Brian’s Must-Read Books

Currently Reading:

My bookshelf is currently empty. If you have a suggestion for the next book I should be reading, drop me a line!

Books on In-person Presentation Skills:

Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach (Jane Vella)

Brief Summary: “Dialogue education” is the name Jane Vella has given to her methodology, believing that presentations and learning experiences should involve 2-way communication, not just a 1-way information dump. Her 12 principles of dialogue education have become the foundation for how I design presentations and workshops. And people seem to like those workshops!

How to be a Presentation God (Scott Schwertly)

Brief Summary: Scott Schwertly and Ethos3 have made effective visual design and PowerPoint presentations their “thing”. This book is more comprehensive than visual design. Scott’s informal, humorous writing style makes this an easy, quick read and covers a range of topics, from alleviating anxiety through proper preparation to a variety of presentation strategies (such as Pecha Kucha and Ignite).

The Manager’s Guide to Presentations (Lauren Hug)

Brief Summary: Lauren Hug boils effective presentation skills down into a short, 68-page book full of helpful tips and even more helpful templates. Interest piqued? Here is a more in-depth review.

Creative Training Techniques Handbook (Bob Pike)

Brief Summary: I’ve recommended this book to people new to the world of training and I keep a well-worn, heavily marked-up copy at my desk because I still like to refer to it. As with all of Bob Pike’s work, this book is extremely accessible, full of examples and for the experienced L&D professional, it offers a lot of reminders of fundamentals that may have long ago been forgotten or skipped over.

Books on eLearning Design:

Michael Allen’s Guide to E-Learning (Michael Allen)

Brief Summary: This was my introduction to eLearning… and what eLearning could be. I left this book inspired to completely overhaul the way our organization did eLearning, eschewing click through eLearning for experiential modules. One note of caution: Michael Allen has been doing eLearning for a very long time, and he makes designing engaging, interactive eLearning appear very natural and easy. It takes some practice, some playing around and a willingness to flop around for a while.

The Accidental Instructional Designer (Cammie Bean)

Brief Summary: The title is perfect. I’ve met very few people who have ever told me that they’d always wanted to be an instructional designer, ever since they were 6 years old. Cammy Bean not only walks through that journey, but also shares specific strategies and examples of how to create engaging, interesting online learning experiences.

Books on Visual Design:

Resonate (Nancy Duarte)

Brief Summary: I downloaded the e-version of this book and Nancy Duarte has formatted it to include short videos in addition to tons of ideas on how to transform your visuals from bullet points to an impactful visual experience.

The Non-designer’s Design Book (Robin Williams)

Brief Summary: I found Robin Williams’ book to almost be a how-to guide in transforming really bad slide design (which is what I had for quite some time) to something a little more visually interesting.

Books on Training Evaluation and Impact:

Transfer of Training (Mary Broad & John Newstrom)

Brief Summary: This is a book-length meta-study of existing data on what conditions hold the most promise for ensuring training will be put to use when people return to their offices. The data is a little old, but no less useful. Some of the take-aways from this book were surprising. When it comes to the most significant element in determining whether or not training will actually be applied back on the job, who do you think is most important: the trainer, the learner’s manager, or the learner? Spoiler alert: it’s not the learner.

Make It Stick (Peter C. Brown)

Brief Summary: This is a book packed with research on how the brain works and how people remember information. Interestingly, highlighting portions of books or notes from presentations and re-reading them later is fairly ineffective. What works? Give it a read!

Books on Change Management:

The Heart of Change (John Kotter)

Brief Summary: In the end, learning and development is about change. And you can’t discuss change management without John Kotter. This (along with many of Kotter’s other works) explores his 8-step change model and explains how skipping any one of those 8 steps can ruin a change effort.

Switch (Chip & Dan Heath)

Brief Summary: Everything Chip and Dan Heath write is accessible, entertaining and informative. This book is based upon tons of change management literature and explores specific case studies that illustrate their primary change metaphor: any change effort requires that you engage the brain, the emotional side and you provide some structure or guidance .

Immunity to Change (Robert Kegan & Lisa Laskow Lahey)

Brief Summary: This book recognizes that organizational change cannot happen without individual change. Kegan & Lahey offer a 4-step, personal change model that relies less upon the idea of solving change problems… and sometimes just allowing a problem to solve us. Sounds weird, huh? I thought so too, but I’ve found the “Immunity Map” model to be quite helpful both for personal change as well as a tool to use as I manage direct reports.

Books on Organizational Culture:

Built on Values (Ann Rhoades with Nancy Shepherdson)

Brief summary: This book, written by the former Chief People Officer for Southwest Airlines and a founding executive of JetBlue (two organizations that know a thing or two about high performing (and fun!) cultures), came out in 2011. The executive team at my organization has been using the path outlined by Ann Rhoades for several years in their efforts to re-affirm our own organizational values and high performing culture… and it’s been working. In this book I found a lot of practical, transferable lessons that I can borrow and integrate into my own facilitation around organizational values and culture. If you’re looking for a resource to move forward work around your own organization’s (or a client’s) culture, this book is definitely worth a read.

2 thoughts on “Brian’s Must-Read Books

  1. Brian, I love John Medina’s, “Brain Rules,” and Daniel Pink’s, “Drive.” Both these books speak to how we learn and what motivates us. Love your list. Very thorough on e-learning especially. Thanks for the details and recommendations.

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