The best communication books

12 authors have picked their favorite books about communication and why they recommend each book.

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I Hear You

By Michael S. Sorensen,

Book cover of I Hear You: The Surprisingly Simple Skill Behind Extraordinary Relationships

I listened to this book on Audible and then bought multiple print copies to share with others – it’s THAT good! It’s a short read that outlines how to properly validate people. I thought I was okay at this, but it turns out not so much. Practicing validation will help others feel heard, even when you disagree with them, and ends the need for people to argue their point endlessly or behave in other ways that take up your time. If you practice what Sorensen preaches, you will see amazing results in your work and home lives.


Who am I?

I use the knowledge I’ve gained as an executive coach for 14 years and with a master’s degree in organizational communication to help organizations and individuals more effectively communicate with and engage others in the workplace and in their personal lives. I actively practice what I preach and constantly look for new information to help myself and others become better leaders, managers, and people.


I wrote...

Shut Up and Manage: A Quiet Leader's Guide to Engaging Others

By M.J. Clark,

Book cover of Shut Up and Manage: A Quiet Leader's Guide to Engaging Others

What is my book about?

Are you unsure of how to give productive feedback that fully engages and motivates others? Does it make you uncomfortable to give up control, when you can do it faster yourself? Do you struggle to trust other people and hold them accountable? Managers often feel pressure to generate all the ideas and know all the answers, which leads to too much talking and not enough employee engagement.

 In Shut Up and Manage, you’ll find a straightforward, practical guide that provides you with researched principles along with specific examples from the author’s executive coaching work to become a more effective manager and leader. From hard skills such as organizing your work, onboarding, delegating, evaluating, creating goals, and keeping others accountable, to soft skills, such as navigating tough conversations, building trust, coaching, and motivating others, this book provides an operations guide for managers to fully engage others to achieve greater success.

Just Listen

By Mark Goulston,

Book cover of Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone

I’ve recommended this book to people in sales, marketing, copywriting, and management, even though you’d never see it listed as a book about those topics. That’s because the most universal experience that people crave is feeling understood, and this couldn’t be more true for your customers. 

Successful founders know the importance of listening to and understanding their customers, but very few actually approach the act of listening as a practice. Unlike business books that focus on artificial experiences like interviews and focus groups, Just Listen teaches the reader the power of truly listening as a tool and a skill that can be practiced. 

The source of this expertise? A clinical psychologist who also happens to train FBI hostage negotiators. The same techniques apply across the board, and are shared in the book through interesting and surprisingly relatable stories, paired with specific and concrete exercises and techniques that you can…


Who am I?

Alex Hillman is always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust, and business. He’s an author, educator, and community builder. These days, he splits his time between operating Indy Hall, which is one of the oldest coworking spaces in the world; teaching creative people how to bootstrap their own businesses at Stacking the Bricks; and collaborating with people and organizations towards the goal of helping 10,000 people become sustainably independent by 2029.


I wrote...

The Tiny MBA: 100 Very Short Lessons about the Long Game of Business

By Alex Hillman,

Book cover of The Tiny MBA: 100 Very Short Lessons about the Long Game of Business

What is my book about?

What you really need to know is something that most business people won't say out lou. There is no single right way to do things in business, but there are plenty of avoidable mistakes along the way. The Tiny MBA offers 100 pointed pieces of guidance that will help you begin to think like someone who has started and run their own business for 15 years and intends to keep doing it for a long time. Each page of the book offers ideas and prompts and clues and suggestions and reflections to help you navigate the business in ways that most people only learn the hard way.

Check out the book here.

Illuminate

By Nancy Duarte, Patti Sanchez,

Book cover of Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols

When your business begins to gain momentum and scale, you need to build both communication infrastructure and process to motivate your employees, partners, and customers. Drawing from decades of award-winning work at their firm Duarte, Nancy and Patti give creative, specific advice about how to be an inspiring and effective leader.


Who am I?

As a 25-year business coach, I have often assigned clients the task of wandering through a book store and acting like a heat-guided missile, letting themselves notice what topics and books they are naturally drawn to. For me, even as a liberal arts major with no entrepreneurial experience when I started my consulting business 25 years ago, I was always drawn to the business, psychology, and entrepreneur section. The world of work is my playground, and I am fascinated by how to help people build a powerful body of work while sustaining themselves financially and having a deep quality of life. 


I wrote...

The Widest Net: Unlock Untapped Markets and Discover New Customers Right in Front of You

By Pamela Slim,

Book cover of The Widest Net: Unlock Untapped Markets and Discover New Customers Right in Front of You

What is my book about?

The Widest Net provides a proven strategy for building strong and diverse relationships, identifying and connecting with new partners, expanding markets, generating leads, and finding new customers in untapped places.

The Widest Net shows you how to: Search outside your own lens, bias, routine, and history to identify and reach ideal customers; attract the interest and attention of new leads by learning more about them authentically; develop products and services suited to these customers; sell through a trusted reciprocity framework where your customers become part of your ecosystem and you each help the other grow; build and sustain loyalty and trust with new customers; nurture a diverse and resilient customer base by identifying and adjusting to the ideal customer target over time.

Writing to Be Understood

By Anne H. Janzer,

Book cover of Writing to Be Understood: What Works and Why

Some writing guides can be a little bit “citation needed.” The author certainly sounds like they mean it—but where’s the proof? 

There’s no such problem with Anne Janzer’s superb Writing to be Understood. Setting out to get to the heart of what makes a piece of text clear and memorable, she offers a masterclass in clear and expressive writing. 

Along the way, she interviews experts in every area from non-fiction writing to psychology, risk management, behavioral design, and even comedy, bringing their authoritative guidance directly into her book. Read, learn, and see your writing improve.


Who am I?

I’ve been working with words for over 25 years, as a writer and editor in publishing houses, design studios, and now as a freelance. I help everyone from big brands and small businesses through to academics and consultants get their ideas out of their heads and on to the page. I was an original co-founder of ProCopywriters, the UK alliance for commercial writers. I’ve written and self-published four books, the most recent of which is How to Write Clearly. The books I’ve chosen all helped me to write as clearly as I can—not least when writing about writing itself. I hope they help you too! 


I wrote...

How to Write Clearly: Write with purpose, reach your reader and make your meaning crystal clear

By Tom Albrighton,

Book cover of How to Write Clearly: Write with purpose, reach your reader and make your meaning crystal clear

What is my book about?

Aliens have abducted all the freelance writers in the world! OK, that’s not true. But How to Write Clearly is the book I wrote when I imagined it was.

If my clients suddenly had to write for themselves, what would I tell them? I’d deal with titles, sentences, and structure. I’d talk about plain language. I’d cover key steps like planning, research, editing, and feedback. I’d share ways to make your message real, like metaphors and stories, and ways to explain new ideas and make them stick. Finally, I’d bring my guidance bang up to date with the latest ideas in education, psychology, and digital user experience. Basically, if you need to express yourself clearly on the page, How to Write Clearly is for you.

Aurality

By Ana María Ochoa Gautier,

Book cover of Aurality: Listening and Knowledge in Nineteenth-Century Colombia

This book understands ideas about citizenship as entangled with language, sound, and voice. It traces the ways that exclusion and a politics of second-class citizenship arose in Colombia, as a result of specific ideas about how people should speak and sound. It is at once an intellectual history and historical anthropology of the ways the aural has been foundational to ideas of citizenship and belonging. 


Who am I?

I have been doing research in the Caribbean for twenty-five years. The region is diverse and magnificent. Caribbean people have sought creative solutions for racial inequality, climate and sustainability, media literacy and information, women’s and family issues. The transnational connections with the US are complex and wide-ranging, and knowing more about this region is an urgent matter. I work to understand how sound and media work because they structure our reality in important ways. Listening as a way of approaching relationships in work and play is key to our survival. So is understanding how media works, where we get our information from, and how to tell what’s relevant, significant, and true, and what is not. 


I wrote...

Isles of Noise: Sonic Media in the Caribbean

By Alejandra Bronfman,

Book cover of Isles of Noise: Sonic Media in the Caribbean

What is my book about?

The Caribbean has always been a site of explorations of modernity and technology, and this book makes that case through a history of broadcasting and media. With a peripatetic approach, the book scans the emergence of broadcasting as the central medium in the region with attention to Haiti, Cuba, and Jamaica. While in Haiti the US military occupation brought radio as a disciplining and governing tool, in Cuba it was US commercial interests that supported the radio boom. In Jamaica, by contrast, local radio was limited by the colonial government until an explosive anti-colonial rebellion changed everything. The book tracks radio’s significance in politics, racial dynamics, and cultures of belonging. 

Stories That Stick

By Kindra Hall,

Book cover of Stories That Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business

Whether you are selling yourself or a product, communicating your message effectively is a key to success, and it doesn’t matter if you are trying to influence people through logical persuasion or appealing to their values. Storytelling is as old as humanity and has been a moving and lasting way to communicate. Kindra Hall’s bestselling book on storytelling is a fascinating textbook on the art and science of creating and delivering stories that resonate with audiences and influence people’s decisions. This is one of the best books I’ve read on how to craft compelling messages.


Who am I?

I am a graduate of West Point and a student of military and political leadership. From that foundation, I devoted much of my professional life to researching power and influence and understanding how leaders create impact in business and life. As an educator, counselor, and founder of an international firm on executive development, I created courses on influence to help others become more effective at management and leadership through the ethical uses of influence. I want passionately to know the difference between towering leaders like Abraham Lincoln and manipulative scoundrels like Bernie Madoff, and I’m fascinated by what influences people to take one path rather than another.


I wrote...

Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead

By Terry R. Bacon,

Book cover of Elements of Influence: The Art of Getting Others to Follow Your Lead

What is my book about?

Influence is the art of getting others to take your lead—to believe something or do something you want them to do. The most effective leaders excel at influencing others ethically. Based on decades of research, this book describes the methods ethical leaders use to influence others through logical persuasion, modeling, negotiating, socializing, inspiring, and questioning.  

Elements of Influence reveals the basics you need to generate more positive outcomes in both business and life: how to pick up on the societal and cultural cues that reveal others’ motivations and unlock the secrets to getting what you want while satisfying others in the process. You’ll also learn how frauds and bullies try to get their way through threats, intimidation, and manipulation—and how to counter their tactics.

Pitch Anything

By Oren Klaff,

Book cover of Pitch Anything: An Innovative Method for Presenting, Persuading, and Winning the Deal

Pitch Anything is an established work in the pitching and negotiation book categories. It is not perfect, but it is one of the best books for introducing entrepreneurs to the importance of pitching, selling, and negotiating persuasively. Entrepreneurs must pitch to attract co-founders and early team members, to obtain early stage funding, to close customers and other commercial partners, to close later stage funding rounds, and, ultimately, to go public or exit in a sale. While Pitch Anything is a good book, the brashness of some of its advice, particularly around what Klaff calls “frames,” do not fit all persons or situations. Some contexts require full-on Machiavellian tactics; others warrant more of a “Winning Friends and Influencing People” approach. Nonetheless, it is useful to understand which situation you are in and the available plays to run.

Armed with those caveats, I suggest readers of Pitch Anything read Chapter…


Who am I?

I have worked with startups since 2000, when I joined ShareBuilder, ultimately sold to Capital One in a $9.5 billion deal – one of my five successful startup exits to date. I am currently an officer of seven startups. Startups drive global job creation and problem-solving innovation. But 90% fail, often for preventable reasons. I am helping entrepreneurs beat those odds. I wrote Startup Law and Fundraising to help entrepreneurs build on a solid foundation, avoid common legal and regulatory mistakes, and fund their vision. My books are used globally in law and MBA schools, and I speak constantly on entrepreneurship-related topics, including recently to groups in Istanbul, Ramallah, and Tehran. 


I wrote...

Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors

By Paul A. Swegle,

Book cover of Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors

What is my book about?

Entrepreneurship is chaotic. Some chaos drives innovation. But legal chaos rocks startups to their foundations, dashing dreams, jeopardizing jobs and investments, causing liabilities, and slowing innovation. Swegle wrote Startup Law and Fundraising for Entrepreneurs and Startup Advisors to help startups avoid these pitfalls, including the pitfall of struggling to grow a poorly funded business. 

This is a practical book meant to help entrepreneurs and their advisors: build on a solid foundation; avoid costly legal and regulatory mistakes; and raise the money needed for stability, innovation, and operational success. Startup Law and Fundraising is read in by entrepreneurs, lawyers, CFOs, investors, and others across the globe interested in business, business law, and startup fundraising. Its pages cover an unmatched range of startup-focused concepts, tips, traps, strategies, and best practices. 

Exactly What to Say

By Phil M Jones,

Book cover of Exactly What to Say: The Magic Words for Influence and Impact

The brilliance of Exactly What to Say is in its brevity and simplicity. It was built on the premise that when you ‘change your words you change your world’ and how what we say heavily impacts our ability to influence others. It is full of practical, actionable concepts on word choice and phrasing that can be implemented immediately by anyone looking to the effectiveness of their communication. While this book is a quick read–it is incredibly profound and powerful. 


Who am I?

I’m a professional keynote speaker and author that has studied the pillars of high performance for most of my life. This journey started through basketball, as I was able to work with, work alongside, and observe many of the game’s top players and coaches and witness firsthand the disciplines, rituals, and routines they modeled in pursuit of optimal performance on and off the court. That transitioned into the business world where I not only watched these foundational principles be applied by executives and entrepreneurs… but I applied them to my own life and business as well. 


I wrote...

Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets from the Best of the Best

By Alan Stein Jr., Jon Sternfeld,

Book cover of Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets from the Best of the Best

What is my book about?

Raise Your Game peeks behind the curtain and shares the routines and rituals of world-class performers. Elite athletes, musicians, and entrepreneurs are at the top of their game because of the discipline they have during the Unseen Hours. They have made a commitment to establish, tweak and repeat optimal habits in everything they do. Raise Your Game examines the top leaders in sports and business and proves that success is a result of the little things we do all the time.

The basic principles provided in Raise Your Game are basic, but not easy. But the basics work. They always have and they always will. Raise Your Game will inspire and empower readers and organizations to commit to the fundamentals, respect the process, and create a winning mindset.

Coaching A to Z

By Haesun Moon,

Book cover of Coaching A to Z: The Extraordinary Use of Ordinary Words

Moon realizes that certain words are particularly helpful and powerful in making conversations better (all conversations, not just coaching ones). It’s one short word per letter (“Difference”, “Might”, and “Yet” are three of my favourites), and this feels like a collection of twenty-six precise tools that can help any type of discussion more elegant, more curious, more filled with potential and more useful.


Who am I?

Coaching is a wonderful technology that can help people be a force for change… and is often wrapped up in mystic and woo-woo and privilege that makes it inaccessible and/or unattractive to too many. I want being more coach-like—by which I mean staying curious a little longer, and rushing to action and advice-giving—to be an everyday way of being with one another. Driven by this, I’ve written the best-selling book on coaching this century (The Coaching Habit) and have created training that’s been used around the world by more than a quarter of a million people. I’m on a mission to unweird coaching.


I wrote...

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

What is my book about?

The Coaching Habit is this century’s best-selling book on coaching, with over a million copies sold and thousands of five-star reviews online. It makes being more coach-like—staying curious a little bit longer, rushing to action, and advice-giving a little more slowly—something anyone can do, even (especially) if you're skeptical about all this “soft skills” stuff.

Based on seven essential questions and the tools to make using them an everyday habit, The Coaching Habit is helpful for managers, leaders, parents, children, and anyone who interacts with other human beings.

Words That Hurt, Words That Heal

By Joseph Telushkin,

Book cover of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How the Words You Choose Shape Your Destiny

This book shares insights and short vignettes that really bring home the power of words and it always leaves me inspired to see and treat others with greater respect. I also appreciate that it goes beyond just pointing out the many problems that can exist in our communication with others, but provides some ideas for how to communicate in ways that can help us, and others, heal from words that have done damage to our sense of self. 


Who am I?

I have been a Professor of Communication Studies for decades and I strongly believe that the quality of our communication is inescapably tied to the quality of our lives. For me, communication and intercultural experiences have always been marked by serendipity. Serendipities are unexpected finds or discoveries that eventually turn out to be insightful, pleasant, and stimulating even when they are difficult at the time. My time interacting with others in different regions of the U.S., Europe, and Asia has provided for surprising, scary, joyful, and frustrating experiences that have been full of serendipity. I hope that in reading these books you will also harvest serendipity. 


I wrote...

Among Cultures: The Challenge of Communication

By Bradford Hall, Patricia O. Covarrubias, Kristin A. Kirschbaum

Book cover of Among Cultures: The Challenge of Communication

What is my book about?

We, as humans, are at heart storytellers. This book is grounded in the idea that people make sense of their world through a process of choosing and telling narratives to themselves and others. We use stories and commentary to explain the challenges of intercultural communication. Each chapter begins with a guiding question and a narrative that illustrates a particular intercultural challenge and provides context to discuss ideas for understanding and navigating the multicultural world in which we live.

The book explores the nature of culture, the role of identity, worldviews, and values in communication. It illustrates challenges in both verbal and nonverbal communication and investigates the nature of conflict, prejudice, and how to deal ethically and effectively with differences in a wide variety of settings.

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