Must read books for project managers

Books can be the best friend when you are trying to unravel the mysteries of project management. No matter if you are a newbie in the field or a seasoned campaigner, there are written scriptures available to match with everyone’s needs.

However, the biggest problem is to find out which one is a worthy read and which one’s not. In order to help you in this task, we have managed to pile up this randomly organized list of some great books on project management.

So, without further ado let me uncover the list –

1. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

The Effective Executive

One of the things that come to mind instantly when I hear the name The Effective Executive is the quote “The measure of the executive is the ability to get the right things done”. This simple mantra can make or break your career in project management. Getting things done rightly is not the only aspect that leads to success, it is the ability to do the right things that separates the best from the rest in this field. And, this is something that you can learn from this book. Penned down by Peter F. Drucker, one of the most influential management thinkers of current times, the book is a must read for anyone looking to up the ante in project management.
 Highlight — Five essentials to business effectiveness laid out in an easily actionable language.

2. The Lazy Project Manager: How to Be Twice As Productive and Still Leave the Office Early

The lazy project manager

Seems quite an unusual name for a topic like project management, but the book is definitely a big thumbs up when it comes to its content. Case studies, freehand charts, anecdotes, name it and you can find it all in this book written by the prodigy, Peter Taylor, with more than three decades of experience in the field. The book paints a clear picture of how a project management professional can achieve more by putting in lesser hours at work. The book brings the perfect blend of entertaining quotes and serious project management guidance to ensure that readers thoroughly enjoy reading the book.

Highlight — The tried and tested 80/20 rule to explain how you can achieve more in less time.

3. The Mythical Man Month

The Mythical Man-Month

An all time classic, the book was written originally by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. in the year 1975. However, in the year 1995 another edition of this book was launched. Though it is technically a software management book, but the lessons make it a must read for anyone related to project management. For instance, section on ‘the scheduling and management of a software’ is nothing short of a genius’ work. With some intriguing quotes such as “How does a project get to be a year late? …One day at a time…” and many others, the book is sure to leave you wanting for more owing to the interactive way in which the facts have been presented in the book.
 Highlight — the exemplification of project management scenarios such as relating them to common things like comparing coding with the menu of a restaurant.

4. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management

Making Things Happen

Written by Scott Berkun, a Microsoft project veteran, the book has been critically acclaimed for its collection of field-tested philosophies and strategies. Based on the author’s real life experiences and expectancies as a newbie in the field, the book teaches you how to make things happen in project management. The personal tone in which Scott has explained the eight chapters separate the book from the usual project management guide books. And, the fact that unlike the prevalent giant guidebooks on the topic, this comes across in a simplified essay form, makes it a highly interesting read.
 Highlight — Emphasis on theory and philosophy as compared to specifics of project management make it a worthy read for both technical and non-technical users alike.

5. Death March

Death March

Written by Edward Nash Yourdon, a pioneer in the software engineering methodology, the book’s title has been used in context to the biggest problem that IT projects appear to face. This quote from Pete Seeger will help to explain it better “We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says push on.” The entire book is built around answering three of the most common questions related to project failures

  • how do IT projects turn into death march projects in the first place?
  • why do organizations often push ahead anyway, even after knowing a project has become a death march project. Why don’t they just re-scope the whole project?
  • how to get the project out of the state of death march?
     Highlight — skillful negotiations and improved project management tips are one of a kind.

6. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work


With this book the Heath brothers bring back the old school philosophy of a project manager’s ability to make decisions as the most important aspect of the job. Heath brothers are known for their engaging and compulsively readable style of writing, and with Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, they have tried to tackle the most imperative question in our professional as well as personal lives i.e. How can anyone do better? The book brings the perfect amalgamation of innovative strategies, along with a list of practical tools that can help anyone in making better choices.
 Highlight — The four step process designed to counteract the biases in decision making.

7. Peopleware: Productive projects and teams


The core philosophy of this book can be summed up in this quote taken from it ‘The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature’. Oriented towards sociological aspects and conditions at work, Peopleware brings into light productivity in terms of quality. The author has given a wonderful example of Japanese work culture where it is a widely accepted notion that cost reduction comes automatically with high quality work. Unlike other books which revolve around the technical aspects of project management, DeMarco and Lister have managed to focus more on the sociological aspects, and this comes across as a breath of fresh air.
 Highlight — Parkinson’s law, according to which the work expands to fill the time allocated for it.

8. Jack Welch and the G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO

Jack Welch and the G.E. Way

With his book Jack Welch and the G.E. Way, the author Robert Slater has brought forward the insights of innovative leadership strategies employed by Jack Welch, GE’s chief executive for the past 17 years. It was his leadership that saved the sinking ship of G.E. transpiring it to emerge as one of the biggest players in the market with a staggering $300 billion-plus capitalization of the market. The book inspires startup managers to work the Welch magic on their organization and dismantle the management layers, the employees and target audience.
 Highlight — while writing this book, the author had unprecedented access to Welch and other prominent GE insiders.

9. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

Whether you are looking for standard project management terminologies or A to Z knowledge areas of this field, this book is a must for you. As the brainchild of world’s leading professional association in project management (PMI), the book can serve the purpose of guidebook to help you clear professional certification and kickstart your career in project management. A favorite of almost all professionals who have managed to make a mark in the industry, this book is often touted to be the de facto standard in project management and is used as the reference book by newbies starting their journey in this field.

Highlight — highly researched theory content.

10. Gazzaa’s Guide to Practical Project Management: Tips and advice on Surviving the Project Management Journey

Gazzaa’s Guide to Practical Project Management

The book breaks down the complicated task of Project Management into practical and simple concepts to help you understand better. From kicking off the project to planning and writing, along with risk management and implementing organizational change, Garry (Gazza) has managed to cover all the aspects in his writing. Breaking the essential components of Project Management down into practical, simple concepts, the author has penned down some interesting facts that can help newbies and seasoned professionals alike.
 Highlight — addressing the four stages i.e. Initiation/Planning, Execution, Closeout and Project Control of project management with utmost ease.

11. Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure

Rescue The Problem Project

The book sheds light on the root causes of trouble that lead to project failures, and brings an in-depth analysis on each aspect of handling a project. With this book Todd, who has been helping Presidents, Vice Presidents, and C-Level executives in improving organizational efficiency with enhanced project management skills, brings the topic closer to life by connecting complex project management scenarios with examples from real life. Unlike other books that tell you how to run a project, this one goes a bit too far and provides advice on how to bring back a project when it is down in doldrums.
 Highlight — Real world examples of what works, what doesn’t and why?

Image Credit — My To-Read Shelf by literarychica on Flickr

Originally published at on July 3, 2015.

Like what you read? Give Amit Kakkar a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.