Reading a business book is not the only literature that will help you advance your business career. Gasp! Shock! Awe! I know, I know. I’m not saying I don’t read business books. I’ll pick one up every now and again to learn about something new in the business world. But lately, I’ve become obsessed with reading historical fiction to help me think about business differently. I’ve found that following these portals into history gives me a greater understanding of where the world has been and how humans connect in different ways, all through the lens of a great story.
Let me give you an example.
I stumbled upon a new favorite piece of historical fiction when I was in the East Hampton bookstore BookHampton recently: The Address by Fiona Davis. (If the author’s name sounds familiar, she also wrote another favorite of mine, The Dollhouse.)
Her 2017 novel is about the famous Upper West Side building, The Dakota (yes, the one that John Lennon was shot in front of by a crazed fan in 1980). What I loved is that I not only read an interesting story with two past and present female narratives that intertwine in spectacular ways — trust me, you’ll speed through to find out the ending! — but its setting also gave me an appreciation for New York real estate, architecture and, of course, the famous building that was built in the late 1800s in the era of the Astors and Vanderbilts.
But back to business: How will reading historical fiction help you in your career?
- Books like these give you perspective: It’s important when you’re working or negotiating with others to think about where they are coming from, what their background or experiences are that may have influenced their mindsets, and so on.
- You can learn empathy through strong storytelling: It’s easy to judge someone instantly, but nuanced stories filled with complicated and flawed characters serve as a good reminder that things aren’t always what they seem. (I won’t give away the ending of this book, but just know that there’s more than meets the eye!)
- Expanding your curiosity set can help you understand the world in different ways: I believe that the more breadth and understanding you have about a range of topics other than your specialty — be it sports, fashion, politics, pop culture or even historical fiction — the more you can draw on this acumen and these perspectives other than your own to help you when conversing with all types of stakeholders, like clients, networking contacts or colleagues.
Plus, just in general, it’s always helpful to have something on hand to discuss that shows off the depth of your whole, wonderful self.
Find The Address by Fiona Davis ($26) on amazon.com.
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