There are a ton of resources out there to help any project manager level up their skills. One of the best resources is a great book, and there’s no shortage of books on the subject of project management.
So how do you pick where to start? It helps to select books that are appropriate to your level of expertise and experience in project management.
And lucky for you, we did all the research for you! We combed through Amazon, review websites, and even asked for recommendations from experienced project managers. We took the entire list into consideration, then whittled it down and sorted it. Here’s what made our short list.
Whether you just fell into the role or are hoping to break into it soon, these books will help you nail the basics and ramp up quickly.
Also known as the PMBOK by project managers, this book is THE textbook on the subject, and many consider it a requirement if you’re planning on taking (and passing) the PMP exam. It was by far the book that came up the most as a recommendation from experienced project managers. It’s a little tough to read, as it is an academic textbook, but it’s just one of those books you should probably have around to reference.
Many project managers never take the PMP. They start out in management or another role and end up filling the void to make sure the trains run on time. This is a great book targeted at those who are in traditional management roles who want to get more involved with project management.
Many project managers recommend it for those who manage project managers. If you’ve never managed projects yourself, it will help you understand a day in the life of a PM.
This book is a slightly stripped down and easier-to-read version of the PMBOK. It's very well organized and approachable. Many classes use it as an alternative to the PMBOK, and students say it really helps them pass the PMP. While it covers the basics and theory of project management, it’s lacking a little bit in solid examples and actionable on-the-job advice.
Written by our very own Director of Education Brett Harned, this book takes the stuffiness out of project management and delivers personal stories and practical advice anyone can use to lead projects to success. You’ll learn tactical basics like estimating and planning projects, as well as how to develop soft skills like empathy and communication. It’s all designed to help you manage both people and projects more easily. If you’re looking for a personable approach to project management, this one’s for you.
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For those who have some on-the-job project management experience (and the scars to prove it), these books will help you take your skills to the next level.
This book is a collection of essays based on the author's 9 years of experience as a program manager for Microsoft’s biggest projects. It covers a lot of fundamentals, such as effective communication, decision-making, planning, and problem-solving.
If you’re looking for a framework of project management, you should look elsewhere. But if you have the basics down and want to improve the softer skills and nuanced challenges they don’t prepare you for in the PMP, this book is a great choice.
This book packs a lot into a surprisingly quick read. It’s one of the most highly rated books on this list. More than just a project management book, it includes an actionable framework for achieving goals and deep thinking. If you find projects go off the rails because not enough time is spent upfront thinking through the details, this book will give you the tools to fix that.
This book falls somewhere between beginner and intermediate. It’s more of a real-world guide than the PMBOK, so it may be easier to get into for those who have some experience but need to shore up their foundations. It’s such a complete book and is used to supplement the PMBOK in many academic settings. If you’re looking to implement a more official process in your organization, this book will help you more than the PMBOK.
If you’re looking to go beyond the basics and expand your leadership skills, these books will help you take your project management to legendary status.
This isn't just a project management book, but a productivity system. As a project manager, you constantly juggle many things and often wear many hats. Many experienced project managers swear by the GTD method of ensuring they get what they need to get done.
Getting Thing Done shows you how to organize tasks using simple lists and structures. It’s important to have a well-organized structure to put ideas immediately into and to trust the structure so you can free your mind from constant distractions.
Peter Drucker is a legend in management circles. Many authors today credit him as the foundation of the strategies being built today. As a project manager, this book is helpful because it provides a great framework for effectively managing yourself and others. The book is over 40 years old, and while the examples are a bit dated, the message is still very relevant.
The core message is that effectiveness is a habit, not a skill. Effectiveness is "getting the right things done." This is very different from efficiency, which is merely "doing things right." What project manager doesn't want to be more effective?
Even project managers who know it all can find a nugget they can apply immediately in this easy-to-read book. The authors combine for 40 years of experience and share their hardest-won lessons.
This book gives practical, real-world advice/examples. It’s a great book to give out if you run a team of project managers. But save one for your own bookshelf, as you’ll also gain value from this book.
The books listed above are great for any project manager, regardless of industry. But some industries call for specialized advice. We’ve included some of the best industry-specific project management books below.
This book teaches project management principles through a fictional story. Chances are, if you're in IT, you’ve read it or heard of it, as it’s considered required reading for most IT departments today. It’s great for breaking your org out of the cycle of unplanned work, which is important for any project manager.
Written by an expert with over 20 years of experience as a licensed contractor, this book gives an introduction to construction project management basics. It will teach you about industry-specific issues, like sustainability and Building Information Modeling (BIM).
There are 2 parts to this book. Part 1 follows the business novel format introduced by Eli Goldratt, and part 2 describes the concepts of Theory of Constraints (TOC), Lean, and Six Sigma in a more traditional explanation format. The book demonstrates how to achieve on-time delivery and awesome profitability for any engineering or manufacturing project.
In digital project management, no two projects are the same. Work may happen in an agency or on an internal team and often relies on cross-functional collaboration to succeed. This book shows you how to adapt traditional processes to interactive projects while also giving you the tools you need to lead projects and teams with emotional intelligence. It’s a fun and easy read for any digital project manager.
So what do you do with all the new knowledge you’ll gain reading these books? Apply it to the awesome work you’re already doing, of course!
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