Warren Buffett attributes his success to spending the majority of his day reading, hunkered down in the details of company annual reports, business periodicals, and numerous other books. It's little surprise, then, that reading is a common theme when savvy investors make a pilgrimage to attend Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE: BRK-A ) (NYSE: BRK-B ) annual shareholder meeting, also known as Woodstock for Capitalists.
Every year, tucked away in a corner of the vast convention center that Berkshire uses to showcase See's Candies, Fruit of the Loom, and its other businesses, you'll find a booth reserved for the Bookworm Store. This Omaha-based establishment stocks dozens of books and DVDs to help shareholders learn more about Buffett and Charlie Munger, including an inside peek at how their way of doing business has created such phenomenal wealth over the years.
In many instances, the selections have the Berkshire seal of approval. Buffett and Munger specifically mention a number of titles each year, both during the annual meeting and in various interviews throughout the year. Here are three key titles to get you started.
- The Essays of Warren Buffett: Lessons for Corporate America, edited by Lawrence Cunningham
Buffett mentioned this book during this year's meeting. The pitch was somewhat in jest, though, in that he highly recommended the author -- himself. The book offers a compilation of writings and other "gems of wisdom" from the Berkshire Hathaway annual reports that Buffett has written over the years. The new edition of Essays now includes information running through the 2007 annual report, all compiled by business-law professor Lawrence Cunningham. I was sold and picked up a copy.
- The Warren Buffett CEO: Secrets From the Berkshire Hathaway Managers, by Robert Miles
During this year's meeting, a shareholder asked about the merits of investing in regional banks as a way to profit from current credit turmoil. Buffett answered that you need a comfort level with the management teams and the character they exhibit when running their businesses. The larger financial institutions whose shares he owns, including Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC ) , US Bancorp (NYSE: USB ) , and M&T Bank (NYSE: MTB ) , apparently give him that confidence.
The Warren Buffett CEO offers one of the few inside glimpses of the management teams that run Berkshire Hathaway's collection of companies. This was also a purchase of mine, and although I haven't read it yet, I'm eager for what's being billed as a "unique look at the Berkshire Hathaway culture and its management principles."
- Foods You Will Enjoy -- The Story of Buffett's Store, by Bill Buffett
Written by Buffett's cousin Bill, this book is for those especially interested in Buffett family lore. It offers details about the Buffett family grocery store, which was founded in Omaha in 1869 and ran for 100 years. Warren's great-grandfather ran the store, and Bill, Warren, and Munger all reputedly worked there at various times in their early careers.
I count close to 40 book and video options that Bookworm offered during this year's meeting, though I must mention that the generous 20% shareholder discount is gone until the 2009 Berkshire meeting. I'm looking forward to sitting on my rear end and diving into my reading purchases, in hopes of discovering a new investment edge.