“The [Tax] Code, a document longer than “War and Peace,” is phrased – inevitably, perhaps – in the sort of jargon that stuns the mind and disheartens the spirit; a fairly typical sentence, dealing with the definition of the word “employment,” starts near the bottom of page 564, includes more than a thousand words, nineteen semicolons, forty-two simple parentheses, three parentheses within parentheses, and even one unaccountable interstitial period, and comes to a gasping end, with a definitive period, near the top of page 567.”
Any book that is the favourite of both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet is self-recommending, and I feel a little second-rate saying I really liked it as well. Nevermind. Business Adventures is a great book!
What distinguishes Business Adventures from other business books is the quality of the writing. It’s a collection of New Yorker articles by John Brooks from the golden age of print journalism, and it shows. Topics include the rise and fall of Xerox (invented by accident – they just kept adding elements from the periodic table to their ink till they found one that worked, and had no idea why), the Ford Edsel (a brutal failure of a car design for Ford), income tax, cornering a market in order to destroy short sellers (sadly now illegal, which might be why short selling is so popular), the first supermarket (Piggly Wiggly Stores – the owner would become a millionaire and then go bankrupt several times), the manager of the Tennessee Valley Authority, currency crises, and a vast scope of other subjects.
It’s a hard book to find these days, but Amazon has it on Kindle. It’s tremendous, and I recommend it. For the quality of the writing, for the quality of the stories, and even for the insight. It won’t teach you to be a modern investment banker, but it will teach you about the fundamental concepts businesses and businesspeople need to think about, concepts that can often feel obscured in a haze of electronic trading and hedge funds today. As the real estate crash in the US showed, however, technology and advanced degrees are no substitute for understanding the classical principles of business.