Here are a collection of my favourite books for business writers.
Some are clearly about business, some clearly about writing and others are about neither but about some form of communication. Together, hopefully, they provide a perspective on what we are attempting when we sit down to craft a white paper or a strategy paper…
Tell To Win – Peter Guber
Guber’s book is largely about talking rather than writing, but he’s a film industry guy (CEO of Mandalay Entertainment Group and former Chairman of Sony Pictures), and in a series of self-effacing anecdotes, he brings to life the power of storytelling. There’s a short video interview with Guber discussing the art of purposeful storytelling on the HBR site.
How Fiction Works – James Wood
This is a beautifully written book in which Wood explores the elements that make fiction work. It’s only a short step to carry his observations on narrative and language into a business context. That doesn’t mean being flowery; it means bringing ideas to life.
Influence – Robert Cialdini
Cialdini is a professor of Marketing and of Psychology. I keep dipping back into this to understand what persuades and why it works … and how I have been duped in the past.
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information – Edward Tufte
This is a classic book on the subject and is ever more relevant as the information world becomes ever more visual. Like his more recent, Beautiful Evidence, the book is wonderfully and visually compelling. His lessons on effective visual communication hold true for the written word and, besides, business writers increasingly embrace graphics and infographics as they seek to communicate their message.
The Economist Style Guide
Swimsuit – James Patterson
Or any of his other books, I suppose. This is just one of the only two I’ve read. It’s easy to be sniffy about Patterson’s “lightweight, disposable” style but one of the world’s most prolific and successful authors is clearly doing something right in creating compelling, page-turning, unputdownable prose. Short chapters, a direct voice and some memorable moments despite the light touch. And, of course, a hugely successful business model. Lessons to learn.