There are millions of stellar books in the world. The trick is figuring out which ones are the must-reads—and finding the time to read them. If you’re as busy as I am, that can take some doing. But there are books out there that public speaking experts consistently recommend.
To save you time and hassle, I’ve done some digging to find the six most recommended public speaking books of all time. These are top picks from Amazon, Goodreads, and public speaking book roundups from all around the Web. Check out the list to make sure you’ve read them all. And if you’re keen to pass a little knowledge on to your students, this list is a great place to start.
1. The Art of Public Speaking—Dale Carnegie
No list of public speaking books is complete without Dale Carnegie. He may have been writing in the early 1900s, but his work and his advice are far from outdated.
This is the same Carnegie who wrote the timeless classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. His book on public speaking carries many of the same philosophies about confidence, positivity, and finding success by believing in yourself and practicing constantly. Carnegie firmly believes that preparation and passion are what make a message hit home.
The Art of Public Speaking—not to be confused with the textbook of the same name by Stephen Lucas—is the best place to read Carnegie’s basics. But you really can’t go wrong with any of his books. The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking and How to Develop Self-Confidence & Influence People by Public Speaking are both fantastic reads that will change the way you present.
Hundreds of the world’s most successful speakers and thinkers have graced the TED stage. Now public speaking coach Carmine Gallo has written a comprehensive guide on becoming one of those people.
Gallo is widely considered an expert on business communication and frequently contributes to national publications like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Forbes. After analyzing hundreds of TED talks and interviewing the most successful TED presenters, Gallo boiled down their very best methods into nine simple public speaking steps anyone can master. According to Gallo, talking like a TED expert all comes down to emotion, novelty, and being memorable.
If you’re interested in more books about TEDsters and what they do, check out TED Talks: The Official Guide to Public Speaking written by Chris Anderson and How to Deliver a TED Talk by Jeremy Donovan. Mr. Gallo has also written other standout books on public speaking like The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs. Definitely worth a read.
3. Confessions of a Public Speaker—Scott Berkun
This one shows up on just about every list of top public speaking reads out there. And for good reason since Scott Berkun presents his ideas with practicality and a heavy dose of humor.
As a professional public speaker, Berkun is the perfect writer to produce a book filled with personal anecdotes and plenty of practical advice. He combines scientific research and years of lecturing experience to deliver an entertaining and eye-opening insider look at what it’s like to make public speaking your job—and why certain speakers get paid thousands to do what they do. The hilariously painful disaster stories alone make this book worth the read.
If humor is your preferred method of learning and teaching public speaking, Berkun’s book isn’t the only choice out there. Speak Up!: An Illustrated Guide on Public Speaking by Douglas M. Fraleigh is another highly recommended favorite with some personality.
4. Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery—Garr Reynolds
This book is the popular standout on slides, visuals, and presentation delivery. It’s author, Garr Reynolds, is an internationally acclaimed communication consultant with many clients in Fortune 500 companies. He considers Japan to be his home, which explains where this book’s premise came from.
Although Presentation Zen isn’t a religious book by any means, it does borrow principles from Japanese Zen arts. The main takeaway: simplicity, storytelling, and focus are the keys to a memorable presentation. Garr also shares tips on slide design, delivery, and how to present even the driest topics in a fresh way. His entire method centers on simple, impactful messages that an audience will act upon it.
The Naked Presenter, also by Reynolds, is another highly recommended favorite filled with great insights on delivering a knockout presentation. And if you’re looking for more books about slides and visuals, definitely try Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations.
5. Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences—Nancy Duarte
And speaking of Ms. Duarte, her book Resonate is also a member of this list. Duarte is both a standout speaker and a CEO with expert PowerPoint knowledge. She’s won a slew of awards for helping business influencers and even the TED organization improve their presentations.
In Resonate Duarte lays out her core philosophy: even the most valuable messages won’t inspire unless they’re articulated powerfully. This book is filled with thought-provoking ideas on telling stories that inspire conflict and resolution and presenting content much like a documentary would. The end goal is to resonate with your audience in an energizing way.
If you’re looking for another great read by this author, check out Duarte’s HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations. This book is a great fit for someone with a busy schedule. Its 50 bite-sized chapters are perfect for browsing during a lunch break and filled with practical advice.
6. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die—Chip and Dan Heath
This one reaches a bit beyond public speaking, but it shows up on enough book roundups to land a spot on our list. The authors are a duo of brothers, one who’s a professor of organizational behavior and another who’s a textbook consultant and developer.
Together they’ve combined their smarts to write a New York Times bestseller that even the great Malcolm Gladwell has referenced in his book The Tipping Point. The entire premise of Made to Stick is finding out what makes popular ideas catch hold. Chip and Dan boil it down to six key principles that fit the acronym SUCCESS. These principles can easily be applied to presenting and choosing content that will make a lasting impression.
In case you’re interested, this isn’t the only book the Heath brothers have written. Their first publication, Switch, is also a highly recommended read, and their newest book called Decisive is all about making smart choices both during and after work. Check it out.
Have You Read All Six Books?
If you see anything on this list that you don’t recognize, it’s never too late to pick up a copy and see what you think. Do you agree that these are the top recommendations ever? What’s your favorite public speaking book of all time? Comment below to let us know.