What makes a great business book?

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Phil Churchill reached out to me with a Tweet that said the following:

“What qualifies as a ‘great’ business book, Wally? Most of them seem little more than promotional puffs to me.”

I agree with Phil, and that’s a sad thing. I won’t work with a client unless he or she wants to write a great business book. That’s a matter of willingness to do the hard work.  Here’s what I think the hard work should produce.

Great business books help readers solve a problem, seize an opportunity, or answer a question. If a reader can’t use what he or she gets in the book to make a difference in their life, no amount of technique will help.

Great business books are easy to read. I think a great business book should meet the Time Magazine standard of 50 or above on the Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease scale.

Great business books share a unique perspective. The perspective is the combination of expertise and life experience that the author uses to help you understand what you’re reading.

Great business books use stories. Stories are the natural way that human beings communicate. Stories can hold a reader’s interest and pack a lot of insight and information into a small space.

Great business books don’t just use stories. Stories are a important part of the mix in a great business books, but they’re still only a part. Great business books use statistics, examples, graphics, structured writing, and analysis to help the reader use the material.

This is a good news/bad news thing. I agree with Phil that there’s an awful lot of puffery masquerading as content. There’s also a lot of great insight buried inside impenetrable language. But there are also a lot of great books out there.

Here are three recent and, I think, great business books. They’re not the only ones.

Those are my thoughts. What do you think? What are your nominations for great business books?

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Terry Schmidt   |   14 Jan 2014   |   Reply

Insightful analysis of what makes a great business book. I would nominate STRATEGIC PROJECT MANAGEMENT MADE SIMPLE: PRACTICAL TOOLS FOR LEADERS AND TEAMS (Wiley, 2009) because it features a fresh methodology and interesting stories from around the world. And I’d nominate this book even if I wasn’t the author!

Wally   |   14 Jan 2014   |   Reply

Got, Terry. I would hope you think your book is a great example of a good business book and now readers can check your book out and decide if they agree. Thanks for stopping by.