cover image Warren and Bill: Gates, Buffett, and the Friendship That Changed the World

Warren and Bill: Gates, Buffett, and the Friendship That Changed the World

Anthony McCarten. Harper, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-303779-3

Screenwriter McCarten (The Two Popes) struggles to stick to the facts in this unsatisfying dual biography focused on the friendship between investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates. The book’s greatest strengths and weaknesses can be traced back to its origins as an unfinished stage play. It’s easy to imagine how McCarten’s fly-on-the-wall account of Buffet and Gates’s first meeting, which takes place at a 1991 garden party hosted by Gates’s mother, would have played out onstage. Gates, contemptuous of Buffet for trading “pieces of paper” instead of creating innovative products, grumps about until Buffet asks him how he would have built IBM from scratch, kicking off a legendary nerding-out session. Unfortunately, even McCarten’s thorough research strains to support this level of novelistic detail, resulting in speculative passages about what Buffet felt as he sat beside his wife’s deathbed in 2004 and what Melinda French thought of her now ex-husband when they first met at a corporate dinner. McCarten also strains to fulfill his goal of elucidating what the duo’s “giga-wealthy partnership mean[s] for the rest of us,” delving into how the pair accumulated massive riches and established the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation without making clear the effects of such actions on ordinary people. This falls short of its grand ambitions. (Apr.)