20 Books That Every Project Manager Should Read


Every single day at least a dozen or so of new books is being published. Many of them go unnoticed, some are discovered after a certain time, and one among thousands becomes a bestseller.

Depending on preferences, we read various types of literature – fantasy, action, drama, sci-fi and much more. Just as new titles appear, new genres are created as well with a pretty impressive speed.

For quite some time, books on self-realization are becoming more and more popular. All kinds of motivating or coaching books and their various offshoots – they often touch upon the subject of project management. After all, what is project management, if not an appropriate realization of one’s self and personal space, and the ability to communicate with others and motivate them to work efficiently?

However, just as it is with any other type of literature, we must be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Not every fantasy is the Lord of the Rings, not every crime is Christie, or horror S. King – and not every book concerning work organization and productivity is a piece of art, and that will guarantee a promotion at work =] Of course, among the unknown authors we may find a genius whose star is supposed to get brighter with time. Unfortunately, the possibility of such occurrence diminishes, as the market is being constantly flooded with new titles.

We kindly encourage you to look for your own inspirations in books and expand your horizons – you never know what lies in the nearby library, getting dustier and dustier (or is buried under a pile of known-to-nobody books on the supermarket promotion.) However, before you start searching on your own, you can take some hints from our list of 20 excellent books on project management and productivity – we guarantee that the information contained in them won’t disappoint you, and you will surely draw from them many interesting conclusions that will be useful in both your everyday life and at work. Let’s go!

Even if the letters are so small 😀 But dogs can’t really read, can they?

1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity – David Allen

Mister Allen is a guru in the world of management. His book is probably one of the most well-known titles concerning the widely understood productivity. The strategies he offers are being used by hundreds of thousands all around the globe, helping people of various professions – entrepreneurs, teachers, or community workers, as well as hospital managers or CEOs of huge companies. If you are motivated enough to introduce the rules proposed by David Allen, you will notice an amazing improvement in your life. No more work-related stress!

2. Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Mihaly is a legendary psychologist with decades of experience. In this book, he reveals what steps should be taken to release the flow of creative energy. The pieces of advice he gives are based on 91 interviews with internationally recognized individuals, known for their creative thinking. The list includes Nobel physicist, writers, musicians, politicians, and much more. Find out what is the key to unlimited creativity and enrich your life!

3. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations – Clay Shirky

Professor Shirky is an expert on interactive telecommunications. His book describes the ways the society can organize with the use of the internet. The ability to start an internet revolution nowadays is a great political force that has the power to change countries. From this books you can learn how this works, and what are Shirky’s outlooks on the future of such movements.

4. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us – Daniel H. Pink

Daniel Pink explains why the carrot and stick approach is not a good choice when it comes to motivation. He has more than 40 years of experience in scientific research on human motivation, and he shares this experience with the readers. Find out what is the secret to high performance and satisfaction in every life sphere.

5. The 4 Disciplines of Execution: Achieving Your Wildly Important Goals – Sean Covey, Chris McChesney & Jim Huling

Authors had a chance to work with hundreds of thousands of employees in all kinds of companies – their primary purpose was to help individuals realize what their most important goals were. They share their observations on the topic in this book. Never again give up on your initiatives and projects, learn how to properly invest your time in them.

👉 Read also our article about career goals examples

6. Be Fast or Be Gone: Racing the Clock with Critical Chain Project Management – Andreas Scherer

This title is beneficial to everyone who wants to learn more about project management and process improvement. The book is written in an untypical way (well, untypical for this type of a book) – it is an absorbing story of a father who decides to work in a lab, to speed up the process of developing a drug that may be the last hope for his dying son. Besides an interesting plot, this title is an amazing tutorial to Critical Chain Project Management implementation.

7. Project Management for Non-Project Managers – Jack Ferraro

Jack Ferraro provides an explanation of the project management terminology and suggests the proper techniques and tools that may boost one’s career development. A great title for every manager who is discouraged by the complex terminology and processes of the project management area. Jack Ferraro closes the gap between the two.

8. Strategic Project Management Made Simple: Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams – Terry Schmidt

Read this one to see that the strategic project management is not that scary as you might think. Learn what strategic approach you can use to get your project off the ground, enhance your interactive thinking, and create your own solid strategic foundation.

9. The New Rules of Management: How to Revolutionise Productivity, Innovation and Engagement by Implementing Projects That Matter – Peter Cook

The title is so long it pretty much explain the main assumptions of this book – it is about creating and implementing projects that we consider important in our job. We can have the greatest ideas but as long as don’t do anything with them, they stay insignificant. This book may help us turn them into the real deal!

10. Agile Change Management: A Practical Framework for Successful Change Planning and Implementation – Melanie Franklin

Agile methodology is known to practically every project manager – it has been adopted by thousands of companies and organizations that wanted to operate more efficiently. Get a thorough insight into the Agile Project Management.

P.S. If you don’t feel like reading the whole book, you can learn the basics from our post on the topic of Agile!

11. Remote: Office Not Required – Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

An excellent manual dedicated to every remote worker. Authors explain what challenges we may encounter and how to deal with them. Also, they encourage remote workers by presenting the unexpected benefits of remote working and explaining why more and more businesses invest in this type of employment.

12. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear – Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert is the bestselling author and her books have been inspiring readers of all ages for years. In this one, she shares her experience and wisdom concerning creativity. Who could present a better insight into the nature of inspiration and creative thinking processes, if not the author who is an expert on the topic?

In this book, we have an insight into the world of creativity, where we can learn what are the positive habits that can keep us on the right track, and what the fears and frustrations that can jeopardize our efforts. It should help you find the balance and live a more creative, fulfilling life.

13. Managing the Unmanageable: Rules, Tools, and Insights for Managing Software People and Teams – Mickey W. Mantle & Ron Lichty

Ever asked yourself a question how to successfully manage your team and projects? Probably you did, a lot! Well, the authors of this book try to give you some clues. If you follow the presented path, you must turn the tasks that seemed unmanageable into tasks that both you and your team members will complete with easy, and perhaps, even with joy.

14. Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business – Chris Ducker

Another one where title pretty much sums up the content. It helps to deal with one of the most common problems in the project management work – burdening oneself with every possible task, as we are afraid that others won’t do the job appropriately. The so-called “superhero syndrome.” You know well enough that you cannot do everything by yourself and yet you try. Chris Ducker may help you overcome this problem.

15. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The second position on our list written by Professor Mihaly C. (who is a great author but it must be very hard to verbally recommend him -.^) Flow had become a national bestseller and the word anchored in the pop culture. It is widely used by practically any coach or behaviorist. Flow, in other words, it is the state of being “in the zone” – we are so focused on what we are doing that we do not notice the passing of time and the experience is so enjoyable that we do not want to stop. Would be nice to work in such state, wouldn’t it? Well, if you want to know how, read the book.

16. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable – Patrick Lencioni

Patrick Lencioni describes in his books ways to become a better manager. In this one, he focuses on the team collaboration. The book tells the story of Kathryn Petersen, a CEO in a company which faces the leadership crisis. Throughout the story, the author presents the five main dysfunctions that usually stand behind every failure in team cooperation and describes actionable steps that can help in overcoming those dysfunctions. Great literature for everyone who is trying to become a more successful leader.

17. A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas – Warren Berger

In his book, Warren Berger describes one of the simplest and at the same time most powerful methods to deal with all sorts of problems. You probably guessed what the method is because if the title. Yes, asking questions. Since we were little kids, questions were the primary means of getting to know the world around us. With time we drastically reduced the number of them, perhaps because of the fact that in the “adult” world questioning is not encouraged. Berger disproves this notion, claiming that well-asked questions are great for solving problems, coming up with new ideas, and pursuing opportunities.

18. Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone – Mark Goulston M.D.

The previous one was about asking, this one is about listening! The author offers methods we can use to make people hear us out. Sometimes it is hard to break through the wall that stands between us and our boss, colleague, customer, even a family member. Mark Goulston teaches how to tear such wall down and make anyone effectively listen to what we have to say (of course, without the use of violence! -.^)

19. The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right – Atul Gawande

In one of his many bestsellers, Atul Gawande analyzes what may seem to be the least complicated way of organizing tasks – the to-do lists. As simple as this method appears, it is still a great help when it comes to dealing with the complexity of today’s world. Learn from the author how to untangle the roll of everyday duties with checklists.

20. The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload – Daniel J. Levitin

The Professor of Psychology and Music (!), Daniel J. Levitin, presents a detailed study of the human psyche and tries to tackle the problem that many of us faces each day – the lack of organization. He explains how the successful individuals manage to deal with today’s hyper flow of data, how they adapt, turn it to their advantage, and finally, achieve success. Read the book and try to follow their example to master your own character and, therefore, life.


20 Books That Every Project Manager Should Read

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