10 characteristics of brilliant business books

Posted: 27th July 2010

One of the things that I enjoy about writing this blog is that it reminds me how many brilliant books there are out there (and sitting on my bookshelf). That has got me thinking about what makes a brilliant business book. So, here’s my list of 10 characteristics, in no particular order:

1. Pleasure to read

The book has got to be enjoyable, not a chore to read. I don’t want to have to force myself to open it up every evening in order to get through it. Instead, it must hold my attention and be written in a style that encourages me to keep reading, to the point that I don’t want to put it down. Yes, that is possible with a business book, trust me.

2. Inspiring

I want to be inspired by the book. Inspired to start trying out its advice straight away. I want to get a feeling of ‘yes, I can do it and I will!’. There’s nothing better than a book that leaves you feeling upbeat and ready for anything.

3. Easy to understand

I want to be able to understand the concepts in the book without resorting to a dictionary or having to re-read sections over and over again. I don’t mind if the concepts are challenging, if I’m learning something new then I do expect to have to make a bit of an effort, but I don’t want to be faced with a load of jargon and acronyms which aren’t explained.

4. Applicable to my business

It’s important to me that I can apply the advice/concepts in the book directly to my business. Of course, if I’m reading ‘Brilliant Book of Business Advice for Emily’ then I would expect it to apply to me, but it’s not that easy. I once did a marketing course designed for creative businesses but the course tutor had entirely based it on ‘creative business’ meaning ‘artist’. As a result he was constantly saying “this won’t apply to you, Emily”. Lovely. So I guess it’s important for the book to be clear from the start about who the intended audience is and then make sure that audience is catered for.

5. Practical application

Not only do I want to be able to understand the book in the context of my own business but I also want to be able to go away and apply the concepts in a practical fashion. Theory is great but I also want to be able to see how I can apply it in a practical way. Give me some exercises to do or talk me through putting together an action plan. Or, give some examples (see no. 6 below). I’m not going to fully understand it if I can’t see how I can use it.

6. Examples

Examples are great. They can be real-life examples or made up, doesn’t matter. Examples help you understand how the theory can be applied. They can also be inspiring (especially if they’re real-life examples) – a description of how somebody took a certain action and the positive affect it had on them or their business.

7. Knowledgeable author

It’s important that the author knows their stuff. If you think that they’ve got something wrong it makes you doubt the validity of the rest of their advice. So, they need to write in a knowledgeable way that gives you confidence in them, but also back up their claims with supporting resources. A few statistics don’t go astray, but don’t overload us with them

8. Up-to-date website

A lot of books these days have accompanying websites with downloads and other supporting materials. It’s clear from some books that the author has great plans for developing a fantastic resource. However, if you’re reading the book a couple of years down the road you may not find exactly what they’re promising. It’s amazing how many obviously abandoned websites I’ve come across. So, if you are directing readers to downloadable resources, put them there and keep them at the address that you’ve given. If you’re not going to actively work on the website for years to come, then provide everything that’s needed for the book and leave it at that. There’s nothing more offputting than news that is 3 years out of date, or promises of downloads which you can’t find however hard you try.

9. Clearly laid out

I like to see a list of contents which makes it clear what the topic of each chapter is. Attractively laid out pages with sub-headings and boxouts. Clear print – I don’t want teeny tiny crammed in print which I need a magnifying glass to read (yes, my eyesight isn’t the best), instead a good size print, nicely spaced out. It’s amazing how much this can affect your enjoyment of a book.

10. References to other brilliant books

And finally, I want the book to point me in the direction of other brilliant books. If I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read then I want to keep reading.

Leave a Reply