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13 Best Project Management Books for All Types of Project Managers

Tim Macchi
May 1, 2017

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 are a plethora of books on the subject of Project Management. 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.

We essentially did all the research for you. We combed through Amazon, review websites and even asked for recommendations from experienced Project Managers. We took all this into consideration and whittled a long list down and sorted it. You can view the entire list here.

Beginner Project Management books

Intermediate Project Management books

Advanced Project Management/ Leadership books

Bonus: Industry specific project management books

Beginner Project Management books

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.

1 - A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

This book is also known as the PMBOK by project managers. It is THE textbook on the subject and many consider it a requirement if you are 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.

Pros: Expansive, thorough, authoritative, will help you pass the PMP

Cons: Dry, tough to read.

2 - Project Management for Non-Project Managers

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 as a book to read for those who manage project managers because it helps them understand a day in the life of a PM if they have not project managed themselves.

Pros: Easier to get through than the PMBOK, easy for non project managers to get a quick overview.

Cons: Some consider it to be outdated.

3 - Project Management: Absolute Beginner’s Guide

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 the solid examples and actionable on the job advice.

Pros: Easy to read, great reference

Cons: Lacking examples and practical on the job advice

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Intermediate Project Management books

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.

1 - Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management

This book is a collection of essays based on the author's nine 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 are looking for a framework of project management, you should look elsewhere, but if you have the basics down, and want to learn to improve the softer skills and nuanced challenges they don’t prepare you for in the PMP, this book is a great choice.

Pros: Easy to read, conversational style

Cons: A bit verbose. Conversational, not concise.

2 - Strategic Project Management Made Simple – Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams

This book packs a lot into a surprisingly quick read. Its 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 this book will give you the tools to fix that.

Pros: Inspiring, actionable

Cons: None really

3 - The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management

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 is such a complete book and is used to supplement the PMBOK in many academic settings. If you are looking to implement a more official process in your organization, this book will help you more than the PMBOK.

Pros: great real world examples, actionable

Cons: tough to read, textbook

Advanced Project Management/ Leadership books

If you are looking to go beyond the basics and expand your leadership skills, these books will help you take your project management to legendary status.

1 - Getting Things Done

This isn't a project management book, but a productivity system. As a project manager, you are constantly juggling many things and often wearing many hats. Many experienced project managers swear by the GTD method of making sure they get what they need to get done. It 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 that one can free one's mind from constant distractions.

2 -  The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

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 the examples are a bit dated, but 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?

3 - Brilliant Project Management: What the best project managers know, do, and say

Even project managers who know it all can find a nugget that 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 will also gain value from this book.

Bonus: Best Industry Specific Books

The books listed above are great for any project manager, regardless of industry. But some industries call for some specialized advice. We have included some of the best industry-specific project management books below.

Best IT Project Management Book - The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win

This book teaches project management principles through a fictional story. Chances are if you're in IT, you have 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.

Best Construction Project Management Book - Construction Management JumpStart

Written by an expert with over 20 years of experience as a licensed contractor, gives an introduction to construction management basics. This book will teach you about industry specific issues like sustainability and Building Information Modeling (BIM).

Best Engineering/Manufacturing Project Management Book - Epiphanized: A Novel on Unifying Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Six Sigma

There are two parts to this book: part one follows the Business Novel format introduced by Eli Goldratt, and part two describes the concepts of “Theory of Constraints” (TOC), Lean and Six Sigma in a more traditional explanation format. The book demonstrates how to achieve superior on-time delivery along with unprecedented levels of profitability.

Best Digital Project Management Book - Interactive Project Management: Pixels, People, and Process

Interactive project management is different. The work entails elements of software development, marketing, and advertising, yet it’s neither purely technical nor traditional “agency” work. Delivery methods are different, and because the industry is relatively new, the gap in understanding between the clients buying the work and the teams building it is often wide. Enter the geek girls guide. Nancy Lyons and Meghan Wilker don’t just tell you how to deliver digital work, they demonstrate how to think about it.

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