Article Overview

This article outlines a few of our favorite books upon which to build a project management career. 

Table of Contents

Just Starting PM Career

To stay relevant in your profession or area of interest, in our opinion, requires investment beyond doing the work.  It also likely should extend beyond the work your present position requires or broadening your perspective and potential skills. There can be no harm in exploring other things than your principle domain of operation.  In fact, we discussed this in a LinkedIn article.  An easy way to explore concepts can be through reading. I have met some professionals that do not read, but these are a few to be sure.  Though reading is not learning, it can be an early gateway to the exploration of new ideas that have low risk. Reading can give us a different perspective that makes helping in resolving our professional complications possible. 
The Project Management Body of Knowledge is the cornerstone of project management, even if you don’t plan on getting a certification. It is a great source of process, techniques, and terms; however, it may not be such an easy read.  Any individual that is interested in looking at project management from a process perspective would benefit from this book as a reference.

Here are a few of our favorite books upon which to build a project management career:

1. A Project Manager's Book of Forms: A Companion to the PMBOK Guide, by Cynthia Snyder Dionisio - a great reference book of forms to use or for developing company-specific forms

2. Beginner to Expert, by Terrence Stone – this book is about Agile Project Management and provides a look at secrets to become a Leader and Professional Manager. 

3. Mind Map for Effective Project Management, by Maneesh Dutt – Mind Mapping opens a great door for me when trying to breakdown a problem or to establish a plan. This book is an excellent book about applying Mind Mapping to project management.

4. 151 Quick Ideas to Deal with Difficult People, by Carrie Mason-Draffen – one of my favorite sayings is: “if it weren’t for people, I would have no problems”. Difficult people are everywhere, and they aren’t being difficult on purpose. There is always a not so obvious reason. This book provides examples of difficulties and ideas to solve them.

5. Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers: The People Skills You Need to Achieve Outstanding Results, by Anthony C. Mersino – people skills are in big demand. People deliver projects, so leading and working with people is critical.

6. Risk Management Tricks of the Trade for Project Managers, by Rita Mulcahy and Mary Pat Shaffer – a great book on Risk management and has over 1000 sample risks.


One of the benefits of teaching project management, if exposure to many good textbooks on the subject.

1. Fast Forward in MBA – Project Management – Eric Verzuh – quick get up and running and the book has a small enough physical profile to be able to keep close at hand.  The book provides a wide view of project management from the operating environment, financial decision models, to the decomposition of the work and schedule development that are helpful.

2. Project Toolbox – Dragan Z. Milosevic – comprehensive and academic approach to project management, including decision-making tools that serve double duty as management and project management. This book is not so easy of a read and has been used in Master level project management classes.

3. Project Management, Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects – Stanley E. Portney et al – This book is comprehensive and yet easier to read, it is not just an academic book, but has practical applications of fundamental aspects of project management.  This book includes case studies from which the reader can glean some measure practical inferences.

4. Project Management The Managerial Process – fifth edition – Erik W. Larson – This book is another treatise of project management from academic to practical application demonstrating many of the tools and techniques from scope control to economic controls.

6. The Enterprise and Scrum – Ken Schwaber – this is my favorite agile introduction book (a modern project management methodology – I have also written a book on the topic that I think is good also) This book thoroughly explains the minimalist approach to project management via scrum.  This book covers the philosophy and mechanism of this approach to project management.  It is an easy ready, and small enough to carry along with you as a reference book but easy enough that that would not be required

6. Risk Management: Concepts and Guidance, Fifth Edition 5th Edition, by Carl L. Pritchard PMP PMI-RMP EVP

7. Agile & Iterative Development, A Manager’s Guide by Craig Larman is an interesting read if you are seeking to understand the limits of conventional project approaches and the power of agile approaches.  

All of these books adequately cover some if not all of the knowledge management areas of project management as defined by the Project Management Institute though these books aren’t exactly according to the PMI processes.

Quick Reads

Any project manager on any given day has so many pieces of paper or online documents to read, review, and possibly comment on, it can negatively impact the desire to read a long technical book. I have searched out what I term quick & short reads. The quick & short read book is set up in standalone chapter-stories and the information is more of an article style of writing.  They are to the point on a particular subject and information applicable to any current situation.

Two of these books are:

1. No-Nonsense Advice for Successful Projects, by Neal Whitten – This book is full of advice for delivering successful projects. The book is an easy read, full of clear explanations and information covering Roles, Initiation, Planning, Project Execution and Control, and Close-out. Plus, all the activities that happen along the way.

2. Say Yes to Project Success: Winning the Project Management Game, by Sripriya Narayanasamy & Karthik Ramamurthy – short chapters with useful & applicable information and each has expert insights at the end. 

One of project management reference & entertainment:

3. Project Management: Best Practices A to Z, by Jim Blaylock and Rudd McGary – as the title says: Best Practices…with a little humor.

And a few more…

1. The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement - 30th Anniversary Edition, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt, Jeff Cox, et al.

2. Theory of Constraints, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt


As we can see, there is an abundance of books from which we can learn about project management.  We submit that even if you are not a project manager, nor have aspirations to be one if you work within projects, it could be beneficial for you to understand what the project manager actually does and why.  In fact, we have worked with a project manager, Jacob H in the past.  His nicknamed J-Bob, yeah, we don’t know why or how. 

Anyway, J-Bob said his life as a project manager would be significantly improved if the people working within the project understood how a project works and how their respective portions of the work, fits in the stream of effort.