5 Must-Read books on communication skills

Pages of a book on communication skills

Communication Skills Lockdown

2020 hasn’t been an easy year for improving your communication skills. 


Being in lockdown for months can have an incredibly negative effect on the way you communicate, both verbally and non-verbally. 

Not being able to speak to people or mingle in groups can lower your ability to get your point across or calibrate yourself. 

Without other people to mimic or benchmark ourselves against we start to feel fuzzy and more introverted. Well, maybe it’s time to embrace that introversion and do what the best introverts do: read.

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The Power of Books

Nobody will argue the power that books can have on the mind. Dr Seuss famously said: 

“the more you read, the more you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go”. 

Anne E Cunnigham’s research also suggests that reading can keep our minds analytically sharp as we age. 

So, in light of that, I’ll give you some recommendations to keep your mind and communication skills sharp as a scalpel. 

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In this post, I’ll introduce you to the 5 must-read communication skills books to read no matter what year it is. 

All of these books are:

  • Well researched and well written – so you know you’re getting a profound paradigm shift when you read them;
  • Enjoyable – because immersion is the key to deep learning;
  • Practical – in the sense that you can apply what you learn right away even without being able to gather in groups.
  • Ethical – because manipulating people is not my goal in communication and the point of developing them should be to help other people.

Let’s get to it!

How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

If you’ve ever wondered why you don’t get the best out of people or why people never seem to listen to you, then read this book. 

This book is the best on communication I have ever read. 

The anecdotes and stories are eternally relevant, well explained, and fun to learn. 

This book was a skeleton key to unlocking my confidence in social situations and was a field manual when I led project teams in the past. 

Some of the key promises this book will help you with:

  • Techniques on how to handle people;
  • Becoming more likeable;
  • Persuading people to your way of thinking;
  • Leading others to high performance (but not to burnout). 

I can’t recommend this book enough for improving your communication skills, but if you’ve already read it: a second time never hurts.

Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo

This book is a powerful guide to public speaking based on the analysis of many TED talks. 

In 2019 I was a TEDx coach, and this book became a regular reference guide when creating my training and coaching plans for the TEDx speakers. 

There are 9 secrets in total, but they can be broken down into 3 easy to remember principles:

  • Emotional
  • Novel
  • Memorable

If you’re not aiming for all of your presentations to include these three cornerstones, then you’re seriously doing yourself a disservice.

Talk like TED isn’t just one man’s opinion on the matter. Gallo uses concrete examples from the TED stage mixed with his own experience and analysis of the best speakers in history (he also wrote The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs).

Whether you want to do a TEDx Talk at some point or not, this book will help you to develop your communication skills either on the stage or in your life.

The Greatest Salesman In the World by Og Mandino

Wow. Just wow. 

If you read this, please believe me it’s no ordinary book. 

What Og Mandino created with this masterpiece is not just a book.

It’s an entire routine for self-development, self-actualisation, and interpersonal communication that you can do privately for a month. 

The book starts as a story about Hafid, a camel boy who attains a life of abundance from reading some secret scrolls. 

Shortly after the intro, it’s your turn to be part of the story as you read the first scroll each day for 30 days three times per day. 

You read once in the morning and afternoon in silence and then once in the evening out loud. 

It seems like a lot, but when you begin the first day, you’re already looking forward to the next.

There are ten scrolls in total, so you’ll be reading for 10 months, but it is such a joy. 

Mandino writes beautifully, and wrote each of the scrolls as an affirmation such as ‘I will form good habits and become their slave’. 

You can feel yourself improving every day as you read and internalise the messages.

Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Whether you prefer communicating verbally or through writing, this book will help. 

One thing I have never had a problem with is coming up with ideas, but when it comes to good ideas, I will often fall short of the mark. 

Made to Stick is a communication skills book that shows you how you can make your message ‘sticky’. 

Chip and Dan use a wave of examples of how you can take something seemingly ordinary and make it extraordinary. 

The entire book centres around a clever acronym, SUCCES, that they seem embarrassed to have created.

I’ll give you a quick rundown of the points in the book but don’t worry; the real gold is actually in the pages.

  • Simple – find the essence of your idea; less is more;
  • Unexpected – create novelty and raise curiosity with questions;
  • Concrete – paint a mental picture through storytelling;
  • Credible – include social proof, testimonials, or appeals to authority;
  • Emotional – answer the question: ‘what’s in it for me?’;
  • Stories – stories are not for putting children to sleep; they are for keeping adults awake.

I guess they couldn’t think of an extra S to go on the end, or maybe they left it off on purpose. 

Regardless, the book feels complete, and you will gain a great insight into the minds of two profound analytical thinkers who know how to tell a story. 

The final book I want to share looks at non-verbal communication.

Many people who want to develop their public speaking skills or improve communication skills think that the voice is all that counts. 

Body Language and sub-communication make up a considerable portion of the way we communicate. Some sources even suggest over 93% of communication is non-verbal, but this is debatable

But Body Language is often overlooked in communication; not anymore.

What Every Body Is Saying by Joe Navarro

Joe Navarro was an FBI counterintelligence agent with a keen ability to speed read people. 

His book is as much a reference guide on how to avoid being deceived as it is a powerful self-checklist on presenting yourself as an authority.

Joe gives practical tools and tips on how you can change how other people perceive you, which is essential for the aspiring public speaker. 

Often, the focus is all on the words. Many speakers don’t even bother to rehearse their lines. 

But the power of delivery begins when the lines are committed to memory, and the body is free to perform.

No self-respecting actor would get to the stage unrehearsed so why should you offer any less to your audience. 

I liked the part of this book devoted to establishing trust as it’s one of the things I always want to project to my audience. 

If your audience trusts your Body Language, they will warm to you more easily. If they are warm to you, your message will sink in more easily. 

Grab a copy of What Every Body Is Saying and be aware of what your own body is saying to everyone else.

Read on

It’s looking like a few more months of lockdown might be on the way, so you’ll have plenty of reading time to get through this great list of authors. 

You will not regret reading any of these best-sellers but if you think I’ve missed any, or you read any of them and disagree with me, please leave a comment and let’s discuss it. 

I love reading, listening, and watching anything that helps me to improve my communication skills. 

Zig Ziglar said that motivation is like bathing; you need to do it every day for it to work. 

This goes for improving your communication skills too. 

Don’t let this time away from being able to communicate with others the thing that holds you back when you’re released into the wild again.

Keep reading, keep learning, and most of all, keep communicating or practising your communication skills, and the world will be a much more pleasant place for everyone. 

All the best for your communication success.

Danny Riley

Project Charisma deliver online coaching and in-person courses on
confident communication, public speaking & personal development.

To overcome speaking anxiety, create a Ted style speech, or communicate with confidence,
book onto one of our public speaking courses in Manchester, or sign-up for online coaching.

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5 Must-Read Communication Skills Books

Danny Riley

A corporate trainer, award-winning speaker, TEDx Speaker coach, and Distinguished Toastmaster. Danny designs and delivers Leadership Development Programmes as well as coaching professional speakers. He is a Chartered Manager, a member of the CIPD, and dedicates his life to developing executives who want to deliver more persuasive pitches and presentations.
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