What Makes a Business Book a Page Turner?

Business booksOn August 1, I will go into hiding for a month, to bring my next book into the world.  And while I am frantically wrapping up projects to be ready for that date, I am realizing my subconscious is already happily in writing mode.

That became clear this morning, as I was reading a popular business book by a popular business author. Given the buzz, I had been excited to read the book, and so I dove in with gusto.

I read 20 pages, 30 pages – and at about page 40, my mind began to wander. I looked through the table of contents, skimmed the rest of the book, and by the time my morning-reading-time-at-Crave was over, I had gotten everything I was going to get out of that book.

That is sadly not unusual.  I have read dozens of business and “nonprofit” books. And more often than not, I do just what I did this morning – read in a little way, get the gist, skim the rest, and never go back to it again.

But it was the thought that came after I shut the book that was indeed unusual:

I am about to start writing a pretty monumental book.

I don’t want people to do with my book what I do with most business books.

So what is it, then, that turns a “standard business book” into a page-turner?

As I go back through the books I have loved, seeking the answer, it would be really helpful to hear your own thoughts.

Is there a business / nonprofit book you have loved – that you didn’t want to put down, and were perhaps even sad when it was over?

And if so, what was it about that book that turned it from a “business book” to a “page turner?”

Photo credit: A seriously small percentage of the books in my house.

9 Responses to What Makes a Business Book a Page Turner?

  1. Hildy- for better or for worse I read a lot of these. i think some of the most compelling books intersperse lots of stories from real life that give meaning to the ideas and principles articulated. (Not unlike your first book :)) Also- the good ones synthesize in some new and helpful ways- other people’s ideas that relate to their own. And there is enough depth so it doesn’t sound like they are presenting a simple ‘recipe’for what is actually complex. hope this helps and thrilled you will be writing!

  2. Hey Hildy,

    Great question. The first book that came to mind for me was Igniting Inspiration by John Marshall Roberts. I couldn’t put it down! Mainly because the insights he presented were so valuable and applicable to what I’m doing in my own life and work as a change agent. The way the book was crafted, it led you through a process that you knew was helpful and immediately actionable.

    Another ‘page turner’ for me was True North. Reading about being an authentic leader really resonates with me, and again was applicable to the journey that I’m on. Stories of how others have going through this journey were helpful in keeping my interest throughout the book.

    Hope this helps!

  3. Hi Hildy. For me, it’s important that a business book provide clear, concrete next steps so that I can put what I’ve learned into action! Some suggestions should be short term and others long term. Hope this helps!

  4. Pearl:
    I was actually thinking of you when this whole thought occurred to me, as you were someone who was kind enough to tell me early on that you read Pollyanna in one sitting. So I’m really happy to have your thoughts. I’ve had people even tell me the same about my workbooks – that they couldn’t believe they were reading a step-by-step workbook on Board Recruitment cover to cover.

    Sort of like the novelist who writes a best-seller and then fears he’ll never do it again, I know that people have had that response to my books, but that doesn’t mean I know what I did!

    So thank you – a lot – for the encouragement and the insights.

  5. Brandon:
    Your few sentences have so much insight in them – I am so grateful! Personally applicable, process pulls you along, all immediately actionable – THANK YOU!

    And Amy, I love the thought of balancing long and short term steps. Thank you for that.

    Keep it coming, gang – you have no idea how helpful this all is! What makes a business book a page-turner for you?

  6. I would echo what Pearl notes about the value of stories to keep the reader’s attention and allow them to draw some of their own conclusions. Not quite a traditional business book, but one book I’ve read over the past few years that really stands out for me is Mountains Beyond Mountains, about Paul Farmer and his NGO Partners in Health.

  7. One of the books in your stack, Never Eat Alone (by Keith Ferrazzi) was a page-turner for me, as I am fascinated by networking. His anecdotes and tips kept me interested from start to finish. In the first chapter he wrote about his admiration for Arnold Palmer, so I combined some of what I already knew with the advice in his book, and… got to meet Arnold Palmer, gather some memorabilia for Keith, and gave it to him at his 40th birthday party in the Hollywood Hills! The point being that when a book motivates you to ACTION, it has done a good job. Also, when I review his book, it’s full of stars and underlinings, which means I found many useful nuggets of information. Hope this helps.

  8. For me I am ignited by a new twist on the old concept. Which is what you already do. I like the use of metaphor. The Starfish and the Spider is an example and had great interest for me. Telling a story to illustrate helps but it does take the new twist to catch me. I have the feeling that you have the twist already. I don’t enjoy formula books that are highly structured and are full of graphs. I don’t believe the world is going to fit the formulas anymore.