As you get into the swing of the season and start tackling your Christmas shopping, I’d like to lend you a hand with my top recommended books on becoming better, bolder speakers and communicators.
I love giving books as gifts. Giving someone a book that you think they’ll love is like sharing a little piece of yourself with them. Plus, if both of you read the book, you can then compare thoughts on it afterwards.
So if you are hunting for a gift for someone who is building a career or business, or who loves language, or who wants to share a message with the world, or just who just wants to be a better communicator, I’ve got a list of books that may fit the bill.
The books below look at communication from different angles; some are full of practical tips for specific tasks like arguing, speaking, or negotiating. Others provide the inspiration we sometimes need to keep putting our message out in the world. They all explore factors that affect our communication, whether verbal or non-verbal.
None of these listings are sponsored. I’ve read and re-read all of these titles, and am recommending them because I love them and find them useful in many areas of my life. And I think that you or someone on your Christmas list will also find them interesting, helpful, and practical in your/their life as well.
Without further ado (and in no particular order), here is my list of 5 Books That Will Boost Your Speaking!
1) Thank You for Arguing, Third Edition: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion – by Jay Heinrichs. 3rd Ed. Three Rivers Press, 2017.
Core topics: Rhetoric, persuasion, public speaking, language
Buy this for: Anyone. Seriously.
If anyone asks me about my most recommended book on public speaking, this is it. I’ve purchased more copies of this book than any other because I keep forgetting them on airplanes, at people’s houses, and in random office buildings. I’ve managed to hold on to my current copy for a while, and it’s dog-eared and covered with marginalia.
There’s a good reason I love this book so much: it’s a useful, accessible, and entertaining treatise on rhetoric and persuasive speech. Jay Heinrichs produced a magnificent volume, with easy-to-understand information on rhetoric and how it applies in daily life, plus great activities to help you get a grip on the strategies and skills. This book will improve your speaking and your writing, and help open your eyes to persuasive strategies being used on you. You’ll laugh, you’ll learn, you’ll persuade.
2) The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly? – by Seth Godin. Penguin, 2012.
Core topics: Resilience, personal development, business, creativity
Buy this for: Creatives, artists, entrepreneurs, or anyone putting in the long, hard work required to create something big (be it a career, a business, a vision, a piece of art, an athletic feat, etc.).
Most of the books on this list are about how we talk to others. This one is more focused on how we talk to ourselves, especially as creators, makers, and artists…and yes, you are an artist.
I could recommend nearly any of Seth Godin’s books, but this is the one that’s really speaking to me at the moment. It’s both an inspirational guide and a reality check. The Icarus Deception takes an honest look at the work and mental fortitude needed to make our art (Godin’s definition of art is broad: “the act of a human being doing generous work, creating something for the first time, touching another person”).
Godin’s words are encouraging and uplifting, but challenging. This book contains no vapid affirmations, but an honest examination of the mental and emotional work necessary to create and pursue our art. It empathizes with our struggles, but also pushes aside the excuses we invent to get ourselves off the hook. It acknowledges that this work is hard, but that there’s also so much we can do and must do in order to bring our gifts to those who need them.
To me, this book is like a wise friend who first gives me a comforting shoulder to cry on, then says “enough excuses” while shoving me out the door and in the direction of my ambitions. I’ve both read it and listened to the audiobook many times, and I return to it whenever I need a shot of comfort and encouragement along with a really good kick in the ass.
3)Executive Presence: The Missing Link Between Merit and Success – by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. HarperCollins, 2014.
Core Topics: Leadership, influence, business & careers, public speaking
Buy this for: Leaders, entrepreneurs, people who are advancing in their careers, people wanting to improve their leadership skills or influence at work, those interested in speaking and presenting with greater presence and impact
Image counts for a lot in our careers and businesses, regardless of your industry or profession. The impression we give to others can make the difference between getting a promotion or being overlooked, of getting a plum assignment or being sidelined for the umpteenth time. Presence, and its close cousin Charisma, fascinate me. They’re among the key tools and features of exceptional speakers, have a measurable impact on our lives, yet are hard to capture and define.
In Executive Presence, Hewett does an admirable job of capturing and defining the different characteristic of presence. Through reams of detailed research, she’s able to articulate what gives people that aura of power and respectability we seek in our leaders. Hewett looks at details like comportment, assertiveness, style and grooming, speech and voice, appearance, empathy, social awareness, and more. This creates a very complete composition of the je ne sais quoi of those with true executive presence. While some of these topics might seem trite, I can assure you they aren’t. The topics that Hewett raises are things my own clients have worked with me on and agonized about. Hewett treats these subjects with the seriousness they deserve.
This book is a must-read for anyone looking to advance in their career, enhance their leadership skills, or make a more impactful and favorable impression on those they meet.
4) Ask For It: How Women Can Use the Power of Negotiation to Get What They Really Want – by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever. Bantam, 2008.
Core Topics: Negotiation, women, business & careers
Buy this for: women entering the workforce, building their careers, dealing with tricky situations, or who need a bit of help boosting their confidence and pursuing what they really want.
Ask For It is a book that every woman should have on her shelf. Negotiating is a crucial life skill that eludes many women. For many – myself included – it brings to mind hardball tactics, win-lose scenarios, or uncomfortable interactions and embarrassing rejections. Unfortunately, when we women don’t engage in negotiation, we can lose big in everything from our careers to our personal lives.
Babcock and Laschever address how negotiation differs for women than for men. Our pro-social, cooperative inclinations, along with social pressures and expectations, means that we often need to take a different approach to negotiation situations than men would. The authors are up front about what makes negotiation so tough for so many women, and offer practical solutions for overcoming negotiation barriers.
But don’t mistake the slant of this book as one that’s soft on strategies, tactics, demands, or outcomes. Far from it; Babcock and Laschever draw on their years of researching and training negotiation to create a robust approach that teaches us how to ask for – and get – more. The Negotiation Gym exercises at the end of the book are especially good, and I’ve used them myself to strengthen my negotiation muscles.
The skills and mindsets taught in this book have strong parallels to the mindsets and techniques needed in non-negotiation communication as well. That’s part of the reason why I like it so much. It can help women become better speakers and communicators overall.
5) The Handy Communication Answer Book – by Lauren Sergy. Visible Ink Press, 2017.
Core Topics: Communication, public speaking, rhetoric, business and social communication
Buy this for: Professionals, students, leaders, entrepreneurs, anyone wanting a useful and timely reference for their communication pain points.
Of course I wasn’t about to leave my own book off this list! Released earlier this year, this is your ultimate reference book for anything about communication. I wrote it to be a communication coach on your desk, something you could reach for whenever you had a question like “how can I make my argument more convincing?” “how should I bring up this delicate topic with my co-workers?” “what the heck am I going to say in that speech I need to give at Bob’s retirement party?” Or even “when was the first postal system created?”
(Ok, so not many people will ask that last one, but there’s a lot of interesting things to be learned in the history of communication, so I go over that as well).
I cover communication history, rhetoric, business communication, public speaking, social communication, communication technology, written communication, body language, voice and anatomy, email, and more. There are analyses of famous speeches, and I even give you speech templates and sample speeches that you can adapt for when you are called to the podium.
If you or someone you know would benefit from having my years of experience, research, expertise, and deeply geeky insights regarding communication at hand whenever you need it, this is the way to go.
Now go forth, complete your Christmas shopping, and make the people on your list wiser, happier, and better communicators!
If you’d like to purchase any of these books, consider clicking on the titles in this post and ordering them via my Amazon affiliate link. You’ll be helping support this blog.