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Bill Gates reveals his favorite business book & AbeBooks sells every copy of forgotten title from 1969


On Friday, the Wall Street Journal printed an interesting article written by Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates about this favorite business book – Business Adventures by John Brooks. It is a long forgotten out-of-print book published in 1969 containing 12 essays about business that had originally appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

Thanks to this article, Business Adventures by John Brooks was the top search term on AbeBooks.com on Friday and Saturday. This morning (Sunday), there are no copies left on the site.

A new edition of Business Adventures is being published in September. Until then, it may be difficult to find copies on the used book market.

Brooks – the Michael Lewis of his day – was a long-time contributor to The New Yorker. The essays include Ford Motor Company’s epic failure with the Edsel, the rise of Xerox, and scandals at General Electric and Texas Gulf Sulphur.

Gates discovered Business Adventures after fellow tycoon Warren Buffett lent him a copy in 1991 (I hope Gates returned it!). In the WSJ article, Gates writes:

Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success. (How many times have you read that some company is taking off because they give their employees free lunch?) You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters and show how things went for them.

Brooks died in 1993. His obituary in the New York Times reveals a little about the breadth of his writing:

Mr. Brooks was known for his ability to give Wall Street trends, history and personalities a narrative flavor far beyond standard financial reportage. He wrote three novels, all published by Harper: The Big Wheel (1949) about a news magazine resembling Time; A Pride of Lions (1954), and The Man Who Broke Things (1958). He was also the author of 10 non fiction books on business and finance, including Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street, 1920-1938 (Harper, 1969); The Go-Go Years (Weybright, 1973), a history of the speculative 1960′s on Wall Street, and The Takeover Game (Dutton, 1987), about the epidemic of mergers in the 1980′s. A collection of his work, Business Adventures (Weybright, 1969), included his most famous New Yorker article, ‘The Fate of the Edsel.’

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Richard Davies

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