12 Project Management Books for Beginners

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Here's a list of well-received project management books for beginners.

[Featured image] An aspiring project manager looks through several project manager books as she studies for the PMP.

Project management is a broad field with many niche specializations. Reading books on project management can be a good way to immerse yourself in the tools and processes of the industry.

We read through hundreds of book reviews and consulted several discussion websites to find popular and well-recommended project management books that offer value to beginners as well as project managers looking to refresh their knowledge. Explore this list of project management books to start building your personal library.

Read more: What Is a Project Manager? A Career Guide

1. For an overview of project management

Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Greg Horine

Readers appreciate this guide for being comprehensive, easy to understand, and organized. Although the book is beginner friendly, its content can also benefit intermediate-level project managers who'd like a refresher on foundational concepts. If you want a project management certification, this book can help you prepare.

Who it’s for: Project management beginners looking for a solid and complete introduction to this field

Read more: How to Become a Project Manager: 5 Steps

2. The “good-to-have-around”

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide)

If you’re a project manager—or aspire to become one—it’s a good idea to keep the PMBOK Guide on your radar. It’s published by the Project Management Institute (PMI), which administers the globally popular Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification and is considered by many to be the leading project management organization in the industry. 

Besides being a crucial study aid for PMP exams, the PMBOK Guide is considered the go-to resource for project management professionals. It includes explanations of major development approaches and how to tailor them to your needs, models, artifacts, and more. The most recent edition, published in August 2021, covers the newest changes to the industry due to technological, economic, and market factors.

Who it’s for: Anybody serious about project management

Read more: How to Get a PMP Certification: An Overview

3. For learning Agile

Agile Project Management for Dummies by Mark C. Layton, Steven J. Ostermiller, and Dean J. Kynaston

If you’re new to Agile, you can quickly get lost in the weeds of jargon and mysterious acronyms. This book is lauded by readers as a basic but comprehensive guide that newbies to Agile can pick up and understand easily. The most recent edition of this Agile project management book was published in September 2020.

If you already have a grasp of Agile concepts, you might go on to read other titles like Age of Agile: How Smart Companies Are Transforming the Way Work Gets Done by Stephen Denning, or Doing Agile Right: Transformation Without Chaos by Darrell Rigby, Sarah Elk, and Steve Berez.

Who it’s for: Beginners to Agile project management

4. For learning Scrum

Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

Written by one of the co-founders of Scrum and his son, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time lays out the framework of the Scrum project management method and how it increases teams' efficiency. Readers applaud the book as easy to read, as well as for the practical advice and stories that it contains. 

Who it’s for: Anybody who wants to manage a Scrum team, work on a Scrum team, or implement Scrum practices in the workplace

5. For preparing for the PMP

The PMP Exam: How to Pass on Your First Try

One of the most popular PMP exam prep books, this book is praised by many reviewers as comprehensive to exam topics and more easily approachable than the PMBOK by itself. The book covers predictive, Agile, and hybrid approaches, plus the many other processes and tools you’ll need to be familiar with for the exam. It also includes 475 practice questions, chapter quizzes, a simulated final exam, and a free trial to the publisher’s online learning platform. The latest edition is up to date with the changes made to the PMP exam in January 2021.

Who it’s for: Those studying for the PMP exam

Keep in mind

The PMP exam was updated beginning January 2, 2021. The new exam now comprises 180 questions instead of 200, two 10-minute breaks instead of one, three “domains”—phases of project management—instead of five, among other changes. Make sure your study materials reflect the change.


6. For learning the human element of project management

Project Management for Humans: Helping People Get Things Done by Brett Harned

Project management is more than tools and processes—though all of that is important too. This book covers the basic elements of project management, focusing on developing the interpersonal skills and empathy needed to run a project smoothly. Readers enjoy that the book is easy to read, contains useful examples and practical advice, and can be referred to repeatedly as one advances in their career.

Who it’s for: Beginning to mid-career project managers who want to learn more about the human aspect of project management success

Learn more about core project management skills in this video from the Google Project Management Professional Certificate:

Read more: 11 Key Project Management Skills

7. For something fun

The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management by Tom DeMarco

The Deadline provides beginner-friendly information in entertainment form. As the novel was written in 1997, reviewers point out that much of the information centers around Waterfall project management styles. Still, recent readers find practical advice on project management concepts like resource allocation, scheduling, and managing teams beneficial, particularly for beginners. 

Who it’s for: Those looking for a new way to absorb information besides traditional nonfiction guides

8. For the non-project manager

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager by Kory Kogon

If you don’t have “project manager” in your title but have been tasked with seeing a project through to its success, you might find this book helpful. Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager is a basic introduction to project management designed specifically for those who aren’t formal project managers. Inside, you'll find real-world examples, accessible guides, and a streamlined process for completing projects.

Who it’s for: People who aren’t officially project managers but are managing projects

9. For IT project management 

The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Keven Behr, and George Spafford

This project management book disguised as a novel has been a favorite for many IT project managers for years. The novel follows Bill, an IT manager at Parts Unlimited who works for an unforgiving CEO and is newly charged with leading a critical project that is already in jeopardy. Readers follow along as Bill learns core IT project management concepts like DevOps.

Who it’s for: IT project managers (and those aspiring to be)

Read more: What Is an IT Project Manager? And How to Become One

10. For construction project management

Construction Management Jumpstart by Barbara J. Jackson

Project managers in construction need to have specialized knowledge, including industry regulations and standards. This book covers the roles you’ll play in each stage of a construction project, how to keep projects on schedule and within budget, and how new software is shaping the construction world. The newest edition of this construction project management book includes three chapters on pre-construction, team management, and sustainability.

Who it’s for: Those getting started in construction project management or who want to deepen their understanding of the field

11. For maximizing efficiency

The Lazy Project Manager: How to be twice as productive and still leave the office early by Peter Taylor

This book encourages readers to apply their efforts where they most matter to work more effectively. Although the idea of being "lazy" is provocative, this book isn't about avoiding the work of project management but rather how to work "smarter," particularly when the workload is heavy. This project management book is praised for the entertaining stories and practical tips it contains, as well as the overall actionable content.

Who it's for: Anyone in project management who wants to improve their work-life balance without sacrificing quality

12. For a skills refresher

Project Management QuickStart Guide: The simplified beginner's guide to precise planning, strategic resource management, and delivering world class results by Chris Croft

This book teaches readers foundational skills and concepts in project management, including managing resources, time, and risks, as well as breaking down complex projects into a series of smaller, easier-to-handle tasks. This book is praised for being practical and making the broad field of project management accessible to people at all experience levels. With your purchase of the Project Management QuickStart Guide, you get access to free digital project management tools.

Who it's for: New or experienced project managers, as well as business owners or managers, who want to achieve goals on time and within budget

Getting started in project management

Whether you’re training to become a construction manager or a certified PMP or are completely new to project management, learning the core concepts of project management is a great first step to take. Reading good project management books can be tremendously helpful in deepening your knowledge as you embark on your project manager career.

In addition to reading books, consider taking online courses. These can be a great way to practice skills and explore career options at your own pace. Not sure where to start? Explore the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.