We are committed to researching, testing, and recommending the best products. We may receive commissions from purchases made after visiting links within our content. Learn more about our review process.
In order to become a great project manager, you need to know how to work with a lot of moving parts, organize teams, meet deadlines and stay within budget. Project management is complex and requires elements of psychology, business and even game theory. The books below will set you well on your way to becoming a better PM, whether you’re just starting out in the field or have decades of experience.
Best Overall: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge
Yes, this is sort of a textbook. Yes, it contains nearly 800 pages of information. Yes, it is highly technical at times. But there really is no better or more widely accepted guide to project management than the PMBOK Guide. The guide is compiled by The Project Management Institute, a group that sets the industry standards for project management. They also provide networking and seminars for their members and provide PM accreditation. The latest addition features advice on how to turn theoretical and philosophical ideas into practical solutions for all of your day-to-day PM challenges. We suggest getting the Kindle version over the print version of this edition, as many reviewers have found the printed version (which uses anti-counterfeit technology) can be a bit difficult to read.
Best for Beginners: Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management
If you’re new to project management, you need a comprehensive and practical guide. Thankfully, Scott Berkun’s book is here to help. Berkun spent over a decade as a PM for big tech companies and draws on his extensive experience throughout the book. The 410-page book is definitely comprehensive and provides advice for every step of the project management process. Although it draws on many complicated theories, the book is written in a style that is easy and approachable. The book includes both essays on underlying theory and philosophy as well as practical, concise advice, and has a very helpful chapter entitled “What To Do When Things Go Wrong.” As a bonus, the book includes several inspirational mantras, lest you need something to mutter under your breath when you’re tackling your first big PM challenge.
Read Next: The Best Strategy Books
Best for Teams: Scrum -- The Art Of Doing Twice The Work In Half The Time
In Rugby, a scrum is an offensive play in which the forwards join arms, bow their heads and charge the opposing team. Once the ball is thrown into play, the “scrum”ers try to kick the ball backward toward their teammates in order to regain possession of the ball. In business, scrum involves thinking about a large complex in an agile and collaborative way. The man who helped coin the term’s business application, Jeff Sutherland, has written this book in order to convince you why you need scrum in your life – and makes the claim that it can increase your productivity and quality of work by 1,200 percent (though that might be a bit of a stretch). But the fact of the matter is that most teams, regardless of industry, do typically see a huge increase in productivity when undertaking scrum methods. At the very least, the book will teach you how to collaborate better and get back on track if you’re not.
Best Quick Refresher: Brilliant Project Management
This book is a perfect quick refresher course on advanced project management. Stephen Barker’s classic provides hilarious and memorable illustrations of common challenges you encounter when running a big team or planning a vital project, without getting bogged down by theory. It’s a great thing to pick up when you’re stuck with a team or project or when you just need fresh ideas to use to motivate yourself or your employees. This book will help you stay on budget and on schedule while keeping your sanity, health and humor as well.
Best Approach: Work Smarter, Reduce Your Stress & Lead by Example
Every day, we make thousands of decisions that shape our lives, our work and even the people around us. Some decisions are easy and some require a lot of time and thought, but every decision we have to make slows us down. One key to productivity, as Steve McClatchy reveals in his book, is learning how to be a more efficient decision maker. After his experience working with top executives, McClatchy has discovered actionable insights that will help you streamline your decision making process and improve your life. If you want to make better decisions, be less stressed, feel more in control and advance your career, this is a book for you.
Read Next: The Best Leadership Books
Best if You're Stressed: Getting Things Done: Art of Stress-Free Productivity
If you’re a beginner, this book’s use of jargon and complex scenarios might be intimidating. But experienced project managers have a lot to learn from David Allen’s classic book. The basic premise, ironically, is that the key to being the best PM you can be starts with a very simple idea: making sure you are relaxed. When you’ve got a million things to do, all the planning in the world won’t help if you’re not clear-headed and calm from the outset. Your productivity, and your ability to lead your team, depends on your ability to focus and maintain a low level of stress even when there is chaos all around you. You’re only at your best when you can think clearly, which requires a level of calm. Allen’s book will help the most senior and harried PMs declutter their work and their lives – and take their work to even higher levels of success.
Best for Climbing The Corporate Ladder: Alpha Project Managers
If you’re looking to grow as an individual and advance your career at the same time, this is a perfect read for you. This book is based on a scientific and thorough survey of over 800 project managers worldwide and focuses on what separates the superstar PMs from the average. It’s great for learning the traits and habits that help determine what your peers and superiors think of you – and what will help you climb the corporate ladder most quickly. The author, Andy Crowe, also debunks several of the myths about successful and unsuccessful project management. The book is heavily researched and a vital read for understanding the character traits, methods and practices that will help you take your career to the next level.
Read Next: The Best Networking Books