Each year, Berkshire Hathaway's (BRK.A) annual meeting is heralded by a new crop of Warren Buffett books. But with this year's meeting less than a month away -- it will be held on May 1 -- only a few new arrivals are trumpeting the advice and wisdom of the Oracle of Omaha.
Among the newcomers to the all-things-Buffett library are Georgetown University finance professor Prem C. Jain's Buffett: Beyond Value: Why Warren Buffett Looks to Growth and Management When Investing (John Wiley, $27.95) and investor-relations adviser L.J. Rittenhouse's Buffett's Bites: The Essential Investor's Guide to Warren Buffett's Shareholder Letters (McGraw-Hill, $19.95).
Both books draw heavily on Warren Buffett's writings. Jain analyzes his words in the Berkshire Hathaway annual reports, his letters to shareholders and other tidbits. Rittenhouse quotes from the shareholder letters and adds her own pithy reflections.
And both authors focus on Buffett's strong belief in the importance of good managers. "Buffett has achieved success by emphasizing the importance of high-quality managers more than any other metric," Jain writes in his book, which covers 30 different topics. Rittenhouse offers up this as one of her "bites": "Find CEOs Who Pick Outstanding Managers."
Not Much New
Rittenhouse's book is aimed at a less-sophisticated audience than Jain's, and she does an adequate job of distilling Buffett's advice. But the novice reader will find lots of other choices on the Buffett shelf. Jain's book is only a little more technical than Rittenhouse's. He breaks the Buffett wisdom down into even more segmented bits, then applies finance-professor expertise. But honestly, he's not offering that much new, either.
Several older titles include Alice Schroeder's 2008 The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life (Bantam paperback, $20), which provides an exhausting, 832-page account of the man's complex personal life and investing philosophy. Roger Lowenstein's Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (Random House paperback, $19), originally published in 1995, delves into the investor's personal life, too, but is really more concerned with his "value investing" philosophy of picking solid, perhaps underappreciated stocks and sticking with them. And the longest-running title of all, Robert G. Hagstrom's The Warren Buffett Way (Wiley paperback, $14.95), first published in 1994, outlines the Oracle's principles for investing, again based on his writings.
Has it gotten to be too much of a good thing? Wiley marketing director Peter Knapp says no: "Buffett books are forever -- it's one of a very few business-book categories that seems impervious to saturation." Nothing succeeds like success, of course, but Knapp offers another reason for the popularity of such titles: "I don't think there's anyone else who combines Buffett's investing success with a personality that makes everyone feel comfortable and engaged."
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