it will appeal mainly to investors.