Q&A with Warren Buffett Biographer Alice Schroeder

“The Snowball” (Bantam, 2008), by McCombs School of Business alumna Alice Schroeder, is an in-depth portrait of renowned investor Warren Buffett. It currently sits at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for hardcover nonfiction.

Schroeder first met Warren Buffett when she published research on Berkshire Hathaway; her grasp of the subject and insight so impressed him that he offered her access to his files and to himself.

Read about Buffett’s reaction to the book and what it was like for Schroeder to work with “The Oracle of Omaha.”

What do you hope readers will learn from your book?
“The Snowball” tells you, not how to become the world’s richest man, but how to be smarter about managing your own time, money and relationships. It is the story of a man who started out obsessed with money and was nearly hopeless at dealing with people — and who, through experience and effort, became expert at relationships and created a life rich with meaning by giving back to others.

“The Snowball” was your first book. Had a project like this always been one of your goals, or did it just strike you as being the right thing at the right time?
In 2002 Warren started encouraging me to write a book. I’ve always gravitated toward challenging projects that teach me something new. It was nearly 18 months later that I came up with the idea, after another writer approached me to collaborate on a different book. It helped that Warren believed in me — but I also believed in myself. You’ve got to if you want to accomplish much in this world.

You’ve said that Mr. Buffett didn’t have a single edit for you, which seems like quite the endorsement. What has been his response to the book? What about the people you interviewed?
Warren told me to use the less flattering version whenever his version differed from somebody else’s. It was courageous of him. Since then, he has said that the book is good and well-written. But, as would be true of anyone, parts of it don’t match his image of himself, and parts of it were painful for him to read. As one of his friends put it, the book took off all of Warren’s clothes and one layer of his skin. This same friend also gave the book very high accolades. Many of Warren’s friends and family have contacted me to say how much they like the book and how well I captured him.

What advice would you give aspiring authors/writers?
Devoted readers make good writers. And great books are written by people who have something important to say. So if you find your subject of passion, it will help you hone your craft.

Alice Schroeder is appearing at the Texas Book Festival on Saturday, Nov. 1.

Professors Slated to Appear at Texas Book Festival

Professors and alumni from The University of Texas at Austin will share their expertise on topics ranging from the U.S. economic crisis to political figures in American history at the 2008 Texas Book Festival Nov. 1-2 at the Texas Capitol.

“Traitor to His Class: The Privileged Life and Radical Presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt”
Author: H.W. Brands
Professor, Department of History
When: Sunday, Nov. 2, 2-2:45 p.m.
Where: Texas State Capitol: House Chamber

H.W. Brands offers an illuminating portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s life and career. The biography details FDR’s experimentation with The New Deal and his revolutionary efforts to save democracy during the Great Depression and World War II. Brands is author of “Andrew Jackson, “Lone Star Nation” and “The Age of Gold.” He was a finalist for the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for “The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin.”

“Dolph Briscoe: My Life in Texas Ranching and Politics”
Author: Don Carleton
Director, Center for American History and J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History
When: Saturday, Nov. 1, 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Where: Texas State Capitol: Senate Chamber

Former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe tapped Don Carleton’s narrative writing expertise to author his memoir, highlighting his life and career in Texas politics. Briscoe describes his days as Texas’ largest individual landowner and cattle rancher, his years in public office and his education at The University of Texas at Austin. Carleton has collaborated on books with Walter Cronkite and Waco Entrepreneur Bernard Rapoport.

“The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too”
Author: James Galbraith
Professor, LBJ School of Public Affairs and Department of Government
When: Sunday, Nov. 2, 12:30-1:15 p.m.
Where: Texas Capitol: Extension Room E2.014

James Galbraith’s compelling, timely work covers hot-button issues, such as the free-market economy, the subprime crisis, economic and social disparities and the future of the dollar. The expert economist dissects conservative economics and conventional liberalism, stimulating debate across party lines about the mistakes made within the U.S. economy. Galbraith is author of six books and contributes to the American political magazines, including Mother Jones, The American Prospect, The Nation, The Texas Observer, as well as op-ed pages of major newspapers.

“Bending Science: How Special Interests Corrupt Public Health Research”
Author: Thomas O. McGarity, Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowed Chair in Administrative Law
When: Sunday, Nov. 2, 3-3:45 p.m.
Where: Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room, E2.012

Thomas McGarity and co-author Wendy Wagner, Joe A. Worsham Centennial Professor in Law at The University of Texas at Austin, expose how scientific data are distorted by the government, provoking questions about possible poisons that industrial technologies leave in our air and water. The book examines how federal regulatory agencies “bend” damaging research to fit their needs, and offers a case for reforms to safeguard health and environmental hazards. McGarity is a former editor of the Texas Law Review and is the author of “Workers at Risk: The Failed Promise of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration,” “The Law of Environmental Protection: Cases-Legislation-Policies” and “Reinventing Rationality: The Role of Regulatory Analysis in Federal Bureaucracy.”

“The Necessity of Theater: The Art of Watching and Being Watched”
Author: Paul Woodruff
Professor, Department of Philosophy and Dean, Undergraduate Studies
When: Sunday, Nov. 2, 3-3:45 p.m.
Where: Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.016

From runway fashion shows to football games, Paul Woodruff examines the definition of live drama. Building the case that humans have an innate need to watch and be watched, Woodruff explains how theater brings together essential human elements, such as love, conflict and justice. Woodruff has translated such classic thinkers and writers as Plato, Sophocles and Thucydides. He is the author of “Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue” and “First Democracy: The Challenge of an Ancient Idea.”

The Texas Book Festival was founded in 1995 by former first lady Laura Bush to promote reading and honor Texas authors. Sessions are free and open to the public. Proceeds from books purchased at the festival benefit the state’s public libraries.

Welcome to ShelfLife

Attention book lovers, bibliophiles, literary scholars and casual readers. Today, the Office of Public Affairs has launched ShelfLife@Texas, a blog for readers to discuss literature, book news and literary events at The University of Texas at Austin.

ShelfLife will offer readers an inside look at the university’s vibrant community of authors. Our contributors will write about books by faculty and staff members, students and alumni of the university, on topics ranging from the arts, history and the humanities, to business, law and politics.

If you’re part of the university community and you’ve recently written a book, we’d love to hear about it. Check out our submission guidelines or send us an email.

We look forward to hearing from you!