This book offers a surprisingly personal history of Warren Buffett's upbringing, family and key personal relationships, and the development of his political views. It also describes more fully than any account I have seen before the personality, drive and genius behind his extraordinary business success.
To borrow a phrase from his partner, Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett has been a "learning machine" in business and financial affairs from his teen years. While he has generously shared with Berkshire shareholders, business school students and others, the investment precepts that have guided him, there can be no doubt after reading this book that Buffett's success cannot be duplicated by simply following his precepts.
His success is owed in greater part to native intelligence, drive, dedication and hard work.
The book also illustrates why Buffett is so widely admired: it cites numerous examples where Buffett acted with fairness and integrity when he had an opportunity to make more money with a less noble, but perfectly legal, alternative course of action. He exemplifies a life that has placed as much importance on doing things the right way as it has on achieving success in his chosen field.
The reason to buy this book is for the detailed insights you gain as to how Goldman (alone among the major Wall Street banks) actually prospered during the financial crisis of 2007-2008. The author has done a fine job of describing the key events and decisions that started in December 2006: the push by its mortgage trading desk for authority to put on large short positions when it recognized early signs of serious problems ahead; actions by top management to move early and decisively to reduce long exposure in the subprime mortgage market; and the discipline and focus on risk management at top management levels that forced realistic “mark to market” prices for the mortgage backed securities on its books. As one of the people the author interviewed in research for the book put it, had the other Wall Street banks taken actions similar to what Goldman did, we would not have had a financial crisis in 2008. (That comment, by the way, does not in my view absolve Goldman in any way of irresponsibility for being a large marketer and seller of “subprime” mortgage backed securities prior to 2007. Such securities were based on underlying collateral that was frankly ridiculous and a lasting shame to the parties who originated them, the Wall Street banks who sold them, the ratings agencies who gave them absurd “AAA” ratings, and the federal regulators who simply sat back and watched it all happen.)
The rest of the book is not of the same quality, although it does have a good overview of the history and evolution of Goldman Sachs, including a number of the major leadership figures in the firm over its history as well as bumps in the road it has had to navigate over time. He also includes a number of less well documented impressions of Goldman gathered from competitors, the press, and Congress—many of whom are frankly somewhat dubious sources as to the actual facts. Such sources do, however, serve as good illustrations of why Goldman has suffered some major blows to its public reputation over the past few years.
Whether you're a righty or lefty, this book puts together the puzzle pieces of how American politics has become so polarized over the last 20 years. It will not cause anyone to switch political parties, but it will explain how we got from point A to point B.
Roger Ailes is a media genius. He was the first to figure out that Americans vote based on how they feel rather than how they think, and that TV was the best way to communicate emotion.
Ailes was never a news person ("newsie" as they are called in the TV industry). Aisles will probably be the first to admit that. He is impervious to being shamed by fact-checking because that's not his game. Making money and persuading people to his conservative politics are his goals. His ends justify his means. Any means.
The author traces Ailes's humble beginnings from Warren Ohio to the NYC media vortex. As Ailes ages, he becomes increasingly paranoid and retaliatory. The last part of the book which deals with Ailes's war with his small NY hometown newspaper and local politicians is a microcosm of his life. It's unintentionally hilarious with an almost post-modern feel. They should teach this chapter in journalism school. It reminded me of The World According to Garp, except that it really happened.
The predictable, preemptive push-back by Ailes and his supporters is vintage Aisles. Rather than undermine the book's validity, ironically it serves as corroboration because it's so Aisle-ian.
Much of the book's criticism centers on Ailes not being interviewed. But the book's last chapter explains that the author quoted 614 live sources close to Ailes, most of whom were corroborated by other sources. The author asked Ailes a dozen times to be interviewed. Ailes tried hard to block this book, so why should he add to its credibility by consenting to being interviewed? This is also classic Ailes.
Regardless of your politics, you need to read or listen to this book to fully understand the most important American politician since Reagan. I seldom re-read or re-listen to a book, but I'm doing that now.