14 Literary Classics You Didn't Know Could Help You Become a Better Entrepreneur
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
The right reading can inspire and educate you, keep you up to date on your field and help you adapt to the inevitable changes of the business world.
Sometimes, though, you need inspiration from a different type of book. In fact, the lessons you need most to help grow your business could come from an unexpected source -- including the following 14 classic works of fiction:
1. Of Mice and Men
The themes of lost dreams and sadness make this an unusual choice, but John Steinbeck’s novella holds important lessons about loyalty and the protection of the weak. When you realize the importance of respecting everyone, regardless of their station or job, you’ll become leaps and bounds more successful as an entrepreneur.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird
There’s a lot to learn from Harper Lee’s classic, in particular, the ability to see things from others’ points of view and to find resilience in the face of bad breaks. These two skills alone will make you a more successful entrepreneur.
3. The Picture of Dorian Grey
This cautionary tale has a lot to say about what can happen when desires are allowed to run unimpeded. As a businessperson with (potentially) access to millions of dollars in funding, it’s important to understand the lessons of restraint that can be found in Oscar Wilde’s novel. Shielding yourself from business-hedonism is just as important as protecting your personal integrity.
4. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
This classic Mark Twain novel shares the story of a boy growing up and learning to trust his own instincts of right and wrong over what society tells him. As an entrepreneur, this lesson of trusting your gut and not other people’s opinions is an important one.
We’d all love to see ourselves as “handsome, clever and rich,” especially if we own businesses. However, this novel by Jane Austen is a cautionary one, as Emma is often led astray by the conviction that she’s always right (and gets into some serious trouble as a result). This caution is important for would-be entrepreneurs as well -- don’t be so blinded by your own ideas that you miss the right way to go.
6. Great Expectations
This classic novel teaches great lessons about the role of wealth in happiness. As Pip moves through life, gaining wealth and prestige, he finds that it doesn’t automatically bring the happiness he expected. Pip’s moral development is a major theme of the book, and an important thread for you as an entrepreneur. Use this book to learn that wealth and prestige won’t make your life great. A great life makes wealth and prestige a blessing.
7. The Three Musketeers
The Three Musketeers is a book about adventure, courage, friendship and generosity. A highly entertaining story, it’s also a great one to read as an entrepreneur. Seeing how the musketeers work together through their adventures is a great way to learn about the importance of teamwork and watching out for those who work with you. In this time of remote connections, the timeless message of friendship really resonates.
8. The Hobbit
This book has three themes that are important for entrepreneurs. The first is the sense of being called out on a journey you aren’t entirely sure you’re ready for. Anyone starting a business knows the feeling.
The second is the theme of protecting your team and watching out for each other, which goes hand in hand with the idea that, sometimes, the thing you think you want most ends up controlling you. As a successful entrepreneur, you can never let yourself get too carried away by “your precious.”
9. Little Women
Little Women is a perennial favorite read, especially for young girls. This idealized view of family life stands in contrast to our current culture of sarcasm and cynicism. This alone can help you be more successful as an entrepreneur -- optimism is an important trait. The book’s enduring themes of family, forgiveness and giving also encourage all of us to be our best.
10. The Little Prince
This classic reminds all of us to never lose our childish wonder with the world. Never get so boring that you see a hat when you’re really looking at a snake eating an elephant. Follow your instincts, explore and discover what’s around you.
11. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
C.S. Lewis’ classic is a great adventure story that will not only remind you that the impossible can be possible, but will teach you important lessons about forgiveness, sacrifice and faith.
12. Peter Pan
Like the title character, I think all adults face days when they wish they had never grown up. We don’t like the responsibilities and trials. But this story goes deeper than that. When you read it, you learn about chasing dreams, overcoming doubt and pursuing adventure -- all of which helps you become a more successful entrepreneur.
13. Robinson Crusoe
Daniel Defoe’s classic adventure tale encourages all of us to be grateful for the things we already have. We face trials, but at least we aren’t shipwrecked or fish food. In addition, Crusoe’s persistence as he created his clay pot is a powerful lesson to all entrepreneurs about the value of never giving up.
14. Don Quixote
What can tilting and windmills teach you about leadership? Quite a lot. Despite failure after failure, Quixote persisted in his commitment to his vision. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need this kind of commitment to live your life with passion and discipline.
Have another book you’d like to add to this list? Share your recommendations in the comments section below!