First published in 1969, Business Adventures is one of 56 books written by John Brooks, a writer for the New Yorker in the 1950s and 1960s. It's not about investment strategy, management theory or any of that stuff. A business classic, the book teaches lessons about people – how they act, how brilliant, stupid, irrational can be.
Business Adventures comprises accounts of 12 key moments in American industry, including the 1962 stock market crash, the IRS code codification, the Texas Gulf oil scandal, the Xerox rollercoaster success, the creation and failure of Ford Motor Company's Edsel, the Piggly Wiggly supermarket chain, General Electric, the New York Stock Exchange, Tennessee Valley Authority administrator David Lilienthal, BFGoodrich and the Federal Exchange versus the pound sterling.
The stories might be old and some names unfamiliar, but every chapter of the twelve in the book has relevance to the modern era. History can be seen repeating itself.
Warren Buffet and Bill Gates both liked the book and have gone on record praising it as one of their favorites
In his blog, Gates wrote:
“Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters, and show how things went for them… 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.”
John Brooks was born in New York in 1920, grew up in New Jersey and graduated from Princeton University in 1942. He was a longtime contributor to The New Yorker magazine, where he worked for many years as a staff writer, specializing in financial topics. He was known for his ability to give Wall Street trends, history and personalities a narrative flavor far beyond standard financial reportage.
Although he is remembered primarily for his writings on financial topics he also published three novels: The Big Wheel" (1949), "A Pride of Lions" (1954), and "The Man Who Broke Things" (1958). He also wrote book reviews for Harper's Magazine and the New York Times Book Review. Brooks also wrote 10 nonfiction books on business and finance, including "Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street, 1920-1938" ( 1969); "The Go-Go Years" (1973), and "The Takeover Game" ( 1987). died in 1993 in New York of complications from a stroke.
Alex Brooks, the author' son told Quartz of his late father "I think he was one of the first to consider business journalism as a sort of topic for just general popular readership,". "I think mostly before he came along business journalism was written for businessmen. The idea of telling business stories as just kind of entertaining pieces of reading was a real innovation."
In the video Alex discusses his father's writing process and offers insights on what John would have to say about today's business world.