This book is the preserved correspondence between Old Gorgon Graham, a self-made millionaire in Chicago, and his son who is coming of age and entering the family business. The letters date back to the 1890s but feel like they could have been written in any era. They are surprisingly stoic. Honest. Genuine. Packed with good advice. Normally these types of books are unreadably boring and personal. My version has only Graham's letters and none from his son so there is only one voice, one perspective to follow. It gives the book a sense of narrative and flow that most books of letters lack (for which they suffer).
One of my favorite parts is where Graham suggests that history should be taught backwards because most people never make it up to the present. I had a history teacher do this for one class in high school and it's still the only formal education I've had on some of those subjects. I've since had plenty of time to go back and get caught up with what happened in the few thousand years prior. The book is in the public domain - I've never even heard it mentioned outside of Joseph Epstein's Ambition (which is also good) - but is by far my favorite book of the year.