Novels That will Make You Smarter

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.According to Chris Sacca, the Lowercase Capital partner who made more than $1 billion through his investments in companies like Twitter and Uber, Silicon Valley doesn’t need more business advice. It needs a lesson in empathy.

The current generation of entrepreneurs, investors, and programmers have a tendency to live in a bubble removed from the rest of the world, he tells “The 4-Hour Workweek” author Tim Ferriss in the latest episode of Ferriss’ podcast.

They may be more highly educated than those who came before them, but they’re lacking the valuable experience that doesn’t come with a degree, like working construction or waiting tables in the summer, traveling, and volunteering in poorer parts of the world.

That’s resulted in a concentration of tech workers and investors with “narrow-band perspectives on the world,” Sacca says. “They were missing empathy. So they weren’t able to put themselves in the shoes of the folks they might be building a product for, what the problems of the world might be.”

It’s an exercise in what’s on the mind of the person who’s dying, and how is he thinking about the impact of his death on his family, on his friends, on his business partners, on his legacy, on the continuing responsibilities as a dad even though he’s passed on to the next life.”

“The book will not only leave you feeling incredibly lucky for what we’ve got here and where we are,” he says, “but at the same time will sharpen that sense of how do I put myself in somebody else’s shoes.”

Hamid, whose family is from Pakistan, has lived there as well as in the US and UK. “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia,” published in 2013, is his profound twist on a self-help book, a meditation on ambition across vastly different social classes.

“You close that book and you feel like you’ve walked through 15 or 20 different lives in another world,” Sacca says.

“And I just think more of that would be better for all of us. I think it would be better for our industry, for the depth and the impact of the products we build. I just think it would be better for getting along with each other.”

After all, he says, it’s hard to lose sleep over a competitor’s new product when you have an appreciation for the magnitude of the privileges in your life.

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