The hidden truth about business books – They don’t work unless you do!

In an age where over 15,000 business books are published each year, the virtual and physical shelves of our world groan under the weight of promises and potential. They stretch across bookstore aisles, online platforms, and personal libraries, each title a beacon of hope for CEOs, entrepreneurs, and professionals. These volumes, whether displayed proudly or tucked away in digital archives, represent a collective yearning for success, innovation, and leadership.

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The publishing industry thrives on this hunger for knowledge, raking in billions annually. Yet, a stark and unsettling truth lies hidden behind this flourishing market, concealed beneath the glossy covers and compelling titles. What is this contradiction in our quest for business success, and why am I making this bold statement?

In my experience as the Co-Founding partner of the Business Book Awards and through conversations with readers and authors, it’s very clear that a substantial number of business books are never read with any substance, let alone lessons applied in any way. I would conservatively suggest that this applies to at least 80% of these books. he phenomenon of “shelf development,” where the books are left to gather dust on shelves or become mere decor in offices and homes, is more common than we’d like to admit. It signifies a lack of impact and a missed opportunity for growth.

The allure of business books is undeniable, but what draws us to them so powerfully? Is it the promise of transformation, success, and personal growth? 

They are more than mere collections of words; they are tangible representations of our yearning for change. These volumes, often bought in moments of inspiration or at the recommendation of a trusted friend or colleague, hold a unique place in our culture. They symbolise our aspirations, our desires to learn and evolve. But here lies the crux of the matter: like many promises, they only work if we act upon them. The journey from inspiration to action is where many falter, and in the following sections, we will explore why this happens and how we can bridge this gap.

Intention is a powerful force but often an elusive one. We buy these books with the best intentions – to learn, grow, and apply their wisdom. However, many times, the main message becomes obscured by extraneous details, stories about the author, or continual self-promotion. The true lesson gets lost, and what could have been a tool for self-improvement becomes a mere ornament.

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The art of selecting the right business book is a crucial and often overlooked skill. In a sea of choices, discernment and alignment with your personal goals can make all the difference.

As the Co-Founding partner of the Business Book Awards, I’ve seen an exciting shift. There is a trend towards more accessible, shorter works that provide targeted wisdom without overwhelming the reader. These books often encourage active engagement, reflecting an understanding that true learning isn’t about volume but about what resonates with you. It’s about being thoughtful in your approach, finding works that you enjoy, and understanding what truly works for you.

The hidden truth about business books is both a challenge and an invitation. The challenge is to move beyond passive consumption to active engagement and application. The onus is on you, the reader, to find the right tools for your journey and to actively apply the insights you gain. It’s not just about reading, but about reflecting and then doing. The invitation is open to join the ranks of those who have discovered that true growth comes not merely from knowing but from thoughtful action.

The next time you find yourself reaching for a business book, whether physical or digital, new or old, ask yourself what the desired outcome and impact are that you wish to achieve with it. Also appreciate that books won’t magically work; they demand your involvement, your commitment, and your action. Be selective. Be engaged. Because business books don’t work unless you do.

Safaraz Ali, Author of Canny Bites Business Books Series, Co-Founding Partner of Business Book Awards

Safaraz Ali, Featured in the Business Influencer Magazine