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30 Pieces of Business Advice from Novels

Learn and earn.

30 Pieces of Business Advice from Novels
Marc Chacksfield
25 October 2021

The literary greats have plenty to say on life, death, love and adventure, but what about the stuff that makes the world go round? That's right: gravity and the motion of the planets.

Oh no, hang on, we mean money. The dirty dollar. The greenbacks.

Well, as you can imagine, being authors, they often write a lot of philosophical stuff which probably won't instantly improve your bottom line, but there's a lot of sound advice in there nonetheless. Be inspired, improve your business acumen, and read on...

The Winter of Our Discontent

Author: John Steinbeck

Year: 1961

“In business and in politics a man must carve and maul his way through men to get to be King of the Mountain. Once there, he can be great and kind-but he must get there first.”

Master of the Game

Author: Sidney Sheldon

Year: 1982

“Business is a game, played for fantastic stakes, and you're in competition with experts. If you want to win, you have to learn to be a master of the game.”

Wuthering Heights

Author: Emily Brontë

Year: 1847

“A person who has not done one half his day's work by ten o'clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.”

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

Author: L. Frank Baum

Year: 1900


Author: Jane Austen

Year: 1815

“Business, you know, may bring money, but friendship hardly ever does.”


Author: Ian Fleming

Year: 1959

“Unfortunately most ways of making big money take a long time. By the time one has made the money one is too old to enjoy it.”

A Christmas Carol

Author: Charles Dickens

Year: 1843

Scrooge: "It's enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people's. Mine occupies me constantly.”

Sacred Hunger

Author: Barry Unsworth

Year: 1992

“It is everyone's bounden duty to try to get more than they have got already. If you have got two shillin' you try to make it into four shillin' . . . there is no end to it.”

The Salmon of Doubt

Author: Douglas Adams

Year: 2002

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”

The Shadow of the Wind

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Year: 2001

“Making money isn't hard in itself...what's hard is to earn it doing something worth devoting one's life to.”

Equal Rites

Author: Terry Pratchett

Year: 1987

“ is well known that a vital ingredient of success is not knowing that what you're attempting can't be done.”

The Importance of Being Earnest

Author: Oscar Wilde

Year: 1895

"It is very vulgar to talk about one's business. Only people like stockbrokers do that, and then merely at dinner parties.”

Les Misérables

Author: Victor Hugo

Year: 1862

“A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought. There is visible labor and there is invisible labor.”

Heart of Darkness

Artist: Joseph Conrad

Year: 1899

“I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”

The Three Muskateers

Author: Alexandre Dumas

Year: 1844

“The merit of all things lies in their difficulty.”

The Pilgramage

Author: Paulo Coelho

Year: 1987

“The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short.

Anna Karenina

Author: Leo Tolstoy

Year: 1877

“But every acquisition that is disproportionate to the labor spent on it is dishonest.”

Little Women

Author: Louisa May Alcott

Year: 1868

“Go on with your work as usual, for work is a blessed solace.”

David Copperfield

Author: Charles Dickens

Year: 1850

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

Author: Arthur Conan Doyle

Year: 1927

“Anything is better than stagnation.”

No Country for Old Men

Author: Cormac McCarthy

Year: 2005

“Well, I guess in all honesty I would have to say that I never knew, nor did I ever hear of anybody, that money didn't change.”

Billy Budd

Author: Herman Melville

Year: 1924

"There is nothing namable but that some men will undertake to do it for pay."


Author: George Bernard Shaw

Year: 1912

"Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby!"

Pet Sematary

Author: Stephen King

Year: 1983

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

Robinson Crusoe

Author: Daniel Defoe

Year: 1719

"Now I saw, though too late, the folly of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge rightly of our own strength to go through with it."

Mansfield Park

Author: Jane Austen

Year: 1814

"There is nothing like employment, active indispensable employment, for relieving sorrow."


Author: Bram Stoker

Year: 1897

"We learn from failure, not from success!"

Wreck of the Golden Mary

Author: Charles Dickens

Year: 1856

"I admire machinery as much is any man, and am as thankful to it as any man can be for what it does for us. But it will never be a substitute for the face of a man, with his soul in it, encouraging another man to be brave and true."

The Alchemist

Author: Paolo Coehlo

Year: 1988

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”


Author: A. A. Milne

Year: 1926

“You can't stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”