Need to know what’s trending in the news? Look to your Facebook news feeds. Are you looking for instant updates in a news story? Twitter works. Left- or right- leaning political news? Turn on cable television and you know which channel to turn to. On the more scholarly side, since we are at business school, we may indulge in articles from The Economist or Financial Times.
But alas, do books still play a role in how we digest information, let alone entertain ourselves? In a recent podcast interview with literacy non-profit, Things We Read, rock band, Eve 6, not only agrees that books remain crucial, but also assert that novels have been integral in their creative process.
Lead singer, Max Collins, tells Things We Read that “there are too many protagonists to count in [Middlesex]…It’s tragic, hilarious, inspiring and important. I stole the name of my solo record ‘Honey From the Icebox’ from its pages too.”
There simply is no replacing an old fashioned book. Kindles, smartphones or tablets count as well. It’s not so much the feel of the book—pages or bytes—it is the content and depth of the content that matter.
“It’s just impossible to produce a movie as in-depth as the book,” said John Ondrasik, the platinum award winning artist known as Five for Fighting, supporting the old adage that “the movie is never as good as the book.” You simply cannot get the same level of analysis for non-fiction in an article or plot development in a short story or movie.
Reading can be a visceral experience that influences long after the last page of a story, explains Collins. Speaking on Moon Palace by Paul Auster, Collins says, “Scenes from this novel still pop into my head years after reading it. It’s such a powerful dream I feel like I lived it.”
Reading clearly influenced Max Collins and Eve 6—and they’re not alone. Future Hall of Fame basketball star LeBron James and renowned rapper Jay Z both cite the integral role that books play in their careers and personal lives. Yet, those are athletes and artists and this is Wharton – we’re a business school. Surely books are important for our careers? Or maybe they’re not and it’s more about snippets of quick and actionable information?
Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and successful entrepreneur, asserts the former. In a review shared on Things We Read, in regards to Jason Fried’s Rework, Cuban says, “if given a choice between investing in someone who has read Rework or has an MBA, I’m investing in Rework every time. This is a must-read for every entrepreneur.”
It’s not just fiction that’s beneficial to business-minds. In a Slate.com article, Cuban explains that he was shaped by Ayn Rand’s epic novel The Fountainhead: “It taught me it doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks—it’s how you see yourself and what your own dreams are. It was incredibly motivating to me. It encouraged me to think as an individual, take risks to reach my goals, and responsibility for my successes and failures.”
CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, and Wharton alum, Elon Musk can’t overstate the importance of reading—both non-fiction and fiction. “Peter Thiel has built multiple breakthrough companies, and Zero to One shows how,” explains Musk. His fictional favorite: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
Interested in private equity or learning about leverage buyouts? Consider diving into Barbarians at the Gate by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. Recruiting for consulting—ever heard of The McKinsey Way by Ethan Rasiel? Taking Statistics right now? Get a different perspective from Wharton alum, Nassim Taleb, in his three books Fooled by Randomness, Antifragile and Black Swan.
Think its possible tie in a romantic-ish novel with operations and systems management principles? Eliyahu Goldratt and Jeff Cox masterfully crafted a fictional story around just this in their novel The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement.
And that is my challenge—your call to action—relax, de-stress, read a book and maybe learn something. I gave a similar charge to my soldiers in Iraq and the crux of the founding principles of Things We Read. For them it was easy to get stressed in combat and bogged down by life-issues and career-stressors. For us, it is easy to get bogged down by problem sets, recruiting and of course, the many social and networking events. So take time to read. After all, thanks to reading, we have Eve 6’s “Inside Out,” and you are the next big CEO.
—Chris Molaro is the CEO, chairman, and co-founder of Things We Read, a non-profit dedicated to reading, education, and literacy. To listen to the Eve 6 interview with Things We Read, visit www.thingsweread.org/podcast.
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