Of all the biographers competing to be Warren Buffett's Boswell, Carol Loomis, dean of writers at Fortune magazine, would seem to be the best equipped.
For more than 40 years, she has been Buffett's personal friend and sometime bridge partner. For 35, she has ghost-edited his annual letter to the shareholders of his holding company, Berkshire Hathaway. In the pages of Fortune she has written more about him, probably, than any other journalist. So, is her Buffett book, out this week, a biography?
Read more: Buffett's Golden Touch Hits a Snag
No. "Tap Dancing To Work: Warren Buffett On Practically Everything, 1966-2012" (Portfolio/Penguin, $27.95) isn't so much a biography as it is a catalog of Buffett's views on everything from how much money to leave your kids (a few hundred thousand dollars is enough ) to whether the Internet will change the way people chew gum (it won't).
For 7 pearls of Warren's wisdom from the book, see below.
The book gives a kind of cubist portrait of the Sage of Omaha: Buffett refracted in the eyes of 40 different people--most of them Loomis' fellow Fortune writers, who, since 1966, have been recording his observations and opinions. One writer, though, is Buffett himself: Since 1977, he has occasionally written pieces in the magazine on topics ranging from inflation to America's trade deficit to The Best Advice I Ever Got. 15 of the book's selections are Buffett-bylined.
The book's title, says Loomis, is the phrase Buffett long has used to describe his love for running Berkshire Hathaway, arguably one of the best-run and most profitable companies in the world over a span of decades.
Here you will find Warren explaining how to chose charitable causes; how he first got started as an investor; his opinion of the flat tax ("I wouldn't support it"—sorry, Steve Forbes); of index funds and of derivatives. His strategy for winning at bridge? You'll find it here.
Loomis, asked which of Buffett's opinions surprised her most, tells ABC News it was his answer to the question, "What was the best advice you ever received?"
"I was genuinely surprised when all he wanted to talk about was the worst advice," says Loomis: In 1951, when Buffet wasn't yet 21, he told both his father and his mentor--value-investor Benjamin Graham--that he wanted to go into the securities business. They advised him not to, telling him his timing was wrong and that he ought to wait a little while.
When Loomis interviewed Buffett about this in 2005, he speculated there might have been another reason for their caution: "I was so immature," he told her. "I was not only young-looking, I was young-acting. I was skinny. My hair looked awful. Maybe their advice was their polite way of saying that before I started selling stocks, I needed to mature a little, or I wasn't going to be successful."
He ignored them, and went on to greatness.
Buffett routinely is described as having been the greatest investor in history. But how great, exactly? Loomis, in her commentary accompanying the book's final piece ("Why Stocks Beat Gold And Bonds"), succinctly quantifies her friend's accomplishment: