Update 7/11/2018: This piece has been updated to add new project management books for the summer of 2018. Prices listed are for paperback or hardback edition, whichever was cheaper at the time of writing. Check listings for e-book availability and pricing.
The summer is a great time to catch up on your reading list, whether you’re at the beach with a paperback or on your balcony with an e-reader. But with hundreds of thousands of new books published every year, you don’t want to waste your precious time reading overdone thrillers and Game of Thrones knockoffs.
If you’re a project manager, you’re especially cognizant of the value of time, and may be keen on packing a few project management books in your luggage for your summer vacation.
Luckily, not every project management book is a dry instructional manual. In fact, books with valuable project management lessons can come from almost any genre, from biographies to personal development.
With an emphasis on career development, we searched through reviews, influencer blogs, and best-of lists to bring you the top project management books.
Below, you’ll find the recommendations listed alphabetically with a short description for each. All books are organized into the following categories, with a collection of new books for the summer of 2018 at the top. Enjoy!
New for summer 2018
1. “Alive at Work”
It’s no great secret that people do better work when they enjoy what they’re doing. But not everyone can be a Major League Baseball player or a rock star. This book explores how project managers can reinvigorate their teams by breaking up routines and repetition in favor of experimentation and exploration.
2. “The Culture Code”
Project management is people management, or so the saying goes. This book delves into the secrets behind group dynamics and fostering a positive, successful company culture.
3. “Great at Work”
Hansen studied more than 5,000 managers and employees for five years to determine why some people perform better at work than others. Project managers can use the seven key practices outlined in this book to help their teams maximize time and performance.
4. “Measure What Matters”
A project without goals is a project that is destined to fail. That’s the idea behind OKRs, or objectives and key results, and this book explores how OKRs can help keep any team on track, from Google to Microsoft.
As in any industry, women face certain challenges that men don’t when it comes to forging a successful career in project management. This book is an inspirational guide to help women succeed and assert themselves in the workplace without sacrificing their values in the process.
6. “The Perfectionists”
There’s no such thing as a perfect project, but project managers share a lot of DNA with precision engineers, whose job it is to pay attention to every last detail. Winchester explores the chain of events that led to the manufacturing of glass up to microchips, and attempts to answer the fundamental question: Why is precision important?
7. “The Power of Moments”
Every project is a series of moments, and the best project managers can read and guide those moments as much as possible to encourage productive teams and successful projects. “The Power of Moments” aims to help readers create moments that matter.
8. “Rocket Men”
Can you imagine a more complex, high-stakes project than flying people to the moon and bringing them back safely? This book details the soft skills, risk management, and people management involved in one of the most ambitious projects in history.
Perfect timing doesn’t come down to accidents or luck—there is a science behind it. This book aims to help project managers determine how to decipher the hidden patterns behind the timing of successful projects.
Project management doesn’t exist in a vacuum—there are always stakeholders outside of the immediate reach of project managers, whether they be regulators or competitors. This book teaches project managers how to work efficiently and effectively with these complex relationships.
Why do some teams “gel” while others don’t? Lencioni explores and answers that question in this bestseller that is part fable and part corporate training manual.
12. “Here Comes Everybody”
Shirky explains how tech-derived collaboration can help—or hinder—individuals looking to grow in their careers and personal lives, as information is now capable of spreading like wildfire.
Without devolving into stereotypes and thin management lessons, Mantle and Lichty give practical, actionable insights on how to create and sustain programming teams.
Does your team enjoy working from home? Basecamp founders Fried and Hansson explain how to get the most out of this trend—and how to avoid common telecommuting workplace mistakes.
15. “Stop Workplace Drama”
If you’ve ever been involved in leading a team, you know that interpersonal drama is endemic… but does it need to be? Chism explores how to create a culture of supportive positivity and how to avoid becoming your team’s private mediator.
16. “Virtual Freedom”
How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business
Learning to delegate is an essential skill for any project manager—and doing it effectively across state lines and time zones is its own challenge. Luckily, Ducker explores how to best recruit, train, motivate, and manage virtual employees in this bestseller.
17. “Yes, And”
How Improvisation Reverses “No, But” Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration
If you enjoy “Saturday Night Live”—or any kind of improv— you’ll appreciate Leonard and Yorton’s leadership lessons in teamwork and productivity from The Second City improv troupe. Who knew that fostering creativity and thinking on your feet could boost innovation?
18. “Big Magic”
Creative Living Beyond Fear
This New York Times bestseller from the author of “Eat Pray Love” balances imagination and pragmatism to generate creativity—an essential component of project planning, project quality, and work satisfaction.
The Psychology of Discovery and Invention
Csikszentmihalyi shares three decades of research alongside 100 interviews to uncover how to cultivate and encourage personal inspiration on a regular basis using his famous “flow” theory (see book number 21 below).
The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It
Did you know that how you use the internet can actually undermine your own curiosity and personal growth? Leslie explains the importance of curiosity—how it’s “misunderstood, undervalued, and monopolized”—and how to nurture it even when answers are constantly right at our fingertips.
How do you achieve “total involvement” with your work? Find out in Csikszentmihalyi’s flagship book on consciousness, happiness, and “losing yourself” in what you love most.
The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
“Why?” is the most important question to ask in business, but it’s too often met with frustration or even hostility. Berger explores how to create an environment where conventions are regularly challenged and improved upon, and questioning the status quo is encouraged rather than discouraged.
23. “Berkshire Beyond Buffett”
The Enduring Value of Values
Many analysts assume that Berkshire Hathaway can’t exist without Warren Buffett. Cunningham disagrees, outlining how how Buffett set up his company to succeed without his insight—and how you can replicate that culture on your team and within your company.
The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
What motivates your employees to work hard and succeed? Hint: It’s not cash. Pink dives into how to encourage high performance from your team by appealing to their intrinsic needs for purpose.
25. “Just Listen”
Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone
Effective communication is vital to successful project management. In this book, Goulston covers everything from FBI negotiations to turning negative employees into positive, outstanding contributors.
26. “Start with Why”
How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action
Simon Sinek, who is also featured in our roundup of inspiring project management Ted Talks, explains how to command loyalty and encourage creativity from people you work with directly. In this book, he studies the leadership mindset of everyone from Martin Luther King, Jr. to the Wright brothers.
27. “Tribal Leadership”
Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization
There’s the company, there’s the team, and then there are tribes. Logan, King, and Fischer-Wright explore how to identify and capitalize on your business’s unspoken norms and spontaneous social structures to maximize productivity and growth.
Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals
Have you ever seen a project just fizzle out, or regrettably dissolve to nothing as other priorities took away your team’s attention? This book outlines how to avoid that common problem both at work and at home based on the 4DX strategy: “Focusing on the Wildly Important, Acting on Lead Measures, Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard, and Creating a Cadence of Accountability.”
29. “The Checklist Manifesto”
How to Get Things Right
No one has done more research nor made as compelling a case for simple checklists as Atul Gawande. His bestselling book explains not just how to make the best checklists, but also why they work so well.
30. “Getting Things Done”
The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
The Getting Things Done methodology has won over millions of disciples over the years and for good reason: it follows through on what the name promises. This classic is a complete guide to help you get more done in less time with minimal stress. And if you want the total package, check out this guide to free Getting Things Done software.
How to Revolutionise Productivity, Innovation and Engagement by Implementing Projects That Matter
Does your project matter to your team members? Cook explains how to inspire yourself and those around you to create projects that your team is excited to work on and result in deliverables that your customers will want.
32. “The Organized Mind”
Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
From always knowing where your keys are, to deciding if a project should be cut, neuroscientist Daniel Levitin explains how to best organize your life to optimize personal decision-making in the age of information overload.
How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
Do you find yourself overanalyzing problems and getting less done because of it? The Heath brothers share the formula to preventing paralysis by analysis—by uniting your rational and emotional minds—in this story-driven guide.
34. “Agile Change Management”
A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning and Implementation
From explaining Agile basics to recommending Agile project management tools to optimize your team, Franklin’s guide to Agile change management is immediately useful to both the beginner and practiced project manager.
35. “Be Fast or Be Gone”
Racing the Clock with Critical Chain Project Management
Looking for an enterprise-level project management technique that won’t add unnecessary stress to your team? Scherer makes the case for critical chain and explains how to best implement it through a riveting business fable.
36. “Crystal Clear”
A Human-Powered Methodology for Small Teams
Alistair Cockburn, one of the founders of and a major influencer in Agile project management, introduces Crystal Clear, a lightweight Agile software development system for small teams that strips away budget and deadline-blowing heavy processes.
37. “Essential Scrum”
A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process
Rubin, a Scrum coach and trainer, has written this accessible, comprehensive guide detailing exactly what Scrum is and how to best use it. The visual textbook, aimed at both newcomers and experienced Scrum practitioners, features hundreds of illustrations.
Providing Measurable Organizational Value
When it comes to creating measurable organizational value (MOV) in IT projects, this professorial textbook covers everything from “What is a project?” to the project charter.
39. “Just Start”
Take Action, Embrace Uncertainty, Create the Future
Is your team haunted by uncertainty—do you struggle to start projects when the future is uncertain? Schlesinger and Kiefer have a system that obliterates this common problem by coaching readers to start now and learn as they go.
40. “Project Retrospectives“
A Handbook for Team Reviews
Retrospectives can often be the most painful part of project management because they force teams to confront their weaknesses and shortcomings. But they don’t have to be. Kerth’s guide reviews how retrospectives can make your team stronger and provides a checklist of action items to ensure mutual trust and growth.
41. “Rapid Development”
Taming Wild Software Schedules
Development schedules are often unruly and anxiety inducing—both for you and for your team. McConnell offers a series of strategies to get your development path under control in this guide, part of the Microsoft “Best Practices” series.
42. “Waltzing With Bears”
Managing Risk on Software Projects
Seventy-five percent of business and IT executives expect that their software projects will fail. That’s inexcusable. Luckily, DeMarco and Lister have discovered the most common mistakes in software development and advise on how to implement aggressive and effective risk management.
43. “Alpha Project Managers”
What the Top 2% Know That Everyone Else Does Not
Using a survey of 800 project managers, project management professional Andy Crowe runs through the traits of the most elite project managers and debunks some of the most common misconceptions about successful project management.
A Practical Handbook and Reference
Too often, project management texts are overly serious, yet aren’t practical. This guide to project management is neither. It’s a lighthearted take that is both accessible and meaty for any aspiring project manager.
If you’re not a formal project manager but are looking for a text that distills the most important management lessons from the practice, this is the book for you. Written by a PMP, this book is for all the “accidental” project managers out there.
46. “Project Management”
From Beginner to Professional Manager and Respected Leader
Looking to start in project management? Before jumping into a PM role, read Short’s collection on what project managers actually do, what their careers often look like, and how to set up your projects to deliver on time and on budget.
47. “Project Management Lite”
Just Enough to Get the Job Done… Nothing More
With checklists, worksheets, and simple step-by-step guides, Craig provides a minimalist approach to project management for those looking to hit the ground running and start completing projects right away.
The Value of Fun in Project Management
“Fun” is hardly a term that many would use to describe project managers—but Taylor is dedicated to changing that. This entertaining guide, sponsored by Wrike, provides action steps to create successful projects while also highlighting how project managers can find joy, positivity, and humor in their work.
A Complete Guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure
Is your project really dead? How did it get so behind and over budget? Using almost 70 real examples, Williams walks his readers through identifying your broken projects’ problems, offers advice on how to turn it around or, alternatively, how to kill it with grace.
Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams
“What are we trying to accomplish, and why?” “How will we measure success?” “What other conditions must exist?” “How do we get there?” Schmidt shows that all project management processes ultimately come down to these four questions. Strategically answering these inquiries, he argues, is the key to getting quality projects done on time and on budget.
What are you reading this summer?
The best project managers are consistently looking for resources to better their practice as a project manager, whether they’re in the field or relaxing on the beach.
What project management books have inspired you? Have you read any of the options on this list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!