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Business Adventures

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Business Adventures

Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street

Open Road Integrated Media,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Bill Gates’s favorite business book reveals the human side of corporate history and trials.

Editorial Rating



  • Background
  • Engaging


John Brooks’s collection of classic New Yorker articles – cited by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet as a favorite read – offers gripping behind-the-scenes sagas of epochal events in 20th-century business. Originally published between 1959 and 1969, Brooks chronicles 12 business war stories, including four highlighted here: the spectacular rise of Xerox, the equally spectacular fall of the Ford Edsel, a landmark insider-trading case, and corporations’ attempts to protect trade secrets by keeping their employees from going to work for their competitors. Brooks’s elegant prose outshines the usual business writer’s; he eschews jargon for understated wit, vivid characters and restrained drama. Even though this 1969 anthology does show its age in some places, getAbstract recommends Brooks’s insights and singular style to anyone intrigued by pivotal moments that shaped the modern US economy.


Things Go Wrong: Ford

The story of the Edsel is a mixture of tragedy and farce. Ford Motor Company launched the car in 1957 and discontinued it “two years, two months and 15 days” later, losing an estimated $350 million in the process. The Edsel disaster remains difficult to fully explain.

Ford kicked off the Edsel project in 1955, a year of titanic success for the US auto industry. Motorists bought more than seven million vehicles, and automobile stocks drove the market up at a breakneck pace. The Ford Motor Company expected the future to be even rosier. An internal market study predicted that the US gross national product would rise by more than $135 billion by 1965, a year that would see 70 million cars on US roads. Analysts projected that nearly half the cars sold would be medium-priced models.

Ford faced a problem in the medium-priced segment. Ever since the 1940s, owners of its economy cars tended to trade up to its rivals’ medium-priced vehicles while ignoring Ford’s Mercury, although it was priced in the same range. To participate in the coming mid-priced boom, Ford needed a second car in that segment. In April 1955, Ford’s Special Products Division got...

About the Author

Time contributing editor and New Yorker staff writer John Brooks also wrote Once in Golconda: A True Drama of Wall Street 1920-1938 and The Go-Go Years.

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