Employment Skills and Human Capital
10 novels that will make you smarter about business
By Shana Lebowitz
Jun 15 2015
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When we talk about “business books,” we’re typically referring to works of nonfiction.
But if you’re looking to learn about leadership,
entrepreneurship, or career development, there’s no reason to limit your
browsing to one section of the bookstore. Some of the most memorable
and inspiring lessons on these topics come from fiction.
Think tales of a failed consultant who travels the world to
pitch his product; an aspiring journalist who answers to a tyrannical
editor; and a group of boys who create their own society after getting
stranded on a deserted island.
No matter your passion or profession, these stories will entertain while teaching you about business.
‘Then We Came to the End’ by Joshua Ferris
Ferris’s satirical novel takes place in a Chicago
advertising agency in financial turmoil. As one after another employee
gets laid off, the remaining staff turns to gossiping and office
The book offers keen insights into the way that even the
most irritating coworkers can become your best friends — and how even
the most soul-sucking work can be fulfilling on some level.
‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’ by Mohsin Hamid
According to billionaire tech investor Chris Sacca,
everyone in Silicon Valley should read this novel. A twist on the
traditional self-help book, it tells the story of a man who grows up in a
Southeast Asian slum and becomes a business tycoon.
Possibly more realistic than any nonfiction rags-to-riches
account, the book paints a picture of the ambition necessary to become a
successful entrepreneur, especially in less than favorable economic
‘Moby Dick’ by Herman Melville
This literary classic is less a conventional tale of a
business endeavor than it is a series of lessons in leadership. A sailor
named Ishmael joins a crew of seamen on a whaling expedition, led by
Captain Ahab. (Fun fact: Starbucks coffee company was named after
Starbuck, the ship’s first mate.)
Ahab is charismatic and determined when it comes to
capturing the whale he calls Moby Dick. Yet ultimately he undermines
himself by failing to listen to his crew and dismissing the dangers
involved in the journey.
‘Things Fall Apart’ by Chinua Achebe
On the surface, this novel is about the spread of British
colonialism in a fictional Nigerian village and the village leader’s
fight to save his community from the influence of Christian
Yet the story also raises questions about what makes a
successful leader, and what happens when the leader’s ambitions conflict
with the group’s interests.
‘A Hologram for the King’ by Dave Eggers
In the wake of the US recession, self-employed consultant
Alan Clay is facing the possibility of foreclosure and his daughter
dropping out of college because he can’t pay her tuition. When the book
opens, he has traveled to a Saudi Arabian city to pitch a holographic
teleconferencing system to the king.
As he waits for the king to finally arrive, Clay’s
struggles illustrate not only what it’s like to do business abroad, but
also how it feels when your work no longer makes an impact.
‘Don Quixote’ by Miguel de Cervantes
Don Quixote is a 16th-century Spanish gentleman who reads
so many tales of romance and chivalry that he appoints himself a knight
and embarks on a journey to save the world.
Throughout the novel, Quixote embodies the spirit of an
entrepreneur, who insists he can improve society even though his ideas
seem unrealistic and significant obstacles stand in the way of his
‘Something Happened’ by Joseph Heller
This satirical novel by the author of “Catch-22″ is written
from the stream-of-consciousness perspective of businessman Bob Slocum.
As the title suggests, something has happened to Slocum to undermine
his sense of happiness.
It’s a powerful statement on how professional success
doesn’t always translate to personal fulfillment — so much so that one
Harvard Business School professor recommends his students read it before
taking his class.
‘The White Tiger’ by Aravind Adiga
In a series of letters to the visiting Chinese premier,
narrator Balram Halwai tells the story of his entrepreneurial journey.
The setting is Bangalore, where Balram starts out as a driver for a
wealthy family. Eventually (and partly through criminal activity), he
moves on to start his own taxi business.
This glimpse inside the psyche of a self-made man shows how
powerful the desire for professional and financial success can be — and
the lengths to which people will go to achieve it.
‘The Devil Wears Prada’ by Lauren Weisberger
When a recent college graduate lands a job as the assistant
to the editor of the fictional Runway magazine, she’s immediately
thrust into an unfamiliar world of high-powered fashion moguls. Every
minute means a new demand from her boss, whether that’s booking an
international flight or ordering a steak lunch.
Regardless of your career background, most everyone will
relate to the idea of sacrificing your passion (or your dignity) to get
impressive experience on your résumé. Ultimately, the protagonist’s
journey will inspire readers to overcome professional challenges that
‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding
In this dystopian novel, a group of British boys get stuck
on a deserted island after a plane crash. Their survival depends on
collaboration and organization.
For people at all levels of a business, the book offers
meaningful lessons on the relationship between leaders and followers and
the tension between teamwork and individuality.
This article is published in collaboration withBusiness Insider. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.
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Author: Shana Lebowitz is a Strategy reporter for Business Insider.
Image: A woman with a book sits on a bench at the
departure area at the Fraport airport in Frankfurt November 14, 2012.
Posted by Shana Lebowitz - 08:56
All opinions expressed are those of the author. The World
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یکشنبه 14 تیر 1394 08:38
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