Business books are about escapism and fantasy. Just like romance novels.

January 23 2015 · Steve Benjamins

In a 2011 issue of HBR, book publisher Richard Nash was asked why people buy business books. His reply was surprising

“All the evidence suggests that business books are not in fact about learning, but about escapism, just like a romance novel. The business book is about imagining yourself a success, not making yourself a success.”

Did you get that? Business books are about escapism and fantasy— not learning.

Go to any Chapter’s business section and you will find books that confirm this:

Look at those book covers closely: Enchantment promises that the reader can “create a company as enchanting as Apple.” Donald Trump promises to show the reader “How to Get Rich” (note to Trump: that’s a pretty unimaginative title). The Lean Entrepreneur asks the reader “Are you a visionary?” (What does that even mean?).

These promises are designed to do one thing: get the reader to fantasize.

This is a problem

Fantasies are a way to satisfy desire without taking action. Fantasies discourage action.

And there is only one crucial thing that moves all businesses forward: taking action. Shipping work. Getting shit done.

And so ironically, by selling fantasy, many business books actively discourage against the one thing that will move a business forward: taking action.

So the next time you buy a business book, ask yourself: what does this book want from me? Does it want me to fantasize? Or does it want me to take action?

PS: There are of course some business books worth reading. I’ve generalized a bit here to make a broad point.

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