Hari Patience-Davies recommends five storytelling books to add to your reading list.
There are lots of books about storytelling. Books about how to write, books about how to speak, books about the science or anthropology of storytelling. It can be hard to know where to start. Here are five of the best (at least until we publish our book):
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
The Heath brothers explore what makes ideas sticky and the power of storytelling. This is an easy read with lots of great examples and actionable insights. A particular favourite section of mine is the experiment they conducted with their students which reveals that stories stick in the brain far better than data or numbers, alongside the fact that speakers who used stories in their speeches were also rated higher by the audience, even if they lacked a polished delivery style. Worth the read.
Talk like TED by Carmine Gallo
A classic of the genre and one that gets recommended a lot. Carmine Gallo is also the author of The Storyteller’s Secret and has enjoyed lots of backstage access to TED speakers and notable presenters. This book has slightly more of an academic feel to it than Made to Stick but it’s jam-packed with anecdotes and evidence. It’s a good second read if you want to dig into what really makes a presentation work and engage well with an audience.
How to own the room by Viv Groskop
Viv Groskop is a stand-up comedian and this book is officially subtitled Women and the art of the public speaking, but I feel like there’s a lot in here for everyone. Groskop splits her book into 10 chapters, each one focussing on a notable speaker (Michelle Obama, Amy Cuddy, Oprah Winfrey). There’s some great practical tips in here about body language and stage fright as well as storytelling and content advice.
Words that change minds by Shelle Rose Charvet
I found this book incredibly useful – it delves into language choices and both what they show about a speaker and how they can effect an audience. There’s a lot in here, but when it comes to trying to win others over, or make deeper connections with your colleagues or clients your language choices matter. It’s not really about storytelling so much as it is the power of language and how you can gather insights with active listening which can really help you understand what someone really wants/needs.
Digital Body Language by Erika Dhawan
New in 2021 and one I already know I’ll be re-reading a lot in the years to come, Dhawan’s book isn’t so much about sit-up-shoulders-back physical body language as it is about your text, conference call and email communications with your colleagues. Dhawan shows how age and gender can change your interpretation of a full stop or ellipses and has lots of good advice about tackling the communications snafus that can result from people not reading each other well. An easy read filled with lots of good advice.