10 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. Getting a book or two on project management and its myriad niches can be a good way to immerse yourself in the tools and processes of the industry.

We read hundreds of book reviews and consulted several discussion websites to find practical, popular, and well-recommended project management books. Here are 10 project management books for beginners.

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 organised. Though the book is beginner-friendly, its content can benefit intermediate-level project managers. If you want a project management certification, other resources will help you grasp the specific knowledge you need.

Who it’s for: Beginners to project management looking for a solid and complete introduction

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 organisation in the industry. 

Besides being a crucial study aid for PMP exams, the PMBOK Guide is the go-to resource for project management professionals. It includes explaining major development approaches and how to tailor them to your needs, models, artefacts, etc. 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

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. Readers laud this book as a basic but comprehensive guide that newbies to Agile can pick up and understand easily. The most recent edition was published in September 2020.

Suppose you already have a grasp of Agile concepts. In that case, 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. Readers applaud the book as easy to read, as well as for its practical advice and stories. 

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 of the publisher’s online learning platform. The latest edition is updated 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 good examples and practical advice, and can be referred to repeatedly as an advance 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

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 information centres 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 non-formal project managers. 

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 favourite 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 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)

10. For construction project management

Construction Management Jumpstart by Barbara J. Jackson

Construction project managers need specialised knowledge, including industry regulation 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 latest edition 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

Getting started in project management

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

If you’re not a book person, there are several other ways to get the knowledge you need, including online or in-person courses. Not sure where to start? Explore the Google Project Management Professional Certificate.

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