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.

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