Just because I’m an entrepreneur doesn’t mean I have to give up reading fiction! As a business owner, I’m continually advised to read this productivity book or that self-help book or this book on how to sell effectively. The subliminal message is “If you don’t read business books, you’re not going to succeed.”
Well, maybe. I’m fairly successful. I attribute a measure of that success to the fact that I read a lot of fiction, too. Here’s the thing, I am a Reader, with a capital R. A voracious reader. I read books, magazines, e-zines, e-books, blog posts, online articles, cereal boxes, forms, signs. If it has letters on it, I read it. But I love stories the most – stories about people and their lives.
The Power of Story
In the business world, marketing gurus have recognized the power of story. Have you noticed that advertisements have moved from feature driven information to stories about products and the people who use them? Same thing has happened in sports. Producers use human interest stories about athletes to provide a connection to the person consuming the story – on all content platforms. They recognize that the story invites people in.
So, for me, it’s all about the story. The works of fiction that I read inform my point-of-view and expand my frame of reference. For example, the first fiction book we read when I joined my book club was Angry Housewives Eating Bon-Bons by Lorna Landvik. Great name, right? Sounds like a great, light read. That’s what I thought, too, until I read it – 12 years ago – and scenes from the book stick with me to this day. Angry Housewives is the story of a group of women as they move through life together.
What sticks with me is Landvik’s portrayal of the shades of friendship that existed among the women and the lengths they went to to maintain their connection. The book’s exploration of the relationships among the women is both rich and nuanced. There are no saccharine sweet, fake friendships. Instead she shows the gritty side of staying at home, being friends, and surviving your life. It was the first time I remember reading a novel about a woman who decided to go back to work while her children were small. Oh, and this was before I went back to work so it really resonated with me.
Then there’s my favorite sub-genre, historical fiction, and my favorite author, Paula McClain. When I read her historical novel, The Paris Wife, I was exposed to a different view of a very famous person, Ernest Hemingway, and his first wife, Hadley Richardson. McClain painted a vivid picture of what life must have been like with the great writer. She also painted a vivid picture of what it must have been like to be married to Hemingway as he struggled with success. It was valuable information for someone who coaches women through major transitions in life.
Discover grace and ingenuity
And there’s my recent favorite, A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. This tour de force novel presents the story of a man living during the Bolshevik revolution who is sentenced to life imprisonment in a hotel. Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it? It’s not. It’s beautiful, filled with triumph and defeat, but primarily filled with the grace, faithfulness, and ingenuity of its main character. Every time I think about this book, I am reminded of the infinite resourcefulness and resilience of human beings. It’s good to be reminded of this so we can find our own grace and resilience.
And, finally, there’s Paula McClain’s Circling the Sun about Beryl Markham, a fearless woman living in the 1920’s who was way ahead of her time. Markham was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean east to west. She also endured unimaginable hardships, an infamous love triangle, and the struggle to claim the right to be fully her own woman. The story of Markham’s fight to live life on her terms, pursuing “unsuitable careers,” and dangerous hobbies is a tribute to the power of a personal dream.
Story sells. Stories stick with us. People remember stories because they identify with them. I love that novels depict the human condition in all of its beauty and squalor. They provide new perspectives on old ideas. They also convey new ideas that can help us develop new perspectives. They show us fantastical worlds that pique our curiosity and expand our horizons. They remind us of the infinite power of the human imagination. They show us over and over again that we are all wonderfully, gigantically, human. No business book will ever do that.
Are you ready to take your personal story to the next level? Considering changing careers? Looking at re-entering the workforce? Check out The Women’s Tech Conservatory where we explore the myriad of options in technology careers while creating a community of women to support your journey.