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While it’s impossible to replace real-life project experience, project management books can still come in handy when:

  • You’ve got a few gaps in your knowledge that you want to fill
  • You’re taking on a new type of project
  • You come across an aspect of a project that you haven't done before
  • You're struggling to work with a new project management software tool

There are project management books to cover everything from basic concepts to skills, techniques, the softer skills of leadership, communication, delegation, and productivity. But you don't have to read them all! I've rounded up the best ones here for your convenience.

Project Management Books For Newbies

This one's for anyone still deciding on whether they want a career in project management (or is just starting out).

Become A Project Manager

1. So You Think You Want To Be A Digital Project Manager?

This is a digital project management book for anyone who thinks they might want to get started in a career as a digital project manager (DPM).

The book covers what being a digital project manager is all about, what digital project management is, why people love it, and what DPMs actually do all day.

The book explores what makes a great digital project manager and explores where you can begin and what steps you can take to start your career as a DPM.

This book is one of many available through our DPM Membership along with heaps more learning resources, templates, session recordings, and networking opportunities with practicing digital project management experts.

Read it for:

  • A helpful introduction to the world of digital project management
  • A handy guide to pivoting your career towards the role of a digital project manager

Project Management Books For Beginners

The following books are for those in the early stages of their career. Maybe you're a junior PM, or even a project coordinator or assistant. Whatever your role, start with these project management books for beginners (they're all available on Amazon, but check out your local bookstore too!).

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2. Project Management JumpStart by Kim Heldman (4th Edition)

If you are someone handling a project for the first time, this book is a great place to (jump) start. Project Management JumpStart is an easy-to-read project management book written in a friendly, conversational tone.

It thoroughly covers project management basics and the project management life cycle that those new to project management will need to get acquainted with—the planning, executing, managing, and closing of projects as outlined in the PMBOK guide.

It includes great content, which although not digital-specific, helps bring the principles of project management to life with practical content that is useful for applying to digital projects.

You’ll find real-world examples with case studies, and well-thought-out solutions for handling most problems you’re likely to come up against in your first few projects.

Read it for:

  • Handy case studies and helpful examples
  • A broad high-level understanding of project management

3. Project Management: Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Greg Horine (5th Edition)

Another project management book that covers the project management life cycle is this one from Greg Horine.

Beginners will learn about building a project plan and proper work breakdown structure (WBS), and creating budgets and timelines.

If you haven’t done this before, this book is all you need in order to know how to make a project schedule, set a budget and manage it, control deliverables, manage conflict, conduct risk management, ensure quality communication, work with stakeholders, be a great leader, and even more!

It may be a lot to take in at once, but it is great to use as a guide at every stage of a new project.

Read it for:

  • Mastering the key skills of project management
  • Learning how to keep projects on track

4. Project Management for Non-Project Managers by Jack Ferraro

The reason beginners need to read this book is that it covers not only what project managers need to do, but also explains this in the light of various types of managers and how their tasks differ.

It primarily compares project managers with functional managers, and highlights that while the latter may be interested in the status quo, project managers focus on dramatic change.

While functional managers focus on small progressions that improve productivity and success, project managers need to come up with plans that bring huge improvements—and this book tells you how to do that.

Read it for:

5. The Lazy Project Manager by Peter Taylor

A project management classic! If you’ve not seen or heard of The Lazy Project Manager before, you might assume that the book’s provocative title implies project managers need not work hard, but that’s not actually what the book is about.

The book suggests that achieving the perfect balance between work and relaxation—a pleasant 80/20 ratio—will allow you to get more work done in less time, hence the term ‘lazy’. It is short and snappy, but covers all the main things new project managers should know.

It’s helpfully divided into the three main stages: startup, execution, and conclusion. It’s actually probably the least lazy definition of the word ‘lazy’!

Read it for:

  • Fun, digestible, & lazy project management takeaways
  • Practical tips specifically for newbies
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6. Project Management For You by Cesar Abeid

This book is one of those that you finish reading, put down, and immediately get to work! Abeid’s writing will stir in you a constructive ambition to start working, because it will make you feel like everything you need to handle is easily manageable.

The book covers the specifics of project management, but is also about ridding newbies of the nervousness and reluctance that may make them feel like they can’t get through this.

As further guidance, he defines exactly what a project should mean, and shares personal examples and all the steps required to reach the finish line.

Read it for:

  • Personal examples and stories that make project management best practices easy to understand
  • Applying project management principles to all areas of life

7. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon

For new project managers, one of the major problems is leadership. They might have the skills that a manager needs, but do they know how to lead a team of people, motivate them, and get things done?

This book is quick and concise—a short, easy read for anyone who finds themselves a project manager, but without the title. It elaborates on how important leadership is for success, what the formula for it is, and how beginners can get the hang of it.

It also helps demonstrate the importance of leadership in project completion and how to manage people in a formula for success.

Read it for:

  • Memorable project management proverbs
  • Personal stories from several authors and professionals

8. The Plugged-In Manager by Terri L. Griffith

This book is written by a management professor and technology expert that directly speaks to managers about the three pillars of project management: people, technology, and organizational processes and workflows.

The book teaches the most effective way to balance these three fundamental pillars, teaching the modern day manager how to handle a dynamic workplace that changes day to day, and how to adapt to a rapidly changing technological ecosystem.

Lastly, it teaches managers how to understand the important information and insights that often remain hidden but overpower the traditional management mindsets and communications.

Read it for:

  • Guidance on blending project management tools tools, talents, and organizational design to be effective
  • Case studies and interviews with advice from various leaders in the field

Project Management Books For Experienced PMs

Once you've got a few years under your belt, you can move on to project management books for more experienced PMs.

9. Strategic Project Management Made Simple by Terry Schmidt (2nd Edition)

Terry Schmidt focuses on execution—managing projects from strategy to effective implementation.

The book provides a detailed approach on how to apply the principles of learned theory into real projects across several industries.

The book covers something several experienced managers may easily forget: handling projects with a strategic perspective and answering the big picture ‘why’ of a project properly.

Read it for:

  • Discovering ways to improve project portfolio management
  • Strategic insights on executing the right project and making sure you are executing the project right

10. Rescue the Problem Project by Todd C. Williams

While most other reads break down the project management process, Williams does the opposite; he looks at the job from a holistic perspective.

Once you are past the stage where you need to understand what project management is, this is the book that will give you insight into in-depth issues and risks, and the possible approaches you can take.

The author emphasizes key factors that must be looked at when trying to save a project; these include forming a strong team, staying involved with it, and finding answers within it.

Read it for:

  • Help with identifying problems in projects and applicable approaches to cleaning them up
  • Guidance on how to deal with problem projects and make use of objective data

11. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling by Harold R. Kerzner (13th Edition)

This is not a cheap book, but it’s a must-read reference resource–it’s huge! It’s got an exhaustive set of solutions to every possible scenario you might face in project management.

It’s a helpful companion to the Project Management Institute's (PMI) A Guide To The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

If you’re studying for the Project Management Professional-PMP certification and are interested in more than just passing the PMP exam, it’s a great choice to bring the theory to life with case studies, discussion, and exam questions.

Read it for:

  • A textbook approach—bullet lists of problems and solutions
  • Intricately divided sections with easy-to-find information

12. Leadership in Project Management by Mohit Arora and Haig Baronikian

You won’t find many books that focus on the soft skills of project management, such as the leadership required for successful project management.

This is a great book that recognizes the importance of proper leadership in effective project management, and how it leads to success.

While it talks about being a leader, it is also a guide on interpersonal work relationships; it will teach you not only how to be the perfect manager, but also an entrepreneur, a change agent, an influencer, and sometimes even a cheerleader!

This is all of the people skills you need to enhance productivity—in one place.

Read it for:

  • Tips on how to be a stronger, more effective project leader
  • Advice on how to be inspiring to your team members

13. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

This easy to read book uses a parable, storytelling approach to teach project managers how to handle problem projects and deal with challenging or struggling teams.

It has been written with constant reference to a hypothetical story of a new CEO at a downhill start-up. It talks about the dysfunctional team that this leader must work with, and then puts forward a model that seems to work perfectly well not only in the story, but is easily applicable to your teams and any management situations.

Read it for:

  • Advice on taking risks and encouraging healthy conflict
  • A clear model for identifying team dysfunction and implementing change

14. The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management by Tom DeMarco

The book follows the life and work of a project manager asked to meet seemingly impossible deadlines; yes, it’s everyone’s worst management fear in one story.

This is not for beginners because it does not provide a clear guide or model, but puts forth the mindset that you need to get things done and how you can make peace with it.

It will teach you, for instance, how to ignore the inevitabilities when you are on an impossibly tight deadline, and how to choose—if you must—what to improve. For experienced managers, this story will provide more practical information than several regular textbooks altogether.

Read it for:

  • Witty, subtle tips on management
  • Simplistic ways to get more done in less time

Project Management Books For Advanced PMs

For those of you who are pros and in more senior positions, program management, or portfolio management, try these reads. Start with this list of program management books.

15. Brilliant Project Management by Stephen Barker (3rd Edition)

This book covers the basics, but without the theory. It’s really written more at an advanced project manager level—useful for going back to when trying to refresh on the factors that lead to success.

The best part? It seems to add a little more value every time you go over it. Regardless of the methodology you are trained in (agile, Scrum, or otherwise), you will find pragmatic ideas on the pillars of project management. It’s a timeless piece that revises the basics—but with the wit of an experienced professional—and reminds you how to maintain success.

While this may seem like a practical guide for a novice, it is a light-hearted overview for an advanced project manager—something you’ll keep on you as a timeless reference book.

Read it for:

  • Funny illustrations and real-life examples
  • Amusing, digestible content

Find agile project management books here.

16. Becoming The Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders by Lindsey Pollak

While most books come with general project management and communication advice, this one deals specifically with millennial employees.

Since many of the best-written books are now becoming outdated, this focuses on this generation’s motivation, their way of working, how they communicate, and things they might need to learn; it is essentially about staying successful in the future.

If you are someone trying to train a team of young, fresh professionals, this book might just become your training plan. This is for the group that wants information not only on leading but also on listening, prioritizing, connecting, and growing.

Read it for:

  • Leadership plan for new young professionals
  • Advice from Lindsey’s mom!

17. Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Although not project management specific, this one’s a classic! When it comes to examples of success, this one takes the lead.

This is not another set of short case studies or personal examples, but a detailed analysis studying why companies succeed, or not.

You’d think this is all business theory, but you’ll find out that it actually talks about how to be successful, and the importance of leadership values like humility, optimism, and passion, all of which a great project manager is incomplete without.

Read it for:

  • Help with more broadly developing a management style to inspire and ensure success

18. Getting Things Done by David Allen

Dubbed ‘the Bible of business and personal productivity’, Allen’s book is not for everyone. Beginners have often called it ‘a little too complex’, but experienced project managers swear by the system advocated for in the book.

Not only does it provide a plan for productivity, it also aims at helping you gain control of your life; it supports the idea that no system will work for you if you are loaded with stress.

For all of those who have too many things to do, too little time, and too much hassle, this is the go-to book. It will rid you of the clutter and unformed tasks, guiding you towards rapid progress.

Read it for:

  • Tips on how to be more relaxed and organized
  • A guide to how to filter out the junk and get more done with the same resources
  • A completely coached plan and implementation process

19. The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

We are all creatures of habit, but not all our habits are good ones. In fact, many of our habits are inimical to success. This book explores how we can change our habits in order to succeed.

It takes into account everyone’s habits on a micro-scale at the individual level, to a macro scale at the company level. It helps study the patterns that morph their lives, shaping the ability to cultivate and strengthen these habits.

The book provides inspiration for being a better you, making you a more effective and productive individual while also teaching you how to cultivate these constructive habits in your work life.

Read it for:

  • Approaches for mastering your habits in your personal and professional life
  • Leveraging effective habits to manage projects and initiatives better

20. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Ideal for those looking to become better, more all-rounded leaders, this is another book focusing on project productivity through making personal development the first priority.

Pointing out that public victories must be preceded by private victories, Covey outlines 7 essential habits and how to practice and permanently incorporate them into one’s personality. The habits range from self-mastery to teamwork and communication.

Essentially, it outlines the journey a project manager must make from being dependent to becoming independent, and finally learning the constructive art of interdependence.

Read it for:

  • A psychological-philosophical approach to attaining strength of mind and personality
  • Cognitive training and tips to improve intrapersonal intelligence

21. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done by Peter F. Drucker

In 1966, this was the first book to actually define an ‘executive’, and to explain how executives must work. While several more modern pieces of literature have now been written on the same subject, Drucker was the first to point out that there are no naturally-successful executives, and that effectiveness can be learned by anyone who is willing to invest time and effort into it.

It explains all aspects of successful management through one minor change successful people bring and maintain in themselves: time management.

This includes everything from deciding what to do and what not to, delegating, creating policies, respecting others, etc.; it is the ultimate advice for a lifetime of successful project management.

Read it for:

  • How to create policy decisions without stress
  • When, why, and how to stay out of things others should do
  • Being an influential, effective, and stress-free leader

Get reading!

For more specialized books, check out these lists of IT project management books and software project management books.

Digital Project Management Ebooks

These are all available through our DPM Membership! Sign up to get access to these ebooks and more.

project management ebook - how to create project plans

How To Create The Perfect Project Plan

This complete guide covers everything you need to know about project plans. It gives you the basics on what project planning is and why it is important, and teaches you in 10 simple steps how to create flawless project plans from start to finish.

Or, check out our free guide, which provides a great starting point on this topic.

how to write statement of work guide download

How To Write A Statement Of Work

Statement of work (SoW) is so often the one piece of documentation that saves you from a world of trouble, but writing one demands a lot of work.

This eBook is a great guideline to help you write a Statement of Work that actually works. It answers questions such as ‘what should a statement of work contain?‘ and ‘how detailed should a statement of work be?’, and teaches how to create and how to properly use a statement of work.

Or, check out our free guide to get a start on learning about statements of work.

project management ebook - how to create project estimates

How To Estimate Project Costs

This guide makes what seems to be painful, easy: estimating project costs. It gives a solid foundation on the basics of estimating costs and walks through a step-by-step process on how to estimate project costs properly. This complete guide explains the advantages and disadvantages of each type of estimation as well as the five cost estimation techniques.

Or, check out our free guide to get a start on learning about project estimation.

What Do You Think?

Have you read any of the project management books listed above? Did we miss any essential books that you found inspiring or foundational? Let us know in the comments below!

For more from project management experts, check out our list of DPM Membership to watch for, and subscribe to our DPM newsletter. Don't forget to skim our list of the top project management influencers—there's lots to learn from them as well.

Ben Aston
By Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and founder of I've been in the industry for more than 20 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from film to CMS', games to advertising and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony. I'm a Certified Scrum Master, PRINCE2 Practitioner and productivity nut!