15 Books That Belong on Every Life Coach’s Reading List

Looking for fresh titles beyond the usual self-help suspects? Explore must-reads from John Kim (The Angry Therapist), Noelle Cordeaux, and Lumia coaches.

Looking for some thought-provoking new titles to add to your nightstand? Guaranteed to get your mental gears turning, our book recommendations will do anything but put you to sleep!

The provocative mix that follows includes some that might surprise you, spanning everything from evidence-based strategies for goal attainment to the secrets of happiness itself. It all adds up to a powerful reading list that’s suitable for practicing coaches, as well as anyone who’s looking for some inspiration to help level up their game.

If you decide to add any of these titles to your collection, consider ordering from a local, independent bookseller! Find one near you at

John’s Picks

Let’s kick things off with John Kim, Lumia Coaching co-founder and author of I Used to Be A Miserable F*ck and Single. On Purpose. Here’s three titles he’s currently recommending for your self-betterment bookshelf.

Book jacket for The Obstacle is the Way

The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday

Stoicism is like early Positive Psychology. This book is life soil. It helps you reframe by turning trials into triumphs. A must read for all coaches to help your clients develop a new mindset. Knowing it's about the journey makes the mountains less scary and gets you to lean into whatever you're going through. It was helpful for me as I was going through my own rebirth.

What’s it about? Feeling stuck? Explore lessons from history on how visionaries and leaders have turned what seemed like insurmountable obstacles into opportunities. There’s a formula behind their success, and you can learn it.

Book Jacket The Way of the Superior Man

The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida

Don't let the title turn you off. It's not just for men or about men only. It's about masculine and feminine energy. It was a game changer after my divorce and what inspired my book I Used to be a Miserable F*ck. It's not just a self help book - it's pure art in the way David writes. It will help you with all your relationships, starting with the relationship to yourself.  

What’s it about? Implode the stereotypes of what it means to be a man. It doesn’t have to be a choice between machismo or sensitive snowflake. Learn what it means to embrace the authentic masculine to live a life of greater integrity, purpose, and meaning.

Book Jacket Own the Day Own Your Life

Own The Day, Own Your Life by Aubrey Marcus

Okay, I'm going to be honest - it's not the best written book. But it's important because it's the only book I've seen that breaks down one single day. It's a great guide for coaches to help clients map out their day. It's practical and punctuates the importance of structure, which is soil for any change.

What’s it about? If you’re looking to instill new habits or make meaningful change in your life, this is a great place to start. A useful guide for looking at a single day as a microcosm of your life. Packed with practical strategies for reframing the choices you make, and the actions you take - one minute at a time.

Noelle’s Picks

Not to be outdone, Noelle Cordeaux, Lumia CEO and co-founder, offered four volumes she’d like to see nestled on every life coach’s bookshelf. 

Book jacket Evidence Based Coaching Handbook

The Evidence-Based Coaching Handbook edited by Stober and Grant 

An incredibly comprehensive empirically based textbook that highlights through framework and case study the science and work of coaching.

What’s it about? If you’re seeking a data-driven reference that presents coaching tools along with the empirical evidence behind why they work, look no further. A useful companion for business and life coaches that offers practical methods for uniting your own expertise with coaching tools and frameworks to best serve the needs of each client.

Book jacket Creating Your Best Life

Creating Your Best Life by Caroline Miller 

The first empirically based workbook on positive psychology and coaching that looks at the work of coaching through the lens of goal setting theory and life lists. It is fascinating, enjoyable, and infinitely useful for new coaches. 

What’s it about? A practical guide that weaves together the field of Positive Psychology with research on happiness and life satisfaction. Includes exercises and worksheets for setting and achieving goals in core areas of life. Recently revised and reissued, Creating Your Best Life was named in 2020 as the #1 goal accomplishment book by Thrive Global. 

Book jacket How We Show Up

How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong 

A vitally important book for our time. Coaching is a profession that heralds interconnectivity and hope, and Birdsong is expert at weaving a narrative that models language and examples of progressive thought leadership that all of us can learn from.

What’s it about? In her work with corporate executives and policy makers, activist and writer Mia Birdsong began to notice a common theme, quietly confessed: isolation and loneliness. For all the trappings of success that the pursuit of The American Dream might bring, many of us are more disconnected, disenfranchised, and unsatisfied than ever before. In this book, Birdsong explores the ways in which we’re interconnected, with lessons on how to find renewed strength through community.

Must-Reads from Lumia Coaches

Book jacket Before Happiness

Before Happiness by Shawn Achor

Recommended by Aileen Uy 

This book clearly lays out how before we can be happy or successful, we need to first develop the ability to see that positive change is possible. Anchor’s work formed a very instrumental part of both my professional work as a coach, but also my personal journey. On a personal level, it really taught me a lot about learning how I viewed the world and what I could do to shift in the direction of changing certain perspectives that were hurting me more than helping me.

What’s it about? Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Anchor is a world expert in understanding the linkages between happiness and success. This book clearly lays out the five steps necessary for achieving success, generating happiness, and maintaining positive change.   

Book Jacket for My Grandmother's Hands

My Grandmother's Hands by Resmaa Menakem 

Recommended by Jen Ammenti, The Unwound Mind

This book has fundamentally shifted the way I address disrupting white bodied supremacy in regards to personal identity and growth for both myself and my coaching clients. Getting grounded in my body and helping others do the same has opened the door for a deeper level of healing and transformation. 

What’s it about? Menakem’s work breaks new ground in the movement for racial justice by examining the damage caused by racism in America from the perspective of trauma and body-centered psychology. In this book, he explains how racism is not just about what we think, it’s also encoded inside our bodies. With sections addressing Black, brown, and white bodies, readers move through a healing process to mend body, mind and spirit.


Book Jacket for Never Split the Difference

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

Recommended by Trey Ramsey, Evolve Coaching Group 

Absolutely one of the most useful books on communication I’ve ever read. Negotiation is simply communication with results, and Never Split the Difference explores highly effective tools that deliver results. Techniques such as mirroring, labeling, tactical empathy, calibrated questions, and others, are introduced and examined. The author illustrates the application of these tools through the use of gripping, real-world examples. Whether it’s with individual or group clients, family, friends, co-workers, or anyone, Voss’s book provides specific and valuable insights you can use immediately to improve the effectiveness of your communication. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

What’s it about? A former FBI hostage negotiator, Voss translates the world of high-stakes communication into everyday life. Includes nine practical skills for becoming a more persuasive communicator at work, at home, and in your community.

Book jacket for How to Be Alive

How to Be Alive by Colin Beavan

Recommended by Chris Clark, Firebird Rise

If you’re searching for that sweet spot where feeling good and doing good in the world intersect, you gotta read How to Be Alive! I had the pleasure of receiving leadership coaching from Colin, and he’s the real deal. An environmental activist and Buddhist dharma teacher, Beavan presents the case for values-based living with humor and compassion. It’s a handbook for living filled with practical exercises to identify what matters most, define your purpose, and exponentially expand your quality of life. The practical guidance contained in these pages continues to reverberate throughout my life today.

What’s it about? In the race toward achieving “the good life”, too many of us are getting left behind. Crippling student loan debt, the rising cost of living, and a faltering economy have altered the rules of the game. Drawing from psychology, philosophy, and spirituality, Beaven encourages the reader to experiment with new definitions of success, offering tools for reimagining meaning and the pursuit of happiness for the 21st century. 

Book jacket for The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche  

Recommended by Barbara Haynes

Years ago when I was working in corporate marketing, a co-worker recommended this book to help me cope with the illness and subsequent passing of my father. It helped me see a different perspective on death and dying, and supported me through the grieving process. It also offers a great perspective on life itself. Add this one to your reading list if it’s not already there.

What’s it about? Widely considered an authoritative overview of Tibetan Buddhist teachings, the value of Rinpoche’s text extends far beyond spiritual enlightenment. Utilized widely by medical professionals, this book invites a revolution in how we care for the dying, as well as how we experience being alive. Includes an introduction to meditation, as well as Buddhist concepts of compassion, karma and rebirth. 

Book jacket for Daring Greatly

 Daring Greatly by Brene Brown 

Recommended by Tina Martin

This book uncovers how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. It helps us to give ourselves grace and learn how to show up for ourselves first, and then others. Backed by Brown’s extensive research over two decades in vulnerability, shame and empathy, it’s a must-read for everyone!

What’s it about? In this book, Brown expounds on one of her signature themes: vulnerability. Far from being a weakness, our ability to open ourselves fully and take risks is a superpower - one that requires immense courage. In a world that too often sends us the message that we’re “not enough”, Brown challenges us to reframe what it really means to stand boldly at the center of our lives.

Book jacket for Refuse to Choose

Refuse to Choose by Barbara Sher

Recommended by Kasie McCoy, Envisage

Sher offers an incredibly empowering perspective for people (like myself!) who have many interests and feel trapped by the societal norm that you must choose one job in one field, and perform happily in it until you retire. This book offers great suggestions and tools that help you drill down into what really fulfills you.

What’s it about? In her work helping others define and achieve their goals, Sher discovered that there’s one type of person who finds it difficult to choose just one path. She calls these individuals “Scanners”, and believes that “refusing to choose” is anything but a weakness. In this helpful book, you’ll learn what’s behind the Scanner tendency, and how you really can find success doing everything you love.

Book jacket for Ikigai

IKIGAI: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

Recommended by Laura Cris 

This book touches upon so many different topics, including: finding your life purpose, finding flow in everything, and secrets of the Okinawan centenarians happily living to over 100 years old! It will open your eyes to the daily structure of our current lifestyle, and the costly effects of stress and negative thinking. A useful reminder of what really matters in finding happiness every day.

What’s it about? In Japanese, ikigai translates to our individual “reason for living” - the activities that make our lives worthwhile. This is the place inside where our passion, values, personal mission, work, and purpose intersect. Here, Garcia and Miralles explore the lives of Okinawan elders known for their incredible longevity. From what they eat to how they live, this book shares their secrets to a longer, happier life - one that’s infused with ikigai.

Book jacket for You Are A Badass

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

Recommended by Megan Byrd, All Kinds Strength  

A humorous yet substantial take on the self betterment genre. Sincero touches on everything from gratitude and manifestation, to gross feelings about money and surrendering to what is. All the ingredients for bringing more of the good stuff into your life!

What’s it about? Sincero, a bestselling author and personal success coach, delivers the goods in 27 short chapters. From disarming limiting beliefs, to shifting your relationship with the Universe, she’ll walk you through how to transform whatever it is that’s holding you back. Along the way, Sincero recounts her own no-bullshit journey from cynical and broke, to becoming a successful manifestation machine.

Hungry for even more brain candy?

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