20 Best training and development books recommended by experts

Written by
Kevin Alster
Published on
July 1, 2024
Table of contents

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These learning and development books suit any corporate setting and are packed with effective strategies and practical advice for breakthrough learning.

We curated this list of training and development books by:

  • Asking expert L&D practitioners about their favorite resources
  • Scouring the internet for the best-rated books on specific topics. 
  • Manually reading hundreds of independent book reviews

Reading the following books will enhance your leadership qualities and team dynamics but, most importantly, will guide you through crafting outstanding L&D programs that develop employees and bring excitement to training.

For your convenience, we've even organized them by category. So, just use the menu to your left to jump to the categories you find most relevant!

HR books for beginners and seasoned professionals

HR isn't just about hiring and firing. In many companies, it also includes learning and development. Dip your toes into HR books to better understand the bigger picture of continuous employee development. You'll sharpen your strategic thinking and craft training and development programs that successfully equip professionals with new skills.

1. Learning at Speed by Nelson Sivalingam

Need to upskill your teams quickly? Nelson Sivalingam's Learning at Speed offers a fresh approach, combining lean and agile methods to get your team up to speed fast. Packed with practical tips, real-world examples, and helpful templates, it's a must-read for any L&D professional.

2. The Learning and Development Handbook by Michelle Parry-Slater

The L&D Handbook by Michelle Parry-Slater is a guide for modernizing L&D strategies beyond conventional classroom settings. Brimming with practical advice and focusing on social, digital, and blended learning, this book shows you how to turn training from traditional to modern approaches. Read it to get new perspectives on how to enhance engagement, performance, and business outcomes.

3. Long Life Learning by Michelle Weise

Are you intrigued by the evolving landscape and the increasing training and development demands? Check out Long Life Learning: Preparing for Jobs That Don't Even Exist Yet", a visionary exploration into the future of work and adult education. Michelle Weise proposes innovative solutions for workplace learning and an education system that integrates lifelong studying, support, and transparent hiring processes.

Books on diversity and inclusion training

To play a key role in stepping up your company's diversity and inclusion, learn from the best DEI books. These resources give you the knowledge and strategies to create corporate training that makes everyone feel valued, respected, and empowered to succeed!

4. No Rules Rules by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer

If you're interested in innovation, productivity, and the secrets behind one of the tech industry's biggest successes, Reed Hastings' No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention is a must-read. The book explores how radical honesty and employee trust propelled Netflix from a DVD service to a streaming giant. You won't be able to replicate everything inside, but you'll certainly find a lot of experiential learning gems to test in your own training and development programs.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, said, "The insights in this book are invaluable to anyone trying to create and sustain organizational culture.

5. The Culture Map by Erin Meyer

In The Culture Map: Decoding How People Think, Lead, and Get Things Done, Erin Meyer provides an essential hands-on guide for navigating global business and cultural differences. The book holds a smart analytical framework and insights into understanding and bridging cultural gaps for effective communication and collaboration. Needless to say, it's such a powerful read for professionals who want to foster workplace learning and talent development in a thriving learning culture.

Books on compliance training

Learning and development professionals feel the weight of responsibility when crafting compliance training. Thankfully, compliance books can help any chief learning officer develop employee training that keeps everyone informed, empowered, and acting in line with the rules.

6. Fully Compliant by Travis Waugh

Travis Waugh's book, Fully Compliant: Compliance Training to Change Behavior, revolutionizes compliance training by shifting focus from mere legal adherence to fostering a culture of integrity and ethical behavior. Waugh connects behavior science to practical steps, helping you craft programs that change conduct and reduce misconduct risks.

7. Preparing Your Organization for New Technologies by Debbie Richards

With practical tools and real-world examples, Debbie Richards shows L&D teams how to embrace technological advancements to power up their training and development. Preparing Your Organization for New Technologies outlines research strategies, critical questions, stakeholder engagement, governance, and development for tech implementation. Read this book to transform challenges into opportunities for organizational growth.

Sales training books

The best sales training books contain insights into the minds of salespeople and customers, revealing the latest techniques, trends, and secrets to success. Check out the following books to help your sales teams crush their goals and build lasting customer relationships.

8. The Psychology of Selling by Brian Tracy

The Psychology of Selling: Increase Your Sales Faster and Easier Than You Ever Thought Possible is Amazon's bestseller in Sales & Selling Management. With glowing reviews that say, "You will end up highlighting almost every sentence of the book," this transformative guide unveils the mental sale aspects. Tracy's insights into controlling thoughts and actions, overcoming fear, and building confidence are priceless for understanding buyer psychology and leveraging it for success.

9. Learning Experience Design by Donald Clark

Covering a range of topics from emotion and memory to technology integration, Learning Experience Design: How to Create Effective Learning that Works by Donald Clark is an indispensable guide for instructional designers and L&D professionals. It provides practical advice, case studies, and instructional and UX design guidance from the author's 30+ years of experience. And it makes an outstanding design thinking resource that shows you how impactful design can improve knowledge, skills, and performance.

Books on customer service training

Reading and learning from customer service training books is how you enable everyone at your company to better serve clients. Check out these customer service and training books to help your teams thrive in customer-facing roles.

10. Bridging the Soft Skills Gap by Bruce Tulgan

All employees need customer service training, and Bruce Tulgan shows us how to teach soft skills in his book, Bridging the Soft Skills Gap: How to Teach the Missing Basics to Today's Young Talent. Through more than twenty years of research, Tulgan provides a practical guide for "today's young talent" filled with ninety-two customizable lesson plans. This is an excellent resource to improve performance by developing professionalism, critical thinking, and followership — the missing basics, as he likes to put it.

11. Make It Stick by Peter Brown

"For a deeper dig into the science of learning, make sure to pick up Make It Stick. It's an illuminating read," said Business Insider's Drake Baer about this book. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning challenges conventional learning strategies with insights from cognitive psychology. Read it to discover the more effective workplace learning techniques Brown advocates for, such as self-testing and spaced repetition. You'll also discover a guide to deeper online learning and development in it.

Leadership training books

Are you looking to inspire your team, manage complex projects that help reach your business objectives, or develop your leadership style? These leadership and management training books will challenge you to learn more so you can do more. After all, performance improvement takes both practical knowledge and mindset, and the books below help with both.

12. The Design of Business by Roger Martin

The key to breakthrough innovation and a competitive edge lies in embracing design thinking, says Roger Martin in The Design of Business. Illustrated with examples from Procter & Gamble, Cirque du Soleil, and others, this book shows you how to approach problem-solving and creativity at your organization. Check it out, and you might unlock the path to substantial value creation and robust training and development.

13. The Modern Learning Ecosystem by J.D. Dillon

If you're grappling with the relentless pace of workplace change, read The Modern Learning Ecosystem: A New L&D Mindset for the Ever-Changing Workplace. Dillon proposes a framework for integrating learning into the flow of work and helping employees adapt to new technologies, processes, and regulations. This book will guide you through developing a learning ecosystem for today's dynamic work environments.

Best books for employee development

By diving into employee development books, you learn about the methodologies, tools, and trends to help you design and deliver relevant and engaging training programs. Keep an eye on these resources for building a continuous learning culture.

14. L&D's Playbook for the Digital Age by Brandon Carson

L&D's Playbook for the Digital Age by Brandon Carson shows you how to adapt, keep pace with technology, and become a key player in your organization's success. The author argues for a proactive, strategic L&D role transcending traditional boundaries and even focusing on virtual training. The book is definitely useful for anyone interested in professional development who wants to develop their team's skills and drive future-proof performance.

15. Accidental Instructional Designer by Cammy Bean

Cammy Bean's Accidental Instructional Designer is a valuable learning and development guide, especially for those who got into instructional design without formal training. This book covers everything you need to know, from working with SMEs to making learning come alive with stories, games, and visuals. It will help you design successful learning programs, whether you're new or just wanting to improve.

16. The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design by IDEO

With over 10,000 copies sold worldwide, The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design by IDEO serves as an essential manual for applying human-centered design principles to social innovation. The title suggests what it's all about, but you probably don't expect the 57 practical design methods, worksheets, and inspiring case studies it features. Plus, unlike the traditional, dull development books, this one gets bonus points for making such a visually rich, easy-to-navigate resource.

Books on innovative learning design and technologies

Want to craft breakthrough learning experiences, improve performance, boost learner engagement, and adapt to the ever-changing workplace? If so, take a look at the following titles that promise to introduce you to innovative learning solutions.

17. Artificial Intelligence for Learning by Donald Clark

If you're an L&D practitioner looking to leverage AI to improve engagement, efficiency, and return on investment in learning initiatives, you'll love Donald Clark's Artificial Intelligence for Learning. This book breaks down AI's role in content curation, personalization, evaluation, and learner support, giving you the confidence to critically assess AI opportunities in your organization. 

18. Michael Allen's Guide to E-Elearning

Renowned as the father of e-learning, Michael Allen shares his best knowledge in this Guide to E-Learning: Building Interactive, Fun, and Effective Learning Programs for Any Company. The book navigates through the latest technological advancements, including game-based learning. It offers strategies, guidelines, and case studies to help you avoid common pitfalls and succeed in the evolving online learning landscape with approaches like mobile learning, individualization, and effective learning games.

Books about the foundations of learning science

Understanding what makes learners tick and how they retain information is a superpower for L&D professionals. The learning and development books below will help you enter the fascinating world of cognitive processes to create successful, evidence-based online teaching programs and training sessions.

19. How People Learn by Nick Shackleton-Jones

The second edition of How People Learn by Nick Shackleton-Jones is a practical book that delves into the neuroscience and behaviors behind successful learning. Basically, it shows you how to leverage these key principles and create impactful learning experiences for professional development. Strategies for hybrid learning environments, managing skills, and integrating AI and user-centered design are all discussed in the book with practical examples from leading companies.

20. Design for How People Learn by Julie Dirksen

Julie Dirksen's Design for How People Learn explores the core principles of how we learn, focusing on memory, learning, and attention to design engaging and effective educational materials. Updated with the latest research, it includes new insights on using social media for learning, designing for habit formation, and evaluating learning effectiveness.

Use your L&D knowledge to create engaging instructional videos

Dale Carnegie famously said, "Only knowledge that is used sticks in your mind."

As you dive deeper into all these valuable learning and development books, remember to put all the knowledge into practice.

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