As much as I read and write about business, entrepreneurship, digital marketing, and more, I like to remind people (both readers of my own writing and even clients) that I am an artist first. I studied creative writing in college. My first book was a memoir about my years as one of the highest-ranked World of Warcraft players in North America (while undiagnosed with celiac disease). And for every book I read on business, I read two that are fiction or creative nonfiction.
There is no better workout for your brain than reading a good novel.
I find that most people who read business-related books enjoy reading to “learn,” whereas readers who enjoy a good story are more interested in being entertained.
My motto has always been “Why not both?”
Here are five of my favorite books that won’t just entertain you, but will teach you a little something about what it means to be human:
1. Tuesdays With Morrie
Nothing puts things in perspective like a deathbed.
This is a book about a student and an old teacher who reconnect in the final hours of the teacher’s life. Together, they talk through some of life’s most simple yet profound lessons, and as a reader you’re given the gift of learning through the student’s eyes.
Reading a book like this, especially during the summer when the seasons are in transition, can be a great way to step back and do some much needed reflecting.
2. The Glass Castle
If you start reading this, clear your calendar for the next three days. You won’t be able to put it down.
The Glass Castle is a memoir, a true story about a girl who grows up in an unconventional, quirky, and poor family. What makes the book so enthralling (it has spent more than seven years on the NYT bestseller list) is the fact that, despite her almost unbelievable upbringing, she continues to find things to be thankful for.
This book acts as both a movie in prose and a reality check.
3. Portnoy’s Complaint
You don’t know self-reflection until you’ve read Portnoy’s Complaint.
The entire book is written from the perspective of a Jewish man, seated on a therapist’s couch, looking back on his life and trying his best to sort through his many experiences. From women to family, religion, and more, the story rides the line between journal and open letter, all while planting you firmly in each scene.
This is one of my favorite novels for no other reason than the voice in which it is written. Hilarious, self-deprecating, honest but full of healthy embellishment, this will keep you glued to the windowsill or the lawn chair–wherever you’re reading.
4. The Things They Carried
Chances are, this was on your school reading list. If you read it, great–I encourage you to read it again. Or, if you were like me in high school, you didn’t read it, and needed to wait a few years to understand its importance.
Honestly, it took me a while to catch up to this brilliant war story. But the writing is so visual and the plot is so enticing that you can’t help but get absorbed in the world the author is painting.
Especially if you’re interested in the Vietnam War, this book is one for the ages.
5. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
A true story about an older brother who has to raise his younger brother after both parents pass, this memoir made a profound impression on me.
There is a duality to the story that makes it impossible not to love. One-half unfortunate circumstance, the other half amusingly uncomfortable parenting done by a teenager, the book is the documentation of a coping process more than anything else.
Especially if you have siblings, this is a must-read.