"All man's miseries," the philosopher Blaise Pascal famously wrote, "derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone." 

Indeed, there are a lot of miserable investors these days. And many investors over the past 20 years, living in a CNBC world in which the volume is perpetually turned up, are no more able to sit quietly and think than a pol on the stump can go easy on promises just before Election Day or a child can stay in one place after three bowls of Cap'n Crunch.

This Pascalian philosophy of "cut out the noise," "less is better" is evident in the life of uber-value investor Warren Buffett, who is depicted as a modest, widely admired man in this soup-to-nuts, triple-portions-of-everything-and-give-me-a-doggy-bag-to-take-home biography by Alice Schroeder.

Buffett is probably the greatest pupil of legendary value investor Benjamin Graham, who he worked for in New York City for several years in the 1950s before he eventually became the Sage.

Buffett later moved back to his native Omaha, a place where he could sit and read quietly, escaping the noise of Wall Street. He is now possibly the most famous value investor, overshadowing his teacher. He is a man who can use a snowball to show what compounding and thrift can do for almost any investor with a bit of patience and self-discipline.

The book tells how he rose from middle-class origins to become a billionaire. Yet it also shows how, even as he became an investing immortal, he retained a remarkable naiveté about subjects outside his circle of competency. For one thing, you would never take nutrition advice from Warren Buffett unless your goal is clogged arteries.

But his outlook is such that he bought stocks by the boatload in the market crash of 1973-74 and ultimately made billions of dollars. He spotted GEICO when it was only a miniscule part of the insurance market, ignoring brokers who insisted that it was a dog. And he resisted the tech madness of the 1990s.

Yet his buy-it-on-the-cheap philosophy-also known as the "cigar butt philosophy"-hasn't changed in 60 years, and to some, it's become almost a religion.

This massive, at times exhausting book about a man who rarely gets carried away by the madness of investing crowds couldn't have come at a better time.
With tens of millions of investors now once again burned, the common sense of Buffett has been proved right, as it has many times before. Eight years ago, he was criticized for wanting no part of tech stocks with no earnings because he couldn't understand them. This allowed him to survive the disasters of 2000 with a rejuvenated reputation.

His understanding of reputation is another key to his success, according to the book. Buffett warns that a good reputation can take a lifetime to establish, and then be ruined in five minutes.

For example, he helped save Salomon Brothers, in part by insisting that the firm's execs and traders stop playing fast and loose with the rules. At a time when the firm could be destroyed by its regulatory problems, he sternly told them, "Lose money for the firm, and I will be understanding. Lose a shred of reputation for the firm, and I will be ruthless."

Buffett has taken his licks in this latest crash, but what he hasn't done is also noteworthy: During the most recent bull market, he resisted exotic financial instruments-credit default swaps, mortgage plays and derivatives. Why? It was just common sense. Since he didn't understand them, he sensed they were disasters waiting to happen like Long-Term Capital Management, a derivative-loaded hedge fund. The risk-averse Buffett, who in his private life has devoted millions of dollars to finding ways to avoid nuclear accidents, has labeled derivatives "financial weapons of mass destruction."

He and his partner Charlie Munger had some interesting things to say just before the bubble burst earlier this year. "It's a weird time," Buffett told author Schroeder, who, if she is being paid by the word, is now probably almost as rich as Buffett. "We've gone into a different world, and nobody knows what will happen to the world, but Charlie and I looked at the downside, and nobody else did very much."

A word or two is in order about the book's length. Should one invest the considerable amount of time it requires to digest this 900 some pages of Buffett banquet?

This means asking whether you have an endless hunger for every conceivable detail about the Sage of Omaha and the persistence to keep reading, no matter how minute the detail.

If the answer is yes, then this doorstop biography should be hauled by truck and placed by your bedside This is what I would call the authorized Buffett biography.

Is it good? Is it worth the demands it places on the reader?

At the very least, it sets a standard for others. The book offers great attention to detail and the author's unusual access to her subject, his friends, relatives, anyone of significance who ever shared a Cherry Coke with him, and even porno movie stars who sent him fan mail, much to his delight. It is likely be referenced by almost everyone else who ever writes another word about him.

It is a comprehensive biography, maybe too comprehensive for some. People who want to know all about Buffett's love life, the history of Salomon Brothers, the failed political career of his stubborn yet scrupulously honest father Howard, etc., will get plenty of it here. It is both a personal history and an investment history.

Buffett groupies who hang on every word of chairman Warren (and if the author, a former analyst, isn't a Buffett groupie, she certainly is in awe) will be reading and rereading this book for the rest of their lives. Skeptics will go through it carefully, too.

That's because even though it is mostly admiring, Schroeder also details some of Buffett's missteps. And to Buffett's credit, he never denies or rationalizes them. Of his folly in purchasing airlines such as US Airways, Buffett says, "As soon as the check cleared, the company went into the red and never came out. I have an 800 number I call and say 'My name is Warren Buffett and I'm an Air-aholic.'"

But even then, when Buffett admits violating every principle of value investing he's lived by for generations, one finds oneself admiring him. How many money masters would be so frank? Would Trump ever make such a joke about his blowups?

And speaking of failures, what does Buffett say of the current difficulties for the average shell-shocked investor who is too frightened to open up his or her 401(k) statement? There's reason for hope, he recently said. That is, if the average investor sticks to his knitting-or what Buffett calls "a circle of competency"-and remains patient.

"Stocks are the things to own over time," Buffett reassures the reader. "Productivity will increase and stocks will increase with it." But most people should not be active investors, he advises.

The only ways to wreck this long-term common sense strategy, Buffett says, are to not invest for the long term, to jump in and out of the market and to pay high fees.

His preferred method for the average investor is this: "Buy a low-cost index fund and buy it over time." Then they should probably disconnect the idiot box and sit quietly in a room alone.