5 Life Coaching Books You Should Read

Rarely does a week by go when somebody doesn’t e-mail me or ask me in person, what Life Coaching books I recommend for coaches or people super keen on self development?

Rather than keep responding to people individually I thought I’d compile a post of what I consider to be five ‘must read’ books for coaches.

They are in no particular order of importance and yes the first four do contain affiliate links.

If you click through and buy we can earn up to a whopping six per cent commission. Let the good times roll baby!

And by the way if you are ever doing a review for your readers of a product that you can earn money from, or even one that you have been given for free to review, you MUST inform your readers under FTC rules.

And another by the way.

Strictly speaking three of the five aren’t Life Coaching books per se, but you get my gist.

1. Co-Active Coaching by Kimsey-House, Sandahl, Whitworth

Probably the seminal book on Life Coaching that spurned an entire industry.

Pretty much every Life Coach training company worth its salt teaches at least some elements of Co-Active Coaching.


Because it has been scientifically proven to be the best modality for helping elicit permanent beneficial change with clients.

I have one beef with the book and one with the concept.

Whereas the book is fantastic at explaining the basics of this type of coaching, the scripts of examples of coaches working with clients are pretty lame.

The reason is, every script suggests an ideal scenario where you say ‘this’ and your client will automatically say ‘that’.

Real world coaching is seldom like that so the book doesn’t help the reader with tricky clients or when things frequently go off script.

The second part is that in my mind Co-Active Coaching is by some way the best modality, but it’s not the only one and it doesn’t always work.

Which is why we teach other approaches on the Coach the Life Coach course.

They are minor quibbles though and I recommend this book to anybody serious about coaching.

Check out on Amazon

2. The Structure of Magic Vol 1 by John Grinder and Richard Bandler

This was the first book ever written on NLP (neurolinguistic programming) and it’s definitely not for everybody.

However it is a fantastic short introduction to the less flash-bang element of NLP and in particular something called the Meta Model of Language.

Bandler and Grinder spent hundreds of hours studying the three leading therapists of the 1970’s. Gestalt Therapist developer, Fritz Perls, Family Therapist, Virginia Satir and Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist, Milton H. Erickson.

They noticed that one of the things that separated these greats from the also-rans was their use of language.

There were two distinct elements.

Highly specific language (the Meta Model), and in Erickson’s case, artful vague language (the Milton Model).

This book focuses on the former and how important it is for coaches to understand at all times what their clients mean and not jump to conclusions based on what they would mean if they were using similar language.

It looks at how as humans we all generalize, delete and distort information when we are communicating and these are called, ‘Meta Model violations’.

Examples of how we do this are as follows:

1. Generalizing

‘Everybody knows that London is the capital of Great Britain’

Everybody? You mean there is nobody in the world who doesn’t know that?

2. Deleting

‘Nobody likes him’

Who is nobody? Who do you mean by, him?

3. Distortion

‘Shouting at me makes me upset’

How does shouting at you make you upset? What exactly do you mean by upset, in what way?

There is nothing wrong with talking like the above as we all do it (and yes, that is a generalization).

Conversations would be painstakingly tedious if we were constantly trying to avoid Meta Model violations, but sometimes not doing so can lead to misunderstandings and erroneous conclusions.

And neither of those are welcome in the coaching environment.

Not a book I’d recommend to a casual self development reader, but a must read for Life Coaches and therapists looking to maximize their skills and help their clients.

Check out on Amazon

3. Your Brain At Work by David Rock

An absolute classic and a book that has never strayed from my top 3 of all time since I first read it and then listened to it – yes I did buy the hardcopy and the audio version and I’m thinking it may be time to revisit it.

David Rock isn’t a neuroscientist, but he takes cutting edge research from that field of science and distills it to help the layperson not just understand how our brain works, but equally importantly, how we can apply that information in real life.

It won’t just help you understand how that lump of two and a half pound lard-like substance works, but why it sometimes doesn’t function as well as you may have expected and what it’s limitations are.

And believe me, there are plenty.

Of course if you know that about yourself, it also helps you understand your clients better.

And for the large part, the more we understand about our clients the better we can help them.

If you aren’t convinced about reframing or think you can multi-task better than the average bear, this book may have a few surprises for you.

Check out on Amazon

4. Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman

Whereas Abraham Maslow had coined the phrase ‘positive psychology’ in his 1954 book, ‘Motivation and Personality’ it is generally considered that Seligman and ‘Flow’ author Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi were the people responsible for bringing awareness to the field and cementing the expression in the public psyche.

‘Flow’ is not an easy book to read being overly academic for the average layperson, but Seligman’s 1990 offering, ’Learned Optimism’ is easily accessible to most people.

Seligman was the pioneer when it came to the topic of learned helplessness.

He looked at how people can adopt helplessness if they are repeatedly subjected to averse stimuli and the damage this adaptation can do to mental well-being.

That is the bad news.

The good news is that Seligman discovered that even though we can learn helplessness we can also learn to be optimistic and flourish.

Seligman noticed that optimistic people have three traits that are lacking from pessimistic and depressed people.

1. Permanence

Optimistic people see events as transitory rather than permanent and therefore believe there is going to be a better day when things are going badly.

Depressed and pessimistic people have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel believing their situation will remain the same or even worsen.

2. Pervasiveness

Human Beings, on the whole, tend not to be great at compartmentalizing.

Problems at work tend to bleed into home life and vice versa. And financial issues can effect family stability even when the two are completely separate.

Having said that, there are some people better at seeing individual problems as separate from the rest of their life. They are of course, highly optimistic people.

If they have a problem at home, they leave it at home. And vice versa, if they have a problem at work they leave it at work and don’t take it out on their loved ones.

3. Personalization

As a Life Coach you will see this a LOT!

Pessimists will have a tendency to blame themselves for everything that goes wrong in their life.

They will frequently beat themselves up and have a hard time recognizing when an event is their fault and when it is something completely out of their control and thus better letting go of and moving on.

This doesn’t mean that to be optimistic means you must relinquish responsibility. It just suggests that what is, is, and that dwelling in the past or blaming ourselves over and over again for the same thing is pointless and debilitating.

As the book title suggests Seligman offers a solution to pessimistic thinking, but you will have to read the book to get it!

Check out on Amazon

5. Aligning With Your Core Values by Tim Brownson


Oh come on, you don’t expect me to leave out a book that includes a process that took me almost five years to figure out and now makes up the backbone of what I do as a coach, do you?

Well tough, because I’m not.

The core values session I do with clients and teach to other coaches, is without any shadow of a doubt the most important client work I do…and then some.

I know there are coaches out there who don’t employ any form of values work and my question to them would be, ‘how on earth do you coach effectively when you have no clue as to what is really important for a client at the deepest level?’

And it’s not like it even stops there.

I understand utilizing very pure Co-Active Coaching techniques it’s not impossible to crack on without understanding a clients core values, but, and it’s a big but, core values aren’t just for the coach.

The example I used yesterday when teaching the core values method was this:

Suppose you have a client come to you with a goal of earning $3 billion (as I did one time), what does that tell you about them?

I’ll tell you what it tells you.

Other than they are into setting very tough goals, a big fat nothing.

They may want the money to go all Wolf of Wall Street on you by buying a huge yacht, hiring a gaggle of high-class hookers, procuring huge quantities of cocaine and then setting off to sail around the Caribbean on a six month party trip.

Or equally, they may want to start a foundation to help educate kids from the poorest inner cities and set up homeless shelters for victims of natural disasters.

The goal is the same, but the values are somewhat different.

And yes I understand those examples are over the top and as a competent coach you would no doubt realize very quickly which type of person you were dealing with, but some examples are a lot more subtle and without understanding your clients values you can be grasping at this air.

I’m so obsessed (in a good way I like to think) with values that we are in the process of setting up a separate website called The Clarity Method and even changing the name of the book to reflect that.

Then we will be offering stand-alone training and even certifying the process for other Life Coaches.

If that interests you please watch this space.

On the other hand if you don’t want to wait then you can buy the book now here.

Now It’s Your Turn

Of course I could have made this list a lot longer.

I really struggled to condense it to five books because there were so many I considered, but I am happy with the final five.

I am very curious to know which five books you would have picked.

Please let me know in the comments.