20 Best project management books you need to read

Project management books - cover

Whether you’re an experienced project manager or you’ve just been assigned to that role, there’s hardly a better way to enrich your knowledge than by absorbing from the very source of knowledge — directly from books. 

What’s more, reading is provenly a good habit to possess, as it directly builds up your communication skills — one of vital project management skills.

This being said, we’ll cover 20 top project management books that simply must have a place on your office shelf (or in your e-reader). 

Now, with so many books out there, you’re probably struggling to make the right choice.

But, don’t worry, as we’ve made sure the following list includes the best books to read in 2022 when: 

  • Wishing to upgrade your skills
  • Facing a challenge on your latest project
  • In the mood for a business self-improvement book 
  • Looking for a book to earn Professional Development Units (PDUs)
  • Preparing for a Project Management Professional (PMP) exam
  • Beginning a career in project management

So, make sure to scroll through the end, as we’ve prepared a quick overview of the most important things you’ll learn from each book. 

What’s more, we’ve included the best quote, number of pages, and books’ ratings for each individual title.

5 books every project manager should read 

Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all, said a famous American philosopher, Henry David Thoreau.

Well, we’ve got some good news — we’ve highlighted ‘the best’ books every project manager should read. 

Here are the 5 you should start with.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) – Seventh Edition

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Goodreads: ★★★★☆ 3.69  (4,725 ratings) | Amazon: ★★★★★ 4.6 (1,504 ratings) 

Author: Project Management Institute

Published: 2021

Paperback: ‎250 pages

Quote: “A project is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”

Who’s it for? 

For all those who want to dive into the world of PM. Also, it is a great textbook for those taking a PMP exam. 

What’s it about? 

This shorter and more reader-friendly 7th edition of the PMBOK® Guide deals with the most relevant PM terms and concepts in detail. 

What’s new compared to previous editions are sections about agile and hybrid methodologies. 

Also, you’ll get an overview of common project management principles, such as:

  • Stewardship
  • Team
  • Stakeholders
  • Value
  • System Thinking
  • Leadership
  • Risk
  • Quality

What you’ll learn? 

In this book, you’ll read about:

  • Building a culture of respect within a team
  • Engaging stakeholders to understand their needs
  • Leadership and the importance of motivation and coaching
  • Tailoring the delivery approach

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

Learn more about stakeholders in project management here:

Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management

Making Things Happen

Goodreads: ★★★★☆ 3.95  (5,178 ratings) | Amazon: ★★★★★ 4.5 (219 ratings)

Author:  Scott Berkun

Published: 2008

Paperback: 410 pages

Quote: “Without change and the occasional struggle, we can’t learn or grow.”

Who’s it for? 

For any project leader and manager who wants to understand project management on a practical level. 

What’s it about? 

The book is full of stories and examples based on the real-life experiences of the author, who was a project manager at Microsoft himself. He talks about managing day-to-day activities and offers practical techniques for organization.

What you’ll learn? 

You’ll find useful advice on: 

  • Decision-making
  • Leading teams
  • Negotiating
  • Productivity
  • Dealing with tricky situations
  • Monitoring

The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management

The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management

Goodreads: 3.72 ★★★★☆ (710 ratings) | Amazon: ★★★★★ 4.6 (507 ratings)

Author:  Eric Verzuh

Published: 2015 (5th ed.)

Paperback: ‎528 pages

Quote: “There is no question that the best project managers are also outstanding leaders. They have vision, they motivate, they bring people together, and, most of all, they accomplish great things.”

Who’s it for? 

For everybody wanting to master PM, as it offers a comprehensive guide to PM methods and techniques, combined with practical advice. 

What’s it about? 

Covering both theoretical and practical aspects of PM, the book is comprised of five parts: 

  • Introduction to PM
  • Project definition
  • Planning 
  • Project control
  • Advancing the practice

What you’ll learn? 

Not only will the book give you an elaborative insight into the PM field, but it will help you prepare for a PMI certification. It includes a chapter on Agile project management, as well as advice on how to:

  • Manage stakeholders
  • Create realistic schedules
  • Manage several projects at the same time
  • Build budget estimates

Alpha Project Managers: What the Top 2% Know That Everyone Else Does Not

Alpha Project Managers

Goodreads:  3.86 ★★★★☆ (157 ratings) | Amazon: 4.4 ★★★★☆ (138 ratings) 

Author: Andy Crowe 

Published: 2016

Paperback: 208 pages

Quote: “Until my product is in the customer’s hands, communication is my deliverable.”

Who’s it for? 

As the author states, the book is intended for “any project manager who has ever lain awake at night and wondered if there were not a better way.

What’s it about? 

The book is based on the analysis of the survey conducted among 860 project managers. The 18 participants who stood out as the most successful, the author calls — ‘Alphas’. The information gathered includes not only that related to project managers, but people around them, such as stakeholders and team members.

What you’ll learn? 

The interviews with the ‘Alphas’ will point you to meaningful conclusions about:

  • How ‘Alphas’ communicate with stakeholders and resolve conflicts
  • The specific ways they view and carry out projects
  • The techniques they use to practice leadership
  • Their approach to planning and organization
  • Their attitudes and beliefs about project management

The Deadline: A Novel about Project Management 

The Deadline

Goodreads: 4.17 ★★★★☆ (2,130 ratings) | Amazon: 4.3 ★★★★★ (141 ratings) 

Author: Tom DeMarco

Published: 2002

Paperback: 310 pages

Quote: “Terrible suspicion: The real reason for use of pressure and overtime may be to make everyone look better when the project fails.”

Who’s it for? 

For all project managers, both beginners and experienced professionals. 

What’s it about? 

In this humorous and entertaining novel, the story follows a fictional software project manager, Mr. Tompkins, who’s faced with a project of his lifetime. On his way to success, the main character faces many PM-related challenges.

What you’ll learn? 

After each chapter, you’re presented with a bulleted list of the most important ideas Mr. Tompkins learns from his day-to-day PM work, and writes them down in his ‘journal’. His advice actually represents general project management guidelines — here are a couple of quotes from his journal:

  • “Change is essential to all success in project work (and in most other worthwhile endeavors).”
  • “Manage projects by managing their risks.”
  • “Avoiding risk is fatal, since it causes you to miss out on the associated benefit as well.”
  • “Establish easy (perhaps anonymous) channels for bad news to be communicated up the hierarchy.”
  • “People under pressure don’t think any faster.”

Books for beginners in Project Management

Project managers newly assigned to this position already face too many challenges. 

Fortunately, there are ways to ease the entire process and stay organized

One way is to add a couple of our book recommendations to your reading list — we believe they’ll make the beginning of your project management journey a lot easier.

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager

Goodreads: ★★★★☆ 4.08 (1,235 ratings) | Amazon: ★★★★★ 4.6 (1,377 ratings)

Authors: Kory Kogon, James Wood, Suzette Blakemore

Published: 2015

Paperback: ‎256 pages

Quote: “Anything that can be changed will be changed until there is no time left to change anything.”

Who’s it for? 

Written in an easy-digestible and non-technical style, it’s perfect for beginners in project management, as well as those who want to refresh their knowledge in the field.

What’s it about? 

The book focuses on the basic principles of PM and is filled with many real-life practical examples of useful PM tools and techniques.

What you’ll learn? 

Focusing on the practical examples immediately applicable in your day-to-day managing, the book will teach you about the importance of:

The author also answers the following questions:

  • How do ‘smart’ project managers initiate a project?
  • How to ‘tame’ risks?
  • How to manage stakeholders?
  • How to handle conflicts during the process?

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

Learn more about risks in project management:

What You Need to Know about Project Management

What You Need to Know about Project Management

Goodreads: 4.02 ★★★★☆ (265 ratings) | Amazon: 4.5 ★★★★★ (63 ratings) 

Author: Fergus O’Connell 

Published: 2011

Paperback: 272

Quote: So, your goal has to be clear, not vague. We have to have boxes, not clouds.”

Who’s it for? 

It’s a great start for anybody getting familiar with PM, as it’s written in a clear and readable style.

What’s it about? 

The book will inform you about the general principles of PM, through practical, yet entertaining advice on setting goals, managing risks and expectations, and running multiple projects — while at the same time ‘having a life’.

What you’ll learn? 

You’ll get excellent tips on how to:

  • Say “No” politely
  • Set goals smartly
  • Ensure you avoid impossible projects 
  • Keep stakeholders satisfied
  • Manage time effectively
  • Maintain work-life balance

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

If you’re a beginner in PM, take a look at these useful project management tips here:

Fundamentals of Project Management

Fundamentals of Project Management

Goodreads:  3.76  ★★★★☆ (242 ratings) | Amazon: 4.6 ★★★★★ (312 ratings) 

Author: Joseph Heagney

Published: 2016

Paperback: 240 pages

Quote: “The first rule of project management is that the people who must do the work should help plan it.”

Who’s it for? 

For anybody managing a project, regardless of the project’s nature. It’s also great for students taking introductory courses about PM.

What’s it about? 

The book covers the basics of project management in a beginner-friendly writing style. The information is broken down into chapters — followed by visuals, illustrations, bullet points, and exercises after each section.

What you’ll learn? 

Apart from grasping the theory, you’ll also develop PM skills such as:

  • Creating a communication project plan
  • Scheduling
  • Managing stakeholders
  • Setting objectives
  • Establishing a project risk plan

The Lazy Project Manager: How to be Twice as Productive and Still Leave the Office Early

The Lazy Project Manager

Goodreads: 3.49 ★★★★☆ (1,058 ratings) | Amazon: 4.2 ★★★★☆ (112 ratings) 

Author: Peter Taylor 

Published: 2015 (2nd ed.)

Paperback: 152 pages

Quote: “Smart lazy people have a real edge over others in society and are most suited

to leadership roles in organizations.”

Who’s it for? 

For beginners in the area of PM to learn some useful tricks of the trade, such as how to be more productive.

What’s it about? 

The author uses the concept of ‘productive laziness’ — based on the idea that only 20% of things people do during the day actually matter — as a starting point for this book. It goes on to explain how to actually be a productive project manager.

What you’ll learn? 

Through entertaining anecdotes and stories, you’ll learn:

  • How to manage projects effectively
  • How to access ‘productive-lazy heaven’
  • How to deal with crises
  • How to avoid burnout
  • How to get things done efficiently

Books for earning PMI PDUs

Did you know that one of the ways to maintain your PMI Certification is by reading books and collecting PDUs (Professional Development Units)? 

Yes, it’s true.

To cut a long story short, here is how it all functions:

  • Pick any PM topic-related book,
  • Read and takes notes of what you’ve learned,
  • Claim 1 PDU for each hour spent reading. 

Now that you understand the process — it’s time for action. 

Here’s our recommendation of interesting books for PMI PDUs, each followed by a brief overview.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Goodreads:  4.14 ★★★★☆ (649,299 ratings) | Amazon: 4.7 ★★★★★ (9,061 ratings) 

Author: Stephen R. Covey

Published: 2013

Paperback: 391 pages

Quote: “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

Who’s it for? 

This self-help book is written for anybody wanting to become an effective person and leader.  

What’s it about? 

Inspiring stories will teach you practical ways to improve your interpersonal skills, as well as social and emotional intelligence. 

What you’ll learn? 

The author explains in detail how creating certain habits will help build your character. We’ve highlighted some of the useful habits you’ll learn about throughout this book:

  • Being proactive
  • Identifying goals and values
  • Focusing on the important things
  • Demonstrating empathy

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Drive

Goodreads:  3.95 ★★★★☆ (109,597 ratings) | Amazon: 4.5 ★★★★★ (5,304 ratings) 

Author: Daniel H. Pink

Published: 2009

Paperback: 242 pages

Quote: “The monkeys solved the puzzle simply because they found it gratifying to solve puzzles. They enjoyed it. The joy of the task was its own reward.”

Who’s it for? 

For all managers and those who lead teams, wishing to improve teams’ performance.

What’s it about? 

The book examines the processes that make people highly motivated to work, which are:

  • Autonomy — choosing how to work 
  • Mastery — improving their personal skills
  • Purpose — working towards a greater good

What you’ll learn? 

By exploring the key ideas behind motivation, the book offers you practical techniques to put into practice. Moreover, it answers important questions any great manager should ask themselves: 

  • Why is intrinsic motivation important?
  • How to motivate people to do certain tasks?
  • How to create a healthy work environment for your employees?

The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement

The Goal

Goodreads: 4.07 ★★★★☆ (66,910 ratings) | Amazon: 4.6 ★★★★★ (4,176 ratings) 

Author: Eliyahu M. Goldratt

Published: 2004

Paperback: 384 pages

Quote: “Since the strength of the chain is determined by the weakest link, then the first step to improve an organization must be to identify the weakest link.”

Who’s it for? 

For everybody, from managers to business students.

What’s it about? 

The novel’s main character faces many struggles while managing a failing manufacturing plant. The storyline teaches you how to constantly keep improving in the context of business operations and management. 

What you’ll learn? 

In a format of a fiction novel, you’ll get insights into business fundamentals and learn valuable lessons about:

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

The Power of Habit

Goodreads: 4.12  ★★★★☆ (436,700 ratings) | Amazon: 4.7 ★★★★★ (21,959 ratings) 

Author: Charles Duhigg 

Published: 2012

Paperback: 375 pages

Quote: “Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”

Who’s it for

For anybody seeking to change their bad habits — the theory can be implemented on both individual and business levels.

What’s it about? 

There is science behind habits — so is there science behind changing habits? 

Through vivid examples, the book explains how bad habits are formed. Even though bad habits cannot be removed, there are certain ways we can trick our brains into changing them into good habits.

What you’ll learn? 

You’ll learn about both personal and business habits, as well other interesting notions such as:

  • How do people’s buying habits change after major life events?
  • Why is belief crucial in changing habits?
  • What are the habits of societies?
  • Are we responsible for our habits?

Books for PMP exam preparation

There’s a time in almost every project manager’s life when they decide to make their knowledge official and apply for a project management certification.

We know how stressful this time might be — that’s why we’ve highlighted these useful books to help you prepare for a Project Management Professional (PMP) exam and possibly score higher. 

Check out these exam prep books, and — we keep our fingers crossed — you’ve got this!

PMP Exam Prep: Accelerated Learning to Pass the Project Management Professional (PMP) Exam

PMP Exam Prep

Goodreads: 4.31 ★★★★☆ (2,293 ratings) | Amazon: 4.4 ★★★★★ (70 ratings) 

Author: Rita Mulcahy

Published: 2018

Paperback: 673 pages

Quote: “Project management is both a science and an art.”

Who’s it for? 

For everybody studying for the PMP exam.

What’s it about? 

It’s an advanced preparation resource for the PMP exam. It serves as a comprehensive study plan and teaches you what’s necessary to pass the exam.

What you’ll learn? 

This book will help you fill gaps in your knowledge and guide you through the examination process, so you’ll learn:

  • Proven techniques for passing the exam
  • Exam-related tips and tricks
  • To pay attention to the exam’s most problematic areas 

Head First PMP: A Learner’s Companion to Passing the Project Management Professional Exam

Head First PMP

Goodreads: 4.16 ★★★★☆ (987 ratings) | Amazon: 4.6 ★★★★★ (585 ratings) 

Authors: Jennifer Greene, Andrew Stellman

Published: 2018 (4th ed.)

Paperback: 924 pages

Quote: “You usually can’t just tell people to do what you want and have them do it.”

Who’s it for? 

For everybody studying for the PMP exam, especially those who are visual learners.

What’s it about? 

The authors prepare you for a PMP exam with easy-to-follow explanations of the most important PM concepts covered in the PMBOK® Guide.

What you’ll learn? 

The book is especially useful for beginners in PM, as it makes complex ideas simple. What’s more, the author includes puzzles, games, and pictures making the studying process less dull. The book will help you:

  • Understand complex PM concepts 
  • Understand advanced terminology
  • Learn exam strategies
  • Prepare through preparation questions
  • Learn through visuals

The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try

The PMP Exam

Goodreads: 4.10 ★★★★☆ (512 ratings) | Amazon: 4.6 ★★★★★ (219 ratings) 

Author: Andy Crowe

Published: 2020

Paperback:  840 pages

Quote: “Your goal in taking the PMP should be to do your absolute best and to make sure that your best effort falls within PMI’s passing score limits.”

Who’s it for? 

For everybody studying for the PMP exam.

What’s it about? 

The guide can serve as a great additional resource for exam preparation. It explains all the most important concepts of PM in a simple, yet formal language. Chapters are organized by knowledge areas (e.g. Stakeholder Management, Communications Management, Cost Management, etc.).

What you’ll learn? 

Seemingly a bit easier than the real exam questions, the practice questions in this guide will give you a decent overview of PMP exam topics. Among other things, the guide covers:

  • Predictive, agile, and hybrid approaches 
  • Common processes, inputs, tools, and outputs 
  • An entire section on how to pass the PMP exam, with tips and tricks

Agile PM books

Agile approaches and agile methods serve as umbrella terms for different PM methodologies, such as Scrum, Crystal, Scrumban, and so on. 

However, experienced project managers should definitely read books written specifically on this topic — so as to ensure a clear understanding of all important details. 

Here are some ideas on what to read.

💡 Plaky Pro Tip

To learn statistics on the most popular PM methodologies, check out this post:

Agile Practice Guide

Agile Practice Guide

Goodreads: 3.69 ★★★★☆ (375 ratings) | Amazon: 4.6 ★★★★★ (1,263 ratings) 

Author: Project Management Institute

Published: 2017

Paperback:  210 pages 

Quote: “The end goal is not to be agile for its own sake, but rather to deliver a continuous flow of value to customers and achieve better business outcomes.”

Who’s it for? 

For project teams who want to get a better understanding of the agile approach and practices, as it serves as guidance for successful projects.

What’s it about? 

The guide is project-focused and deals with a project life cycle and its implementation. Also, the guide deals not only with the computer software industry, but also with non-software development environments. 

What you’ll learn? 

Among other things, this guide will teach you about:

  • Implementing agile approaches at a project or team level
  • Most popular agile approaches
  • Factors to consider when choosing a certain approach
  • Use of agile beyond software development

Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaos

Doing Agile Right

Goodreads: 3.86 ★★★★☆ (536 ratings) | Amazon: 4.5 ★★★★★ (573 ratings) 

Authors:  Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk, Steve Berez

Published: 2020

Paperback: 256 pages

Quote: “A company embarking on an agile transformation has a built-in advantage over companies seeking other kinds of changes, because it has the tools of agile at its disposal.” 

Who’s it for? 

The book aims to help companies and agile teams:

  • Build agile habits,
  • Recognize and avoid possible pitfalls,
  • Improve performance.

What’s it about? 

It instructs you how to do agile right. 

However, the author doesn’t fail to mention the possible misuses of agile on examples of certain companies, hoping these stories will serve as a good lesson to learn from. 

What you’ll learn? 

Among other things, you’ll learn about:

  • Elements comprising agile
  • Scaling Agile
  • Leading agile companies
  • Agile planning and budgeting
  • Agile structures and people

Scrum PM books

A vital step towards becoming a Scrum master entails some reading.

These books will provide a strong foundation for the Scrum approach and are a nice addition to the project management bookshelf. 

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time

Scrum

Goodreads: 4.16 ★★★★☆ (18,987 ratings) | Amazon: 4.6 ★★★★★  (3,046 ratings)

Author: Jeff Sutherland

Published: 2014

Paperback: 237 pages

Quote: “Multitasking Makes You Stupid. Doing more than one thing at a time makes you slower and worse at both tasks. Don’t do it. If you think this doesn’t apply to you, you’re wrong — it does.”

Who’s it for?  

For all managers and CEOs who wish to understand Scrum and learn how to implement it.

What’s it about? 

The author explains the basic ideas and the philosophy behind Scrum, which serves not only to strengthen cooperation, but to make a team work efficiently.

What you’ll learn? 

After reading this book, you’ll gain basic knowledge about Scrum, as well as how to begin implementing Scrum in your team or organization. You’ll also read about:

  • Waste management
  • The importance of setting priorities
  • Project time management

The Scrum Fieldbook: A Master Class on Accelerating Performance, Getting Results, and Defining the Future

The Scrum Fieldbook

Goodreads: 4.01  ★★★★☆  (407 ratings) | Amazon: 4.6 ★★★★★ (264 ratings)

Author: J.J. Sutherland

Published: 2019

Hardcover: 272 pages

Quote: “Scrum is not an endpoint, but rather a journey in which team members join each other as they embark into new ways of organizing work.”

Who’s it for? 

For all business leaders and managers who wish to become high-performers and achieve visible results at work.

What’s it about? 

Scrum is not only effective for teams in IT companies, but for any kind of team, in any industry. It’s exactly what this book provides — examples of companies using Scrum on a large scale.

What you’ll learn? 

Based on years of work in the field, the author gives many real-life examples of how Scrum was implemented in non-technology companies, such as:

  • Toyota
  • 3M
  • Schlumberger
  • Autodesk

Through practical examples, you’ll learn about:

  • Positions in a Scrum team and their responsibilities
  • Elements of Scrum such as Sprint
  • Scrum meetings and their purpose

Conclusion: Manage your reading habits the way you manage your projects

To conclude, here’s a brief overview of the books we’ve highlighted in this post, divided by categories: 

Must readBeginnerPMI PDUsPMP examBooks on AgileBooks on Scrum
PMBOK® GuideProject Management for the Unofficial Project ManagerThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleRita Mulcahy’s PMP Exam PrepAgile Practice GuideScrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time
Making Things HappenWhat You Need to Know about Project ManagementDrive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates UsHead First PMPDoing Agile Right: Transformation Without ChaosThe Scrum Fieldbook
The Fast Forward MBA in Project ManagementFundamentals of Project ManagementThe Goal: A Process of Ongoing ImprovementThe PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try
Alpha Project ManagersThe Lazy Project ManagerThe Power of Habit
The Deadline: A Novel about Project Management 

As we’ve already mentioned in the introduction — reading is a good habit that directly influences project managers’ soft skills development in a positive way. 

Now that we’ve established why and what to read, here’s our bonus advice for all the project manager geeks out there — steps to manage your reading the way you manage your projects — i.e. in project phases:

Project PhasesReading Phases
InitiationDecide what to read; set a goal
PlanningSchedule time for reading
ExecutionRead
Monitoring and controlEliminate distractions
ClosureEnjoy the knowledge you’ve gained

So, reading will almost certainly upgrade both your personal and professional skills — with all that in mind — it’s time to grab a book and initiate your reading project. 

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