12 Best Project Management Books to Read in 2021

Home » Books » Project Management BooksUpdated: May 03, 2021

You found our list of the best project management books.

Project management books are guides that explain how to successfully steer initiatives. These books explore topics like work breakdown structures, Six Sigma, Scrum, stakeholder communication, scheduling, and team management.

These books are similar to management books and leadership books, and help develop manager skills.

This post includes:

  • project management books for beginners
  • books on project management for MBA students
  • project management books for engineers

Here comes the list!

List of project management books

Here is a list of books that explain project management competencies in simple terms with concrete examples.

1. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland and J.J. Sutherland

scrum

This book explores the Scrum methodology of project management. This method is a framework for efficiently executing complex projects in a short span of time. The guiding philosophy behind Scrum is that customers often change their minds, causing product teams to pivot and adapt gracefully to deliver solutions in short periods of time. Though pioneered in the software industry, the principles of Scrum have popped up across various disciplines such as education, marketing, sales, engineering, finance, and legal. Jeff Sutherland is one of the co-creators of Scrum and JJ Sutherland is the CEO of Scrum, Inc, meaning readers learn directly from two of the topmost subject experts.

Notable Quote: “No Heroics. If you need a hero to get things done, you have a problem. Heroic effort should be viewed as a failure of planning.”

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

2. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by Project Management Institute

body of knowledge

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge is the holy grail of project management basics. The 700+ page book covers all aspects of project management and systems, from integration and scope management, to cost control, risk negation, human resource management, and more. This resource outlines the key factors of successful project implementation, providing chapter-by-chapter breakdowns of relevant concepts. While not necessarily a light read or a pleasure read, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge is a comprehensive textbook that covers the full spectrum of project fundamentals.

Notable Quote: “Project managers operate in a global environment and work on projects characterized by cultural diversity. Team members often have diverse industry experience, know multiple languages, and sometimes operate in the “team language” that may be a different language or norm than their native one. The project management team should capitalize on cultural differences, focus on developing and sustaining the project team throughout the project life cycle, and promote working together interdependently in a climate of mutual trust.”

Buy A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge.

3. Project Management for The Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, & James Wood

unofficial project manager

While most project management guides cater to official leads, this book explores project management for non-project managers. Project Management for The Unofficial Project Manager instructs informal leaders on how best to coordinate and organize initiatives. The book explores the five main stages of the process: initiating, planning, executing,

monitoring, and closing. The authors illustrate each step with examples, lists, and diagrams, creating a clear, actionable guide for leaders without titles.

Notable Quote: “Here’s what I’ve observed: Successful projects are transparent. Everyone knows what’s working well and what isn’t. Information is broadly shared and there’s no guessing, enabling people to make small adjustments that keep the project in alignment. In unsuccessful projects, information is doled out on an ‘as-needed’ basis. People are expected to work in silos, keep their heads down, stay focused on their own part of the project, and are discouraged from asking questions.”

Buy Project Management for The Unofficial Project Manager.

4. Fundamentals of Project Management by Joseph Heagney

fundamentals of project management

Fundamentals of Project Management is a great resource for newcomers looking to increase knowledge and build skills. The book covers basics such as understanding the role of project managers, collaborating with stakeholders, developing a work breakdown structure, monitoring project progress, and leading teams. The book has short sections, numbered lists, and exercises meant to reinforce knowledge. Fundamentals of Project Management serves as a learning tool for beginner and less technically-inclined project managers.

Notable Quote: “If you consider the major function of managing it is to ensure that the desired organization objectives are met. This is accomplished by exercising control over scarce resources. However, the word “control” has two connotations, and we must be careful which one we intend.”

Buy Fundamentals of Project Management.

5. Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Gregory M. Horine

absolute beginner's guide

One of the best project management books for beginners is Gregory M. Horine’s Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide. The book explores the essential qualities of successful project leaders, identifies common missteps of first time project managers, and provides comprehensive guidance on how to handle various tasks. The writing style is straightforward and simple, and each chapter contains easy to understand charts and diagrams that illustrate key concepts.

Notable Quote: “The process of leading a project is more than managing the project. The process of leading a project entails the approach utilized to guide the people involved (team, stakeholders, organization,) toward the accomplishment of the project’s objectives. This process involves your mindset and leverages key skills such as dedication, interpersonal, adaptability, and customer orientation.”

Buy Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide.

6. The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh

fast forward mba

As the title suggests, this book is one of the best project management books for MBA students. The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management provides comprehensive coverage of all aspects of the project management process. For example: adopting agile approaches or lean startup methodologies, identifying and collaborating with key stakeholders, and managing risk. A clear index means readers can quickly navigate to specific concepts, making this work a valuable resource and study guide. The book also contains a section on PMP Exam preparation, as well as dozens of downloadable forms.

Notable 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.”

Buy The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management.

7. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management by Scott Berkun

making things happen

Scott Berkun has almost a decade of experience as a project manager at Microsoft. In this book, Berkun shares strategies for successfully coordinating initiatives and leading teams. Promoting an action-centered approach, the book focuses on achieving results through winning philosophy and careful planning. Contrary to the instructional tone typical of the genre, Making Things Happen consists of personal essays that illuminate the essence of project management through the lens of Berkun’s tenure.

Notable Quote:While the superficial details of failure might differ dramatically from project to project, the root causes of team actions that led to them might be entirely transferable (and avoidable.) Even on our own projects, we need to avoid the habit of running away and hiding from failures.”

Buy Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management.

8. HBR Guide to Project Management by the Harvard Business Review

hbr guide to project management

The HBR Guide to Project Management draws on the collective knowledge of top business professionals to teach project basics such as:

  • Building a committed and focused team
  • Breaking objectives into manageable tasks
  • Managing stakeholders’ expectations
  • Measuring project success

Each chapter uses clearcut language, indexes, and charts to break down complicated concepts into the simplest elements. This feature makes HBR Guide to Project Management one of the best books for first time project managers.

Notable Quote: “When forming project teams, people tend to focus too narrowly on technical skills and overlook interpersonal and organizational skills, which are just as important..”

Buy HBR Guide to Project Management.

9. Risk Up Front: Managing Projects in a Complex World by Adam Josephs and Brad Rubenstein

risk up front

Risk Up Front is about forecasting all possible complications at the beginning of a project to better prepare to confront those challenges. The book identifies the tools and techniques needed to build high-performing, critical thinking teams that overcome obstacles and achieve timely and impressive results. The writing style is conversational and peppered with lists and illustrations that make for entertaining reading.

Notable Quote: “It is crucial to change the cultural norm on your team from an expectation of “We will do our best!” to the commitment “It will be so.”

Buy Risk Up Front: Managing Projects in a Complex World.

10. Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure by Todd Williams

rescue the problem project

While most project management books describe the entire project lifecycle, Rescue the Problem Project hones in on when projects don’t go to plan. The book outlines common circumstances like missed deadlines, disappearing budgets, and interpersonal conflict, and suggests steps to fix these issues. Todd Williams explains how to properly identify and understand issues, using case studies and real-life experiences to explore topics such as the contributors for failure, methodologies for project recovery, as well as solution strategies and implementation.

Notable Quote: “Experience teaches that when the customer anticipates something without specifically requesting it, and it is missing from the exclusion list while other nonrequested items are included, the customer argues that the anticipated item is in scope.”

Buy Rescue the Problem Project.

11. 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know: Collective Wisdom from the Experts by Camille Fournier

things every engineering manager should know

Succeeding in the engineering field requires extensive technical knowledge and skill that often takes precedence over the development of soft skills. Thus, many engineering managers struggle to adopt dynamic approaches to leading project teams. 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know gathers insights from dozens of industry leaders including author Camille Fournier, former CTO of Rent the Runway. Technical managers in search of project management books for engineers can benefit from the concise advice presented by this collection.

Notable Quote: “I’m going to share a head-smackingly simple lesson that has served me well. Ready? Make every fourth one-on-one meeting a retrospective to discuss improvements to your one-on-ones.”

Buy 97 Things Every Engineering Manager Should Know.

12. The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture by Scott Belsky

the messy middle

Project managers in need of assurance as well as instruction can benefit from The Messy Middle. This book is a primer for enduring the grueling complications and self-doubt that often arise in the midst of important endeavors. The book covers emotional abilities such as leading through uncertainty as well as tactical competencies like providing structure and communication to teams. Scott Belsky explores the gamut of successful venture leadership, from idea inception and initiation to implementation, endurance, and closing. The author explains the technical skills and emotional intelligence needed to thrive throughout the journey.

Notable Quote: “Sadly, most people are not patient enough to reap the fruits of their own labor. Great teams gain their strength and resilience while toiling their way through the valleys, not just from relishing the view from the peaks.”

Buy The Messy Middle.

Conclusion

Managing the many moving parts involved in project development and deployment can be difficult. Fortunately, project management books provide time-tested frameworks and expert advice for navigating projects successfully. These guides break down operations into simple elements, helping you stay organized and in control of timely deliverables.

For more reading suggestions, check out our posts on change management books, employee engagement books and these books on teamwork.

You may also be interested in our list of the best project management software.

FAQ: Project Management Books

Here are answers to common questions about project management books.

What are project management books?

Project management books are instructional guides on concepts like Agile, Scrum, work breakdown structures, scheduling, stakeholder communication, and team management. The books provide easy to understand explanations and step by step processes. While some of these works aim to outline the basics, others focus on specific angles such as recovering problem projects or working more quickly and efficiently.

What are good project management books for beginners?

Some good project management books for beginners include A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, Fundamentals of Project Management, Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide, and The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management.

Can reading books help you become a better project manager?

While reading books alone will not make you a talented project leader, following the advice set forth in these guides will help you develop skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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