contact us
+44 333 444 1500

Why reading novels makes you more successful

In our previous post we suggested a number of reasons why the chauffeur option (as opposed to driving yourself or taking the train) makes more sense from both a business and personal perspective. In the process of writing it we came across some fascinating research that provides strong, and perhaps surprising, evidence that reading novels is not a self-indulgent waste of a time for the busy executive – it’s actually a very smart way to get ahead!

We were naturally intrigued, because it adds even more weight to the arguments in favour of letting us do the driving – even if you just use the time to read The Great Gatsby or Brighton Rock (as opposed to something on personal development or business strategy) you’ll benefit from a very positive return on investment.

Published in the authoritative Harvard Business Review, and written by a successful Executive Vice President, The business case for reading novels* is extremely compelling.

She cites data indicating that fiction-reading activates neuronal pathways in the brain that measurably help the reader better understand real human emotion — improving his or her overall social skilfulness. 

She goes on reveal "a significant relation between the amount of fiction people read and their empathic and theory-of-mind abilities". Theory of mind, she explains, is the ability to interpret and respond to those different from us — colleagues, employees, bosses, customers and clients. And she reminds us that “This is plainly critical to success, particularly in a globalized economy. The imperative to try to understand others' points of view — to be empathetic — is essential in any collaborative enterprise.”

So, if you are going to read novels to enhance your performance in the workplace, what would we recommend? On the basis that you’ll feel slightly less guilty if some of the action takes place in the world of business try these for starters.

The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe

The book charts the fall of Wall Street Master of the Universe Sherman McCoy and is a swirling drama about ambition, racism, social class,politics, and greed in 1980s New York City. Meticulously researched by the journalist turned novelist it has a richness of detail that paints a vividly realistic picture of the knotty underside of life’s rich tapestry.

The Fear Index by Robert Harris

A bad day in the life of Geneva based hedge fund manager Dr Alex Hoffman. Without giving too much away, the story has a twist that’s reminiscent of Frankenstein. Which is nicely ironic – Mary Shelley had the idea for her famous novel whilst staying in a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva, and the landscape helps set the dark and mysterious tone of her gothic tale. Read it before the film comes out! Again, written by a journalist turned novelist, and gripping from the very first page.

A Week in December by Sebastian Faulks

Follows a handful of very different character over the course of a week, at the end of which they all attend the same dinner party. At the heart of the drama is John Veals, a hedge fund manager with a chillingly dispassionate and clandestine approach to enriching himself, even at the expense of others.

Money by Martin Amis

Narrated by John Self, a successfuldirector of TVcommercials who is invited to New York by Fielding Goodney, a film producer, to shoot his first film. Inspired by Amis’s own experience working on the script for the disastrous film Saturn 3 it charts the anti-hero’s slobbishly indulgent self-destruction in viscerally bubonic prose.


You might detect a trend here. All four leading characters lack emotional intelligence – and pay the price.

Link to article:
http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/01/the_business_case_for_reading.html

Fantastic service - took all the stress out of travel to the airport for my honeymoon.

Jon Beecroft

Request A Quote

or call us on +44 333 444 1500
burges-salmon logologo-vado logoosborne logoaardman logobff logologo-rothschild logologo-adient logoangelberry logo