10 Great Books for Coaches
Written by Matt Kelly.

Being an instructional coach involves a wide variety of skills and knowledge. Over the years at ICG, we have always found inspiration in the work of others, and we’d like to share some of our favorite books on education, coaching, communication, and beyond. Check out the titles below for some of our favorite, helpful books for coaches!

Stewardship: Choosing Service over Self-Interest by Peter Block

Block discusses the power of partnership and illustrates the benefits of listening to others and empowering them to be thinkers. The concept of partnership is a foundation for all of ICG’s work, and this book was an important inspiration in the development of our coaching philosophy.



Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Csikszentmihalyi was a consultant at the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning and a tremendous influence on Jim Knight and ICG. He promoted the idea that the decisions in our lives shouldn’t be made for money or prestige, but rather what engages you in life.



Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire

An enduring classic in the philosophy of education, Freire’s book has remained the biggest influence in Jim’s thinking and work since he first read it while just beginning his studies. Among countless valuable points, Freire stresses the importance creating a dialogue that respects people’s humanity instead of objectifying them.



The Six Secrets of Change: What the Best Leaders Do to Help Their Organizations Survive and Thrive by Michael Fullan

Fullan has written many books that are helpful for coaches, but Six Secrets of Change offers an accessible summary of his ideas. He is extremely sharp, well-read, and uniquely able to synthesize concepts in a way that has proven to be profoundly influential.



The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Gawande writes about the importance of precision and clarity in a masterful style that is truly a pleasure to read. He explores why it is essential to not only talk about specificity, but to ensure that it is reflected in practice. This book is based on his widely acclaimed New Yorker article, “The Checklist.”



Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

While all of Heath and Heath’s books present important ideas, this book examining the elements of change is especially relevant to coaches. They use stories and research to provides examples of how to bring about transformative change. In many ways, the ideas of how to set PEERS goals were influenced by Heath and Heath’s work.



The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker J. Palmer

If you are looking for one book to give to a new teacher, The Courage to Teach would be an excellent choice. Palmer communicates a deep compassion for teachers and students, and writes about how to teach with remarkable clarity and purpose.



The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge

This book has been one of the most influential books in the last few decades on the subjects of business and organizational behavior, and Jim and ICG owe much of their concept of dialogue to Senge.



The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way You Lead Forever by Michael Bungay Stanier

Stanier has written a funny, accessible, book that exudes his generosity of spirit, and it has become the most popular coaching book of all time. The coaching questions used by ICG experts are heavily influenced by this work, and it is full of essential wisdom on coaching.



Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future by Margaret J. Wheatley

Wheatley’s book delves into the importance of communication and relationships, and it has been one of Jim’s biggest influences. She provides a hopeful exploration of the impact a powerful conversation can have, and almost every page is filled with critical insights that will stick in your head long after you put it down.


Don’t forget to look for The Instructional Playbook: The Missing Link for Translating Research into Practice, the new book from Jim Knight, Ann Hoffman, Michelle Harris, and Sharon Thomas, coming this fall! Check back in late October for more info!


  1. Alison Gordon

    Great list! I would add Evoking Greatness by Megan and Bob Tschannen-Moran, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and possibly Respect by Sara Lightfoot Lawrence

  2. Lori Lee

    Great list

  3. Leigh Anstadt

    The Power of a Moment by C & D Heath
    The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar

    • Rebecca Leamon

      I would second the Art of Coaching!!! It’s empowering and helpful! Also: Student-Centered Coaching in the Secondary Classroom by Diane Sweeney.

  4. Darren Draper

    Terrific list. I echo Leigh’s addition of Aguilar’s Art of Coaching, and would also recommend any in Diane Sweeney’s Student-Centered Coaching series.

    Amplify Your Impact has also been an influential addition to our district’s coaching collection.

    Keep up the great work, Jim and company!

  5. DR

    An amazing list. Quiet Leadership by David Rock has made a difference for me.

  6. Tricia Skyles

    I would add Sway by Ori Brafman. Really helped clarify and lead to empathy for people (including myself) who get stuck in past practice and may resist change.

  7. JIm Knight

    I like many of the books listed here. When I was describing these books, I was mostly thinking about the books that shaped my thinking, and I didn’t see it as a list of coaching books, more books about topics other than coaching. I kind of see Michael Bungay Stanier’s book as more of leadership communication book. If I was to add a coaching book, I’d add my friend Christian van Nieuwerburgh’s Coaching Skills, which I really think is an awesome coaching book. There are of course many others to by Steve Barkley, Joellen Killion, and many, many others.

  8. Kimberly Richardson

    Definitely have to add: RESULTS Coaching: The New Essential for School Leaders 1st Edition by Kathryn Kee (Editor), RESULTS Coaching Next Steps: Leading for Growth and Change 1st Edition, by Kathryn M. Kee (Author), Karen A. Anderson (Author), Vicky S. Dearing (Author), Frances A. Shuster (Author), Manager as Coach: The New Way To Get Results, Manager as Coach: The New Way To Get Results by Jenny Rogers , Karen Whittleworth , et al.


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