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Top 20 Best Books on Communication and Listening

Top 20 Best Books on Communication and Listening

Putting together a list of excellent books on any subject is always a highly subjective exercise. Nonetheless it is often useful to try to sort through the clutter and at least try to assemble some worthy nominations based on a book’s quality or popular appeal (and all the books on this list have regularly topped the best selling and popular lists internationally and all carry between 4 and 5 star rating on The list of Top 20 of the best books on the broad subject of Effective Communication below includes only those written in the last 5 years (2007-2012). The list also includes several excellent books that are in their 2nd, 3rd, 4th and even 5th printing in this time frame. The top 20 list contains several notable authors who have written many books on the subject of communication. These include John Maxwell, Michael Nichols, Kerry Paterson and Ike Lasater. 

The top twenty list below is rendered in reverse date order. A short description of the book is provided but much more information can be obtained by clicking on the book image (which takes the interested reader to the page for each book).

The Top 20:

1. Active Listening 101: How to Turn Down Your Volume to Turn Up Your Communication Skills, by Emilia Hardman, 2012
  • The author of this little 56-page book suggests that Diogenes Laertius was right when he realized, “We have two ears and only one tongue, in order that we may hear more and speak less.” She therefore concludes that it’s time to take a closer look at the other side of communication. It’s time to end the shadowy existence of listening. Active listening skills can have a hugely positive effect on your whole life… whether it be strengthening your relationships, gaining valuable information for your business or improving your health and happiness?
2. The Power of Communication: Skills to Build Trust, Inspire Loyalty, and Lead Effectively, by Helio Fred Garcia, 2012
  • Communication is the absolutely indispensable leadership discipline. But, too often, leaders and professional communicators get mired in tactics, and fail to influence public attitudes in the ways that would help them the most. The Power of Communication builds on the U.S. Marine Corps’ legendary publication Warfighting, showing how to apply the Corps’ proven leadership and strategy doctrine to all forms of public communication — and achieve truly extraordinary results. Communications expert, consultant, and speaker Helio Fred Garcia reveals how to orient on audiences, recognizing their centers of gravity and most critical concerns.
3. Power Listening: Mastering the Most Critical Business Skill of All, by Bernard T. Ferrari, 2012
  • Nothing causes bad decisions in organizations as often as poor listening, but author Bernard Ferrari, believes that such missteps can be avoided. The books offers a step-by-step process that will help readers become active listeners, able to shape and focus any conversation. Ferrari’s practical insights include: Good listening is hard work, not a passive activity. Good listening means asking questions, challenging all assumptions, and understanding the context of every interaction. Good listening results in a new clarity of focus, greater efficiency, and an increased likelihood of making better decisions.
4. Fitly Spoken: Developing Effective Communication and Social Skills, by Greg S. Baker, 2011
  • Have you ever said something you didn’t mean? Have you ever struggled to express your feelings? Have you ever said something you later regretted? Have you ever acted on misunderstanding and either been hurt or hurt someone else? Do you find yourself arguing endlessly with neither giving in nor anything getting accomplished? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this book is for you. Learn to express yourself in ways that others understand and can relate to. Learn to avoid the dangers of misunderstandings and cut through tangled emotions to discern what is really trying to be said. Use trigger words and phrases to promote positive reactions to negative situations. Establish good communication lines with those around you, and forge stronger and more meaningful relationships. Learn what to say, how to say it, and when to say it. Written for the average person or the business professional, Fitly Spoken is a guide to developing strong communication and social skills in any environment or circumstance.
5. Harvard Business Review on Communicating Effectively, by Harvard Business Review, 2011
  • Those who aspire to master several different high-impact communication styles will find the material in this HBR book invaluable. It is one of the volumes in a series of anthologies of articles that first appeared in Harvard Business Review. Authors of the ten articles focus on one or more components of a process by which to pitch a brilliant idea successfully, connect with any audience, establish and then sustain credibility, inspire others to “see” and embrace your vision, adapt to any audience’s decision-making style, frame goals around shared interests, build consensus and obtain concessions, and neutralize stressful conversations.
6. The Secrets of Successful Communication: A Simple Guide to Effective Encounters in Business (Big Brain vs. Little Brain Communication), by Kevin T. McCarney, 2011
  • This book will help you identify the opportunities to turn every encounter into a great encounter. It provides some simple tools that will help you become a better ambassador of yourself and the businesses and organizations you are a part of. You will discover a precise yet simple and enjoyable method of learning to communicate effectively, positively, and even happily with everyone you encounter, from the angry customer who did not get what he ordered to the noisy people sitting in front of you in the movie theater. The tools apply equally well to your private life as they do to your work life. The tips can work at home, at the office, at school, on the Little League diamond, and even on the freeway. The good news is that achieving the seemingly impossible result of outstanding communication with anyone is remarkably easy to teach, to learn, and to implement using the tools this book will share.
7. Crucial Conversations Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, 2011
  • In this, the 2nd edition, the book ads access to new material including a video vault that illustrates each of the authors’ techniques being acted out, new case studies, and new tools to help you maneuver effectively through crucial conversations. This wise and witty guide gives you the tools you need to step up to life’s most difficult and important conversations, say what’s on your mind, and achieve positive outcomes. You’ll learn how to: Prepare for high-impact situations with a six-minute mastery technique, make it safe to talk about almost anything, be persuasive, not abrasive, keep listening when others blow up or clam up, and turn crucial conversations into the action and results you want.
8. Everyone Communicates, Few Connect: What the Most Effective People Do Differently, by John C. Maxwell, 2010
  • The world’s most respected leadership expert gives five principles and five practices for breaking the invisible barrier to leadership and personal success. You have a good idea but can’t convince your peers of its merit. You crafted a groundbreaking strategy, but the team trudges on in the same old way. Certain people move forward in their career while you seem to be stuck. If this describes you or someone you know, the problem is not the quality of what you have to offer. The problem is how you connect with people to create the results you desire. In Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, John Maxwell takes readers through the Five Connecting Principles and the Five Connecting Practices of top-notch achievers. He believes that a person’s ability to create change and results in any organization-be it a company, church, nonprofit, or even a family-is directly tied to the ability to use the teachings of this book.
9. Words That Work In Business: A Practical Guide to Effective Communication in the Workplace, by Ike Lasater and Julie Stiles, 2010
  • Addressing the most common workplace relationship challenges, this manual shows how to use the principles of nonviolent communication to improve the workplace atmosphere. Offering practical tools that match recognizable work scenarios, this guide can help all employees positively affect their work relationships and company culture, regardless of their position. This handbook displays proven communication skills for effectively handling difficult conversations, reducing workplace conflict and stress, improving individual and team productivity, having more effective meetings, and giving and receiving meaningful feedback, thereby creating a more enjoyable work environment.
10. Essential Interviewing: A Programmed Approach to Effective Communication, by David R. Evans, Margaret T. Hearn, Max R. Uhlemann and Allen E. Ivey, 2010
  • With an emphasis on the three major stages of interviewing: exploration, clarification and action, ESSENTIAL INTERVIEWING offers the same programmed-learning model of interviewing that has successfully trained countless members of the helping professions for nearly 30 years. Based on Ivey’s systematic method of interviewer, counselor, and therapist training, as well as Hearn’s programmed-learning model, the text makes interview skills clear and specific. The authors give students the tools they need to conduct successful interviews with diverse clients in a variety of professional settings, including social work, counseling, nursing, personnel work, and human services.
11. It’s the Way You Say It: Becoming Articulate, Well-spoken, and Clear, by Carol A. Fleming, 2010
  • No other skills will position you ahead of your competition as much as good speaking and presentation skills. It’s the Way You Say It offers: • Useful vocal self-evaluation tools • Valuable tips to solve specific voice problems • Expert advice on how to develop a dynamic voice • Advice on how to become verbally competent and fluent • Practical methods to become well-spoken • How to speak with comfort and confidence • Steps to become approachable and gracious • Professional guidance in conquering stage fright Speech consultant, Dr. Carol Fleming brings unique knowledge and skills to the speaking needs of individuals and corporate clients.
12. Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone, by Mark Goulston and Keith Ferrazzi, 2009
  • The first make-or-break step in persuading anyone to do any thing is getting them to hear you out. Whether the person is a harried colleague, a stressed-out client, or an insecure spouse, things will go from bad to worse if you can’t break through emotional barricades. Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist, business consultant, and coach, and backed by the latest scientific research, author Mark Goulston shares simple but powerful techniques readers can use to really get through to people–whether they’re coworkers, friends, strangers, or enemies. Getting through is a fine art but a critical one. With the help of this groundbreaking book readers will be able to turn the “impossible” and “unreachable” people in their lives into allies, devoted customers, loyal colleagues, and lifetime friends.
13. Mastering Communication at Work: How to Lead, Manage, and Influence, by Ethan F. Becker and Jon Wortmann, 2009
  • Mastering Communication at Work is based on 45 years of research and working with over half-a-million clients around the world. From leaders of countries to leaders of companies to people just starting out in their career, Becker and Wortmann teach techniques that start with the essential wisdom of Aristotle and include the best practices in today’s global organizations. The book includes interviews with leaders who reveal the inside story of the communication secrets. Mastering Communication at Work provides clear, actionable advice you can put to use right away and simple drills to practice during your next meeting, one-on-one conversation—or even sitting at your desk.
14. The Lost Art of Listening: How Learning to Listen Can Improve Relationships, by Michael P. Nichols, 2009
  • One person talks; the other listens. It’s so basic that we take it for granted. Unfortunately, most of us think of ourselves as better listeners than we actually are. Why do we so often fail to connect when speaking with family members, romantic partners, colleagues, or friends? How do emotional reactions get in the way of real communication? This thoughtful, witty, and empathic book has already helped over 100,000 readers break through conflicts and transform their personal and professional relationships. Experienced therapist Mike Nichols provides vivid examples, easy-to-learn techniques, and practical exercises for becoming a better listener–and making yourself heard and understood, even in difficult situations.
15. Messages: The Communication Skills Book, by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis and Patrick Fanning, 2009
  • Many people assume that good communicators possess an intrinsic talent for speaking and listening to others, a gift that can’t be learned or improved. The reality is that communication skills are developed with deliberate effort and practice, and learning to understand others and communicate your ideas more clearly will improve every facet of your life. Now in its third edition, Messages has helped thousands of readers cultivate better relationships with friends, family members, coworkers, and partners. You’ll discover new skills to help you communicate your ideas more effectively and become a better listener.
16. Communication: The Key to Effective Leadership, by Judith A. Pauley, 2009
  • You are a leader and have a vision of where you want to go and how you want to get there. The task now is to get your employees to see your vision and to march with you in lock step to accomplish it. To succeed, you must get them to want to follow you. To do that, you must be able to communicate your vision clearly and concisely so that everyone sees the vision and sees how accomplishing it is to their advantage. The purpose of this book is to help any leader to communicate more effectively so that he or she can motivate every employee to want to carry out the vision. Chapters address the following: Everyone Is A Leader To Someone Organizing the Team Establishing Trust Inspiring Confidence Interaction Styles Getting Buy-In Developing Your Team Getting Results Followers In Distress Leaders In Distress.
17. The Art and Science of Communication: Tools for Effective Communication in the Workplace, by P. S. Perkins and Les Brown, 2008
  • The Art and Science of Communication shows you a new way to understand and use communication in the workplace. Revealing the seven types of communication we all use every day, the book shows you how to increase your communication effectiveness in any setting with practical techniques, analogies, and models that clearly explain the formulas for successful communication. Combining the science and art of communication into one effective formula, this book offers a straightforward and easy to understand plan for a more successful career.
18. Talk Like a Winner: 21 Simple Rules for Achieving Everyday Communication Success, by Steve Nakamoto, Robin Quinn and Joe Kohl, 2008
  • Steve Nakamoto shares his embarrassing communication failures and explains what he has learned and how he could have handled past situations differently.
    This book covers Nakamoto’s twenty-one rules for successful communication by devoting a chapter to each rule. Each chapter gives a definition for the rule, personal anecdotes from the author s experiences, and exercises for improving proficiency in that particular area. Some of the topics covered may seem like common sense, such as assessing a situation to determine the tone of conversation, and becoming a better listener so that everyone has a chance to speak. However, Nakamoto manages to provide tips and ideas that readers probably wouldn’t otherwise think of trying.
19. Creating Effective Groups: The Art of Small Group Communication, by Randy Fujishin, 2007
  • Creating Effective Groups, Second Edition provides a straightforward, yet comprehensive, introduction to the study of small group communication, group decision-making, group problem solving, group dynamics, leadership, and team building. This practical book gives students the fundamental knowledge and skills necessary to communicate more effectively and interact more productively in the small group setting. Throughout the book, the reader will develop, practice, and implement the communication skills essential to any small group environment. This edition contains new sections on reducing speaking anxiety, intercultural awareness—including the S.O.A.R. technique for intercultural awareness—and more. The book also contains new end of chapter exercises.
20. Killer Presentations: Power the Imagination to Visualise Your Point – With Power Point, by Nicholas B. Oulton, 2007
  • In this book presentations guru Nicholas Oulton sets out a different approach that will allow readers to use PowerPoint to increase the power of their presentations. Using tried and tested principles, Oulton shows how – through practical, systematic thinking and overhauling your attitude to the visual aids you use – you can ditch bad old habits and bring your presentations to vivid life. You will enhance the clarity of what you put over, and fire the imagination of your audience. This second edition has a completely new chapter on Web Presenting and links to several online seminars as well as a chapter on how to make your presentation content more memorable by The book illustrates its approach clearly and in detail, using real life examples from clients. A series of 40 color-images show how such slides can powerfully impress. Additionally, the book provides links to a website where you can see more about how this step change in presentational technique works in action.


As we said at the outset, this Top 20 list is a subjective one. However, it does offer considerable diversity of reading material (from the theory of communication and listening to highly practical strategies and tactics for leaders and others to apply in their work) and therefore offers great insight into the critical subject of Communication theory and practice.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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One Comment

  1. Fiona CohnJune 22, 2013 at 4:16 pm

    What a super list – and how interesting that listening crops up so often. It the one I and everyone i know struggles most with.
    I find it easier while coaching and networking – but in daily business activities – not quite so easy.

    I guess to err is human!

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Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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