Saturday, August 04, 2007

If you need a reason to read fiction...

I revisited an article found in The Sunday Times dated July 29 (that was the last day I visited Singapore). As I flipped through it, the article CEO Libraries reveal keys to their success written by Harriet Rubin caught my attention.

Immediately, my curiosity is switched on. I was already making the assumption that surely these corporate chiefs are focusing on reading business books. Boy am I in for a surprise!

Michael Moritz, the venture capitalist who built a personal US$1.5 billion fortune discovering the likes of Google, YouTube, Yahoo and Paypal said this:

I try to vary my reading diet and ensure that I read more fiction than nonfiction. I rarely read business books, except for Andy Grove's Swimming Across, which has nothing to do with business but describes the emotional foundation of a remarkable man. I re-read from time to time T.E. Lawrance's Seven Pillars of Wisdom [...]

At this point I was like, wow, this is great. CEOs are reading fiction and not business best-sellers.

Then, there is Mr Dee Hock, the founder of Visa. He built a dream 2,000-square-foot wing for his books in a pink stucco mansion atop a hill in Pescadero, California. The great philosophers and Western novelists like Steinbeck and Stegner were housed there. I am trying to imagine having such a big and well stocked library for myself. Awesome.

Mr Sidney Harman, founder of Harman Industries, a producer of sound systems for luxury cars, theatres and airports maintains a library in each of his three homes. He said:

Almost everything I have read has been useful to me -- science, poetry, politics, novels. My books have helped me develop a way of thinking critically in business and in golf -- a fabulous metaphor for the most interesting stuff in life. My library is full of things I might go back to.

Finally, to quote Ms Shelly Lazarus, the chairperson and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather,

Once I have read a book I keep it. It becomes a part of me.

If busy CEOs like them find time to read, what excuse do I have? I'm glad that I have recently develop the passion for fiction. I used to be sceptical about reading novels and thought them to be a waste of time. Now, I am making a healthy balance of both. Besides reading for pleasure, it is interesting to see how it can also contribute to finding other perspectives on how to think or solve a problem. Happy reading!