Get All Access for $5/mo

The Best Business Book Ever Written, According To Bill Gates And Warren Buffett It's a collection of 12 Wall Street parables.

By Nick Wolny Edited by Jessica Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Nearly every hour of your waking life is now spent consuming stories. The Nielsen media consumption metrics for the first quarter of 2020 found American consumers now clock over 12 hours of media each day, a record high. Whether the media type be television, social media, podcasts or other apps, the one thing these vehicles for content have in common is that they tell stories.

Stories capture and hold our attention, and with the attention economy only growing in size, storytelling is a wise messaging vehicle. The inscription on my bottle of mezcal tells a story. The imagery on pamphlets I receive in the mail tell a story. The bread I buy to make my toast each morning is made by former convicts to encourage job security post-incarceration — another story.

Stories tap into our innate curiosity for human behavior. So when Bill Gates met Warren Buffett for the first time in 1991 and asked him what his favorite book was, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Buffett's recommendation was a collection of stories.

"I'll lend you my copy," Buffett said. In a blog post written 20 years later, Gates joked that he still has the book in case Buffett wants it back.

Related: Identifying Your "Curiosity Type" Is The Key To Getting More Done

The book that enthralled two titans in the business space above all others was a collection of stories from longtime New Yorker contributor John Brooks entitled Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales from the World of Wall Street.

Why stories capture our attention

Business Adventures tells a dozen stories from mid-20th-century commerce in a prosaic, character-driven style; it's actually a collection of stories from past issues of The New Yorker.

And if we look to recent blockbuster content created in the last few decades and focused on business — Succession, Mad Men, and Shark Tank, to name a few — a common centerpiece is effective storytelling.

That's because stories elicit emotion, and research has shown emotion embeds memories more deeply in our minds. If you want your message to stick, leverage psychology and elicit emotion in some way.

Related: Copywriters Use These 4 Psychological Tactics to Write Attention-Grabbing Headlines

Of course Gates and Buffett love this book — it's about business, but told through story. As Gates describes in a blog post, many of the particulars of business have changed, but the fundamentals have not.

Learn from past business opportunities

Gates' insights are interesting considering that one of the cautionary tales references advantages and opportunities found by, among many other businesses, Microsoft. Here are some of Business Adventures' most popular parables:

  • Xerox's innovation faux-pas, in which the company extensively funded Ethernet research in the 1970s, opening the door for other companies to run to the front and capitalize on opportunity.

  • The launch of the Ford Edsel, a cautionary tale about the timeliness of customer research, the importance of product quality and the shifting desires of markets.

  • Insider trading, which shares the story of how insider trading laws became more strictly enforced following a 1959 exposé of corruption at Texas Gulf Sulphur amidst exploding investor gains.

Related: Bill Gates Made These 15 Predictions Back in 1999 — and It's Scary How Accurate He Was

Sharpening your business acumen doesn't have to be a boring affair. Look at what past organizations have encountered, and you'll find stories of the human condition to be a common denominator — and information you can use to achieve your own competitive advantage.

Nick Wolny

Editor, Journalist, Consultant

A self-described “editorial mutt,” Nick Wolny is an editor, journalist and marketing consultant of seven years. He writes and edits about money, business, technology, LGBTQ life and how they intertwine. Learn more at

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.


Taylor Swift Has a Lucky Number. And She's Not the Only High Performer Who Leans Into Superstitions to Boost Confidence.

Even megastars like Swift need a little extra something to get them in the right mindset when it is game time.


SEO Trends You Need to Be Aware of Right Now, According to a Seasoned Pro

Navigate the future of search engine optimization to elevate your online presence and drive meaningful engagement.


These 3 Big Tech Companies Offer 6-Figure Salaries and Easy Interviews — Especially If You Follow This Expert's Advice

There are far more candidates than positions, so being strategic on the job hunt is key.

Health & Wellness

4 Habits I Cultivated to Become a Healthier, More Effective Entrepreneur

By the time I hit mid-life, some of my bad habits were becoming a risk to my long-term business goals — and my health. Here's how I was able to change them.