Five non-technical writing books Technical Writers should read

Looking for a present for the Technical Author in your life? Here are five books, tangentially related to technical communication, that Technical Authors/Writers should read:

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age

Clay Shirky’s book on the power of productive, collaborative groups. (I’d originally listed Here Comes Everybody: How Change Happens when People Come Together by mistake)

What Do You Say After You Say Hello?

How Transactional Analysis explains the different roles people can take on, when engaging with others.

Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life

This book offers great insight into the evolution, the structure and the relevance of all kinds of networks.

Selling the Wheel

Although about sales, it explains how businesses need to adapt to meet different client situations.

Made to Stick

Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck.

Any other suggestions?


Simon Bostock

Excellent choices. My suggestion:

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith – I’ve recommended this to just about everybody I’ve ever worked with. The reaction is always the same, “Wow, that’s cheesy!” changing to begrudging admission that maybe these cheesy salesman types do have a few tricks up their sleeve.


Thanks Simon. I’ve read that book, and I agree it’s a good book if you’re selling something that is hard for people to visualise.

Karen Mardahl

Great book suggestions, Elliot. I have “Linked” on my iPhone. Halfway through, but got sidetracked.
Why didn’t you want to list “Here Comes Everybody”? I have that on dead trees. Interesting read, I think. All my friends rave about “Cognitive Surplus”, but I cannot read it until I finish the growing stack I already have.
I also hear good things about “Groundswell”.

Gil Vinokoor

“Influence without Authority” by Allan Cohen and David Bradford will help any technical writer get the job done better and easier.

Some key takeaways:
• Influence depends on exchange.
• To influence people, swap something they value for something you want.
• Relationships are the foundation of influence.
• Treat those you seek to influence as potential allies and clients.
• If you want influence, technical competence is the price of entry.
• Failures in influence are often rooted in personal failures or shortcomings. You can overcome most of these problems.


Janet Egan

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig — source of the best quote about tech writing ever:
“Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.”


Janet, I love that quote, too!
I tend to not read many business books. I usually find too much “happy talk,” and not too many ideas that apply in the real world. But, I twok that have stuck with with are:

Kinds of Power, James Hillman

Orbiting the Giant Hairball, Gordon MacKenzie

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