A 43-year old book is soon to be the business bestseller thanks to Bill Gates. The reprint of Business Adventures is scheduled to be released Aug 16, but digital publishers that reproduced it as an e-book have sent it to # 1 on Amazon and the New York Times bestseller lists. The book was originally written in 1969 by John Brooks and contains thirteen American business articles from the 1960s, after first appearing in the New Yorker magazine. Stories include the Ford Edsel failure, the rise of Xerox and Piggly Wiggly grocery, the GE price-fixing, the case of Goodrich vs. Latex trade secrets and theTexas Gulf Sulphur scandals. Needless to point out that the first edition of the book disappeared from the market soon after the Bill Gate’s article appeared first in the July 11th edition of the Wall Street Journal and on Bill’s blog, “gatesnotes”, the following day. Historically, books that were the feature on gatesnotes received some significant upticks in their sales numbers.
Business Adventures was originally recommended to Gates in 1991 by Warren Buffet who classified it at the top of his favorite list of business books that he had had the opportunity to read. At that time Gates was not familiar with the title but after reading it he became intrigued by the author’s ability to focus on the fundamental business issues with in depth exploration and an emphasis on the essential human leadership endeavor. Gates now names John Brooks as his favorite business writer of all time.
After being reprinted several times in the 1970s, the book dropped out of bookstores and vanished from backlists. Up until July 11th a number of copies including first editions were available for purchase at reasonable prices. As of a few weeks ago the only copies that can be found are either British reprints published by Littlehampton Book Services Ltd or second editions going for $2000. The news that the author’s son Alex Brook and Gates’ business developers signed an agreement to re-release outside the now-defunct original publisher, Weybright and Talley, did not stop the rush to own the book at any cost.
Bill’s article makes reference to two other books written by Brooks: The Go-Go Years; New York: Weybright & Talley, 1973, with an introduction by journalist Michael Lewis and the Fate of the Edsel and Other Business Adventures; Harper & Row, 1963. The latter contains three of the essays that later appeared in the Business Adventures, in a very slightly different form. First printings of either of these books are surprisingly scarce and currently trading for a few thousand dollars as well. Some of Brooks’ other works, such as the Wall Street classic, Once In Golconda: A True Story of Wall Street 1920-1938; New York: Harper & Row, 1969 which is still in print, is also showing a great deal of collector interest especially for the first printings that are in attractive condition.
Despite all the hoopla surrounding the re-release of Business Adventures, the world of rare book collecting has a new author’s treasures to track and to seek. Such collector value is derived from the extraordinary talent of John Brooks and the endorsement of two of our greatest business gurus. They are attracted to his books by his ability to masterfully achieve the fusion of a good piece of journalism with an entertaining read, while offering some pretty essential business lessons at the same time. Beyond Business Adventures first editions, the opportunist rare book collector is finding value in other first editions authored by John Brooks including some of his extremely scarce inscribed copies. It surely dramatizes another episode in financial journalism deserving a business article by the best business author of recent time complements of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.