Business books are like romance novels — they’re all about fantasy.

In a 2011 issue of the Harvard Business Review, 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.”

If you browse the business section at Chapters, you’ll find plenty of evidence to support what Nash is saying:

“Read this book to create a company as enchanting as Apple.” … Right.
“How to Get Rich” Classic Trump: make huge promises that are obviously empty.
“Are you a visionary?” The empty language of entrepreneurship literature. All it does is stroke the ego (you too can be a visionary!) and invite the reader to fantasize.

These books are just like romance novels— they’re about escapism and fantasy.

But while romance novel readers know they’re indulging a fantasy, I don’t think people business book readers do.

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.

By selling fantasy, business books actively discourage 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?

Hi I’m Steve. I’m the founder of Site Builder Report and Stock Up. I also make music and release a new single every month or so. You can follow me on Twitter if you’d like.