Both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett--two of the most successful businessmen of our time--have said that Business Adventures by finance journalist John Brooks is the read that brought them enlightenment in business.

Why this book in particular? Well, the nonfiction publication--released almost half a century ago, in 1969--delineates the history of American business and finance, outlining the greatest and worst moments of all time. What, however, does the book do different from any other financial history account?

That's the interesting part.

Throughout each of these cases, in a comprehensive and detailed manner, Brooks delves into a deep analysis of what each of these businesses did correctly--and what they did wrong. Analyzing in detail such a large array of enterprises allows the reader to ultimately be able to apply the bests of business to whatever project they might be working on themselves. Simply put, the reader is able to gain the experience from these mistakes--without actually needing to make those mistakes.

The book makes its way through a number of important events--such as the Texas Gulf Sulfur case or the crash in 1962--but what Gates felt was one of its most important accounts was the rise and fall of the Xerox empire in the 1960s.

The lesson to take away from the Xerox case, however, was that even though the business saw great success, it managed to be overtaken by competitors in the following decade due to its lack of innovation, even though technological advancements were piling in.

Gates himself has emphasized the importance of constantly, dynamically innovating in order to stay at the edge of the curve, having chalked up some of Microsoft's success to its penchant for constant innovation.

Perhaps then, we should all take a lesson from Gates and Buffett and read up on what might be good traits to have in our business ventures. If it led them to success, there's no reason it can't do the same for everyone else.