What Are the Best Books on Warren Buffett?

For a man who is 90 years old, Warren Buffett still gets around. At least, that is how it seems at first glance. Search the financial section of any bookstore and you are likely to see his face at least once and his name several more times.

It is hard to imagine all of these authors have a definitive insight into Buffett as an investor or a person. In fact, it is hard to imagine some of them spoke to him at all. More often than not, they are pulling information from the Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B) shareholder letters that Buffett writes, or other common source material. That said, there is a lot to be found in those letters, and a few of the books on those shelves hold some truly unique insight.

Choosing which to read comes down to whether you want to learn to invest from the man or learn about the man and the investor. These books probably aren’t as satisfying as owning Berkshire shares has been for the last 45 years, but a lot of knowledge and enjoyment can be found in their pages anyway.

Key Takeaways

  • While Warren Buffett himself has never authored a book, many books have been written about him, his investment strategies, and his philosophies. 
  • Some books about Buffett focus more on his life and achievements, while others focus on replicating his investment style.
  • Gaining insight into a great investor like Warren Buffett can be useful to beginning and advanced investors alike.

The Six Best Books on Warren Buffett

The Warren Buffett Way, by Robert G. Hagstrom

If you are looking for investing lessons from the impressive record that Buffett has put together, Hagstrom’s book may be all you need. The Warren Buffett Way, now in its third edition, lays out all the rules of thumb Buffett uses in his investing and walks the reader through them with case studies out of Buffett’s own investment portfolio.

These include well-known rules like buying businesses you understand and ignoring Mr. Market (an imaginary, emotional investor devised by Benjamin Graham, Buffett's mentor) as well as some deeper lessons drawn from the real-life investments the Oracle from Omaha has made. It is a great book for investors just starting out, and it continues to be a strong read even when you think you know what you’re doing.

The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, by Warren Buffett & Lawrence Cunningham

Surprisingly, Buffett has never written a book himself. Taken in total, however, his shareholder letters amount to the equivalent of several books—though, if read back-to-back, they suffer for the lack of an editor. Lawrence Cunningham solved that issue, going through the letters and organizing Buffett’s thoughts around topics.

He's imposed some editorial voice—possibly a necessary step to tie everything together—but the content is Buffett’s and so is the philosophy. Now in its fifth edition, The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons For Corporate America takes on a larger scope than The Warren Buffett Way and isn’t solely aimed at the individual investor, although you will still learn a lot about investing.

Warren Buffett's shareholder letters from annual reports, from 1977 on, can be found on the Berkshire Hathaway website.

The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets from the Berkshire Hathaway Managers, by Robert P. Miles

The Warren Buffett CEO is less about Buffett as an investor and more about him as a manager. The book shows how Buffett selects the CEOs for Berkshire’s many subsidiaries and how he oversees them. It tells that story through the Berkshire executives. 

The Warren Buffett CEO isn’t an investment manual, but you will learn a lot about great companies and great management, two things every investor needs to keep in mind—not to mention aspiring managers and business professionals. More importantly, the book shows a side of Warren Buffett that is often overshadowed by his portfolio performance. Buffett is a great manager and a great investor.

Dear Mr. Buffett: What an Investor Learns 1,269 Miles from Wall Street, by Janet Tavakoli

This is a Buffett book that really isn’t about Buffett, although he is one of the main characters. Janet Tavakoli is a structured finance expert whose previous books focus on collateralized debt obligations. She met with Buffett and, following the financial mess of 2009, started to see more value in Buffett’s philosophy and value investing methods.

This book can help you see Buffett differently, through someone else's eyes. It is a pure pleasure read, as some of the insights will be unsettling for investors, particularly the systematic abuses that triggered the subprime mortgage meltdown, which in turn led to the onset of the Great Recession.

The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life, by Alice Schroeder and Buffett, Making of an American Capitalist, by Roger Lowenstein

If you read through the Buffett canon and still feel you haven’t absorbed enough, these two Buffett biographies are thorough looks at the life and times of the Oracle of Omaha. Buffett, Making of an American Capitalist was first published in 1995, though an audiobook version features some revisions and updates by author Lowenstein, a veteran reporter of The Wall Street Journal. Schroeder's massive book (over 900 pages long), first published in 2008, was written with Buffett’s cooperation.

On May 1, 2021, Vice Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Charlie Munger, unofficially announced that Warren Buffett would be succeeded as CEO by Greg Abel when Buffett eventually steps down. Abel is CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Energy and Vice Chairman in charge of noninsurance operations.

Neither will change your knowledge of the man's investment strategies other than to emphasize that his approach evolved over time, but they will give you a long look at Buffett’s remarkable life and achievements.