Over the summer, one of the executives at my company wrote a blog post on our internal site about her summer reading and podcasts. Now, this is a woman I truly respect and sort of want to be (read: 100% envy). But her post made me unbelievably sad.
Apparently she only reads work/business/management books (and Educated, which I fully approve). You know the kind: the ones that tell you how to be a better leader, how to build character, why lean is the new black, blah … blah … blah.
The post got even sadder when employees started responding about how inspirational her summer reading list was and sharing their own boring-book faves. If these are their inspiration and summer reading, we have some problems.
I know I sound like a very opinionated, negative Nancy here. I don’t want to tell someone what they should read (though that may appear the point of a book blog). I just want others to feel inspired by the written word and storytelling because it’s had such a a positive influence on my life. That’s not something you get from the genre my coworkers apparently read. I’m not saying you should never read them — I definitely won’t, but you do you. Let me give you a few reasons, though, why business and management books should be kept to a minimum on your reading list and why you should diversify it, especially with fiction.
1.) Their lack of storytelling.
I have formal writing and journalism training. Therefore, I may be a little biased when I say this next sentence, but I would also argue my experience is just proof in the pudding:
Reading great storytellers — fiction or nonfiction — sparks better communication.
It works like osmosis. And being a good communicator can only make you better at your job. Immersing yourself in diverse and interesting ways to tell a story helps you get your own story and point across. If you’re looking for self-improvement, you can get it directly in reading and identifying good storytelling.
2.) Their scarce creativity.
Creativity builds problem-solving skills, and it enlivens you. This might sound dramatic, but if I had to read work books all the time, I would feel dead inside. How can you be a good colleague, employee, or even family member or friend if you feel like that? Do yourself a favor and bring some creativity into your life. A creative mind is an effective, efficient, and unique one, which will only bring you success and make you a happier individual. I know not all of us were born with a strong right side of the brain — myself included — but that doesn’t mean we can’t cultivate and challenge it.
3.) They restrict an escape.
If you only ever read books about being a better employee or how you can improve in your field, you’re never really leaving the office. It’s not healthy to always think about work. Yes, I am someone who loves a 9-5, but I think that’s how a healthy relationship with work should be. Different genres allow you to not only leave the work on the desk, but they also grant you an escape to another world. Let’s work to live and not live to work, people.
4.) They don’t really expand your mind.
How can you interact with people who have different backgrounds and opinions if you only ever read about one subject? Reading has made me more open-minded and progressive, and it’s also taught me to be more empathetic, compassionate, and accepting. If I can read about a character who shares no similarities with me and still understand — or at least be engaged with — their experience, I’m much more likely to collaborate better with colleagues who are different than me. And with this increasingly global world we live in, we need that to succeed at work.
Now I’ve tailored this post and my reasonings to work culture; however, the arguments above, among many others, apply to all aspects of our lives. Literature spurs self-improvement and promotes healthier relationships with everyone in our lives, including strangers. How many times in the past year, for example, have fictional tales that deal with mental health made me analyze it and how I interact with those who have internal struggles? I have the posts to prove it. It’s called personal growth, and we all could benefit from it.
My opinion on this topic has been quite feisty lately if only because I’m seeing these books and recs of them everywhere. I definitely shaded a coworker a few weeks ago for stealing a few of these books outside our CTO’s office (see the first photo above). If you’re going to steal/borrow a book, make it a book that will bring you absolute joy. And even if that means a work book, make sure you’re still diversifying your shelf at least a little bit.
My attitude here may remind you of how I felt about a lil ole genre called the memoir a few years back. And you’re probably thinking, “Well this crazy lady recently changed her mind about memoirs. She probably will about this too.”
1.) That’s awfully presumptuous.
2.) My disdain for this genre is so great that it couldn’t possibly waver in this lifetime. So while I’m trying to be more open-minded about other’s opinions, definitely do not bet on mine changing.