This is my own idiosyncratic Recommended Reading Book List (with Amazon Associate links, support your friendly neighborhood consultant), subject to ongoing change*. For instance, does Map It go in beginning or practicing? And it's only books, and I'm probably missing some important ones*. Still, these are books I feel very comfortable recommending for the purposes described. It's biased by perspective (cognitive) and my knowledge limitations (e.g. not a media expert). And some may be out of print already! FWIW.

Beginning (e.g. the accidental instructional designer):


Cammy Bean’s The Accidental Instructional Designer.  Now, I think the fact that this book needs to exist is kind of an indictment of our field. Do we have accidental surgeons?  Not to the extent we prepare for them!  Still, it’s a reality, and Cammy’s done the field a real service in this supremely practical and  accessible book.

Michael Allen’s Guide to eLearning. Michael’s got the scientific credibility, the practical experience, a commitment to making things right, and a real knack for simplifying things. This book, with it’s SAM and CCAF framework, provides a very good go-to-whoa process for designing learning experiences what will work.

Practicing Designer:


Julie Dirksen’s Design for How People Learn is a really accessible introduction to learning science, boiling it down into practical terms as a process for design.  With great illustrations, it’s an easy but important read.

Cathy Moore's Map It is a very practical, detailed, yet light-hearted look at cutting through the fluff and focusing rabidly on meaningful actions. It combines performance consulting with learning design in a very accessible way.

I'm inclined to add Rance Greene's Instructional Story Design. Nice approach to developing a narrative experience.

I'll immodestly add two books of mine, Millennials, Goldfish, & Other Training Misconceptions, debunking some of the myths that plague our industry, and Learning Science for Instructional Designers, an easy introduction to the foundational research that (should) guide practice.

Going deeper:


Donald Norman’s Design of Everyday Things is key reading for anyone who designs for people. (OK, so I’m biased, because he was my Ph.D. adviser, but I’m not the only one who says so.) Not specific to learning, but one of those rare books that is pretty much guaranteed to change the way you look at the world.

Brown, Roediger, & McDaniel’s Make it Stick. 10 points from learning science about what works.

Ericsson’s Peak, a book about what makes real expertise, with a focus on the nuances of deliberate practice.

Susan Ambrose, et al, have written How Learning Works, which nicely lays out some learning principles and their interpretation for practical application. Focused on higher ed, it's valuable across the board.

Neelen & Kirschner's Evidence-Informed Learning Design provides guidance about the myths and bad practices that bedevil our industry, and some deep advice about what learning really is and how to make it happen.

Patti Shank’s Make it Learnable series gets into specifics on learning design. Comprehensive and yet accessible. See also her book on how to Write Better Multiple-Choice Questions to Assess Learning.

Ruth Clark’s eLearning & The Science of Instruction (with Dick Mayer) and/or Evidence Based Training Methods.

Guy Wallace has arguably the most detailed process going, with all the right things, documented in Conducting Performance-Based Instructional Analysis.

Annie Murphy Paul's The Extended Mind covers situated, distributed, and social cognition and addresses them in a concise and accessible way. It also has specific recommendations for learning & instruction!

Of course, there are separate topics:


Social: Conner & Bingham’s The New Social Learning and Jane Bozarth’s Show Your Work.

Mobile: my own Designing mLearning or anything by Chad Udell (e.g. Learning Everywhere)

Games: my own Engaging Learning and anything game from Karl Kapp (e.g. the new book with Sharon Boller, Play to Learn) or Clark (the other Clark) Aldrich.

Realities: Koreen Pagano’s Immersive Learning, and perhaps Kapp & O’Driscoll’s Learning in 3D as a foundation.

Performance Support: Allison Rossett’s Job Aids & Performance Support and Gottfredson & Mosher’s Innovative Performance Support.

UX: Dorian Peters book on Interface Design for Learning also has some good learning principles as well as interface design guidance.  It’s not the same for learning as for doing.

Visual Design: Based only on a quick look, but also my knowledge of her work, I'd recommend Connie Malamed's Visual Design Solutions.

Evaluation: I'm not a real fan of much out there. The exception is Will Thaheimer's Performance-Focused Smile Sheets is an important step in the right direction. (Here's hoping he comes out with a book version of his new LTEM model.)

Engagement: Tania Luna & LeeAnn Rettinger's Surprise is a valuable book for talking about what takes events to experiences, and how to do that systematically.

Going Broader:


Informal: Jay Cross’ Informal Learning. Talking about the rest of learning besides formal, long before anyone else. A landmark book.

Performance Ecosystem: Marc Rosenberg’s Beyond eLearning (the first to look 'beyond the course'; prescient), and/or my Revolutionize Learning & Development. About L&D strategy; going beyond just courses to meet the real needs of the org.

Organizational Learning: Amy Edmondson's Teaming and Stan McChrystal's Team of Teams talk about how to create conditions to get people working effectively. Complementing that is Dan Pink's Drive, which lays out some truths about what motivates people.

Going Really Deep (if you really want to geek out on learning and cognitive science):


Daniel Kahnemann’s Thinking Fast and Slow about how our brains don’t work logically. Or the behavioral economics stuff, like Freakonomics.

Andy Clark’s Being There about the newer views on cognition including situated cognition.

Ed Hutchins' Cognition in the Wild talks about distributed cognition. On the academic side.

Lisa Feldman Barrett's How Emotions Are Made upends the traditional view of emotion and also unpacks the new 'prediction' model of cognition.