Ever wonder where Bill Gates got his business savvy? In an essay for The Wall Street Journal this weekend, Gates revealed that his favorite business book is Business Adventures by John Brooks. After the essay was published, the book quickly rocketed up the Amazon Kindle bestseller list.
Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street by John Brooks was released in 1969 and is out of print. But according to Gates, its wisdom still stands. He sang praises of the book’s insight, and said it’s Warren Buffett’s favorite business book as well. Today, more than two decades after Warren lent it to me—and more than four decades after it was first published—Business Adventures remains the best business book I’ve ever read,” Gates wrote.
The book’s publisher, Open Road, quickly made an ebook of the volume (a paperback reissue is due in September). Gates’ endorsement rescued the book from obscurity and sent it to No. 5 on the Kindle bestseller list. It’s now at No. 15.
Business Adventures is an essay collection, mostly taken from Brooks’ work at The New Yorker, covering the rise of Xerox, scandals at GE, the $350 million Edsel debacle at Ford, and other subjects. After Gates’ essay, The New Yorker made three of the essays available for free on their website.
Brooks, Gates says, excelled at writing about companies in-depth, approaching them like the subject of a profile. “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.”
Gates still has the copy Buffett lent him. “Warren, if you’re reading this, I still have your copy,” he wrote.