Shelf Life

Sidney Buffett (right), with son Frank, founded the family's Omaha store in 1869. Sidney Buffett (right), with son Frank, founded the family's Omaha store in 1869. (''Foods You Will Enjoy'')
By Jan Gardner
September 28, 2008
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Buffett business
Perhaps it's fitting that a new book about billionaire investor Warren Buffett has outsize ambitions. Bantam has printed a million copies of Alice Schroeder's 976-page biography, "The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life." It goes on sale tomorrow.

It's not the only new book flush with business insights about the Buffett family. Warren Buffett's cousin Bill Buffett, a resident of Arlington, has published a folksy history called "Foods You Will Enjoy: The Story of Buffett's Store." It is replete with testimonials from customers, reminiscences from employees, and excerpts from Buffett family letters.

Bill and Warren Buffett's great-grandfather Sidney founded Buffett's grocery store in Omaha in 1869, when he was 21. The family business thrived until Bill Buffett's father, Fred, closed it when he retired, in 1969.

In "Foods You Will Enjoy," Warren Buffett recalls reading Progressive Grocer magazine as a young boy and taking dictation on the back of old ledger sheets for a book about his grandfather Ernest Buffett's two favorite subjects: fishing and running a grocery store. (The book was never completed.) Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Warren endorsed his cousin's book at the company's annual meeting in May and promptly ordered 25 copies.

Bill Buffett will talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Porter Square Books, 25 White St., Cambridge.

African dreams
Charles R. Stith, former US ambassador to Tanzania, understands well the challenge of promoting a hopeful outlook on Africa. As editor of "For Such a Time As This: African Leadership Challenges," a new collection of essays by 13 current and former African heads of state, he writes: "This is a book about Africa and leadership. Rarely are these two topics linked in favorable ways."

Many African nations, Stith writes, are facing the postcolonial question "Now that we have our countries back, how do we make them work?"

Stith is director of the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University, which published the book.

Kerouac recalled
Lowell is hopping. From Thursday through Sunday, the city will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jack Kerouac's novel "The Dharma Bums." Highlights include a performance by jazzman and Kerouac friend David Amram; a reading of poems about the summers Kerouac spent as a fire lookout in the Pacific Northwest, which inspired "The Dharma Bums"; and walking tours of sites that appear in Kerouac's books. Details at

On Oct. 10-12, the city will host a statewide poetry festival with readings and workshops for children and adults. Details at

Poetry power
Poets as ambassadors of peace? More than 20 leading Chinese poets will discuss their role in fostering communication between the United States and China when they attend the Simmons International Chinese Poetry Festival next Saturday and Sunday. Details at

Coming out

  • "Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0," by Rick Pitino (Collins)

  • "Samuel Johnson: A Biography," by Peter Martin (Belknap/Harvard University)

  • "Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America's Enemies," by Peter W. Galbraith (Simon & Schuster)

    Pick of the week
    Nancy Felton of Broadside Bookshop, in Northampton, recommends "Feather Man," by Rhyll McMaster (Marion Boyars): "In this beautifully written and disturbing Australian coming-of-age novel, McMaster tells the story of Sooky, who struggles to overcome her difficult childhood, the effects of which are powerfully portrayed as she moves from relationship to relationship and from Brisbane to London."

    Jan Gardner can be reached at

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