November 4, 2021

Don’t just read business books

Every now and then the same exhausting content pops up on tech/VC/hustle Twitter: some collage of the “best” business books, an implied MBA on a bookshelf that includes the likes of the The Lean Startup, Good to Great, and maybe Sun Tzu if the poster wants to feel more worldly.

Look, I’ve read most of that canon myself, and I’ve certainly recommended some of them on Twitter, Medium, or wherever. Some of them are actually pretty good! But I hope that the people behind these lists take some time to venture beyond that limited window of the Dewey decimal system.

In school I always I learned more about humanity, and business, from my philosophy or art courses than I ever did in the business curriculum. In the years of adult learning since, I’ve again found that what I pick up from a history or science book to be more enlightening than most business books you’ll find in an airport newsstand.

Business and leadership don’t exist in the abstract. They are inseparably tied to the society we live in and the people we live with. Reading and learning about those wider facets is better for you as a person and as a business leader.

Which books should you read then? It doesn’t really matter, as long as you enjoy them. If you want to read the entire library of Fabio-covered romance novels, that is fantastic. If you want to dig into a six volume set on the decline and fall of Rome, more power to ya. Reading anything that expands your world beyond thinking of just entrepreneurship and profits will, ultimately be better for you as both a human and a business leader.

But if you want a place to start — at least venturing into somewhat adjacent nonfiction, here are a few of the books, in no particular order, that have shaped my thinking the most over the past couple years:

About the Author

Ben Guttmann ran a marketing agency for a long time, now he teaches digital marketing at Baruch College, just wrote his first book (Simply Put), and works with cool folks on other projects in-between all of that. He writes about how we experience a world shaped by technology and humanity – and how we can build a better one.

Get my new book, it just came out.

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