Article Category: Resources for Speakers

Top 35 Presentation Books:
Expert Ratings


Hundreds of presentation books are published each year.

Some are bad. Some are good. And some are outstanding!

We want to help you find the outstanding books — books which truly help you build your presentation skills. That’s why we publish book reviews on Six Minutes.

So, when Gonzalo Álvarez invited me to join in a survey of experts to rate a collection of the best presentation books, I was happy to participate.

This article reports the results of this survey: the top 35 books on presentations.

Analysis and Participants

From the analysis summary:

We wondered:

“What do the top presentation experts in the world read?”

They told us. We asked 7 of the top presentation experts in the world to tell us what books most inspired them to be better presenters. Seven judges, including four published authors, provided feedback to a list of books. We present, for your consideration, their ranked list of the top 35 presentation books.

Summary of the Results

  • A word of caution about the full ratings:
    • It’s very difficult to quantitatively compare speaking books, particularly when those books excel in very different ways.
    • Books were scored according to their presentation focus along several criteria (content, structure, visual design, delivery). The total of the individual scores was used to rank the books overall.
    • These totals can be misleading as they reward books with a very broad focus (books that touch on many speaking skills), and penalize books with a narrow focus. As an example, books like Made to Stick or The Story Factor (which are both excellent books which focus almost entirely on storytelling) receive low overall scores.
  • 21 books have a content/delivery focus; 14 focus on visuals.
    • Each of these two groups are listed in the tables below.
  • Most books (31 out of 35) are rated 4 out of 5 stars or higher by amazon.com readers.
    • The “Amazon Rating” column in the tables below gives the “stars” ranking and the number of reader reviews.
  • Most books (27 out of 35) are priced between $14 and $28. Four books are less than $14, and one book is over $28. Three books are no longer carried by amazon, so no price is given.
  • 14 have been reviewed on Six Minutes — more to come.
    • Links to these reviews are given in the tables below.
    • Most of the remaining 21 books are on my personal wishlist, so it’s quite likely you’ll be seeing reviews for some of them in the future.

Books with a Content/Delivery Focus

Author Title Amazon Rating Amazon Price Six
Minutes
Review
Jerry Weissman Presenting to Win 4.5 (23) $16.33
Henry Boettenger Moving Mountains 5.0 (8) n/a
Nick Morgan Give your speech, change the world 4.8 (30) $18.00
Carmine Gallo The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs 4.4 (92) $14.74
Christopher Witt Real Leaders Don’t Do PowerPoint 4.8 (18) $14.98
Nancy Duarte Resonate 4.6 (85) $19.34 Review
Robert R. H. Anholt Dazzle ‘Em With Style 4.3 (6) $26.37
Michael Alley The Craft of Scientific Presentations 4.3 (19) $24.41
Garr Reynolds The Naked Presenter 4.3 (77) $16.49 Review
Andrew Abela Advanced Presentations by Design 4.8 (12) $40.63 Review
Kristin Arnold Boring to Bravo 4.9 (14) $16.46 Review
Bert Decker You’ve Got to Be Believed to Be Heard 4.6 (19) n/a Review
John Medina Brain Rules 4.5 (276) $10.20
John C. Maxwell Everyone Communicates, Few Connect 4.2 (170) $15.28
Chip & Dan Heath Made to Stick 4.6 (455) $17.16 Review
Dale Carnegie The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking 4.3 (38) $7.99 Review
Annette Simmons The Story Factor 4.1 (89) $11.32 Review
Scott Berkun Confessions of a Public Speaker 4.8 (164) $11.55 Review
Cliff Atkinson The Backchannel 4.6 (11) $26.59
Barbara Minto The Pyramid Principle 4.5 (2) n/a
Peter Guber Tell to Win 4.1 (100) $16.75

Books with a Focus on Visuals

Author Title Amazon Rating Amazon Price Six
Minutes
Review
Bruce Gabrielle Speaking PowerPoint 4.9 (20) $26.95
Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen 4.5 (26) $19.79 Review
Nancy Duarte Slide:ology 4.4 (130) $19.52 Review
Cliff Atkinson Beyond Bullet Points 3.7 (11) $16.74
Paul J. Kelly 7-Slide Solution 3.7 (12) $14.50
Garr Reynolds Presentation Zen Design 4.6 (34) $20.50
Rick Altman Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck 4.7 (6) $15.69
Stephen M. Kosslyn Clear and to the Point 3.8 (19) $18.21 Review
Gene Zelazny Say It With Charts 3.8 (20) $25.84
Dave Paradi Visual Slide Revolution n/a $22.76
Dan Roam The Back of the Napkin 4.1 (33) $19.77 Review
Lidwell, Holden, & Butler Universal Principles of Design 4.7 (33) $18.77 Review
Robin Williams The Non-Designer’s Design Book 4.6 (82) $15.39
Stephen Few Show me the numbers 5.0 (1) $27.62

The Full Ratings Data

If you do not see the embedded document below, please visit the web version of this article.

How about you? Which are your favorites?

How many of these 35 have you read? Which ones do you like most? Why? Which book(s) would you add to the list?

Please share in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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Comments icon14 Comments

  1. The Art of the Explanation is my favorite. It’s written by Lee LeFever. He’s got steps on how to explain complicated things and ideas so NO ONE in the audience gets left behind.

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Thanks Jaime.

      I love Lee LeFever’s video explanations, and am curious to read his book.

  2. VSP says:

    2 Done; 33 to go. Wonderful timing. I was just looking for books to improve on my presentation skills. Andrew, you just handed over me the magic wand. 🙂

    1. VSP says:

      Thanks Andrew. Look forward to completing these.

  3. Oh wow, that’s quite the list. I’ll be going over this and determining which ones I need to read NOW and which ones I’ll save for later. Thanks for taking the time to put together such a great list.

  4. Russ S. says:

    The one book I have never seen written is how to develop presentations for others to give. Many times I am faced with developing a corporate or sales presentation for the sales team to give to prospects – what are the best practices for this kind of presentation?

  5. Andrew:

    Thank you for providing an extremely useful list. However, it’s hard for anyone to keep up with what else those authors have been doing since the listed books were published. Check before you buy.
    For example, Stephen M. Kosslyn’s 2010 book Better PowerPoint: Quick Fixes Based on How Your Audience Thinks might be a better choice than the 2007 Clear and to the Point. Also, this year Dave Paradi published Present It So They Get It. I liked his The Visual Slide Revolution enough to post a review of it.

    I’d add Dona M. Wong’s The Wall Street Journal Guide to Information Graphics to the list of books about visuals. I reviewed it briefly here.

    Richard

    1. Andrew Dlugan says:

      Thanks for the detailed comments, Richard. I’ll have to check out those books.

  6. lorenzo says:

    considero una parte esencial de la vida el leer y leer pero el decidir cual o cuales libros son los mejores es dificil. por lo que agradezco esta presentacion seis minutos un momento de informacion que engrandece nuestro pensamiento. gracias

  7. andi says:

    Since i am a scientist, my favorite is the craft of scientific presentation. I guess this one was intended for presenting scientific data and conference. For design, I prefer The non designer design book. For story telling, confessions of a public speaker is excellence. I read several other book, like the zen etc, but in my opinion they are for business-type presentation

  8. Linda Ford says:

    a great list, but you left out a GEM.
    Gail Larsen’s Transformational Speaking. Truly, the best speaking book I’ve read.

  9. Carrie Seid says:

    MUST- ADD ALERT! Transformational Speaking, by Gail Larsen. This book is a comprehensive and unique guide to speaking with the most authentic voice we can bring forth. Gail’s teachings have not only helped me to become a better speaker, but have also helped me name and claim personal attributes that make me a better artist, workshop leader, friend, and mother. As former leader of the National Speaker’s Association, Gail knows the speaking world well. She can give a great speech any day at any time; but what interests her is the special ability we each possess to connect with people on a deeper level, through storytelling. In her book, Gail makes the case that if we don’t honor our unique offerings by sharing them, they will be lost to the world forever. She goes on to explain that this is a critical time in our world, a time we need everyone. Calling all voices! Please add this truly transformational gift to the world to your list of bests. I have never read a book that has changed my life more!

  10. Davis Nguyen says:

    I think this is a great list you and your team have compliled. One I would add would be Jeremy Donovon’s How To Deliver A TED Talk which is a easy read that takes the best Ted Talks and dissects them.

  11. Dan says:

    Hi Andrew

    I just read your ratings on the 35 presentation books and I can see I have a lot of reading a head of me.

    I’m writing to you to ask if you would like to write a guest blog for our website? In return we can give you access to our PowerPoint Templates database and give you some room to promote your own product.

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