Top Project Management Books to Read for 2021

If beefing up your reading list and advancing your career are at the top of your resolutions for 2021, great news — you can combine the two! Just add some of these excellent project management books to your lineup, and you’ll enrich your mind and your skillset.
project management books
By Caitlin Wittlif Dec 14, 2020

For those whose dream is to become a certified project manager, there is one true PM book to rule them all. But for anyone else who could benefit from project management strategies, processes, and general knowledge — which is all of us —there are, thankfully, far less dense and far more entertaining resources we can rely on. So, which project management books should you add to your reading list for 2021? Read on for our recommendations of the best project management books out there.

Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager, by Kory Kogon, Suzette Blakemore, and James Wood

Feel like you’re juggling deadlines, projects, teammates, and clients all the time — but Project Manager isn’t in your title? You’re not alone. Most of us are unofficial project managers these days, even if it’s only at home amongst our family members. So how can you sharpen your skills without investing in a 500-page book? Project Management for the Unofficial Project Manager is the guide for you. It boils project management down to the essentials, including initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and closing out your projects. Couple this book with other handy guides and you’ll be well on your way to project management success.

What You Need to Know about Project Management, by Fergus O’Connell

If you are, in fact, looking for a book that gives you the rundown on the most critical project management basics, What You Need to Know about Project Management is a great guide for you. This guide is broken down into sections you can skip around to based on your needs — things like quotes from key figures in the field, a reading list of resources, and a one-liner of the most important thing to remember about project management. This book can help you right the ship if your project gets off track (and off schedule), how to balance your work and life, and how to set clear goals (and why it matters). It’s easy to read without skimping on the most critical details.

Be Fast or Be Gone: Racing the Clock with Critical Chain Project Management, by Andreas Scherer

Critical Chain Project Management might be a term you’re unfamiliar with — your mind may have even started wandering right in the middle of the phrase. But Andreas Scherer puts humanity, urgency, and storytelling at the heart of this tactic in Be Fast or Be Gone, a novel that presents real-world applications and outcomes of project management. This fictional tale revolves around Mike Knight and his son, Tim. Mike is a professional project manager who implements Critical Chain for businesses — and who suddenly leaves his job in order to put all his attention towards helping PM a cure for his son’s recently diagnosed cancer. The stakes couldn’t be higher, which is what makes the story so engaging and empathetic.

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

Peter Taylor proclaims in the introduction to this book that it is “not a project management training manual,” or a “replacement for a good fundamental project management education program.” Thus, The Lazy Project Manager isn’t the place to turn if you need to pass the PMP exam. But if you’re looking for a no-nonsense, well-delivered, bird’s-eye view into balancing project management work with project managing your life. Anecdotes mix with historical tales, pop culture references and humor so that you’ll walk away with memorable, practical, easy-to-apply advice. 

The Victory Project, by Saurabh Mukherjea

To get a clearer picture of business globally, it makes sense to step outside of western conventions and see what’s working in markets outside of the U.S. That’s why The Victory Project is such a promising read. As Arundhati Bhattacharya, former chairperson of the State Bank of India, notes, “Books which fuse the best practices from India with the teachings of leading Western gurus are rare. This one is an addition to that short list.” Packed with case studies, personal stories, and teachings from experts across industries, The Victory Project aims to highlight project management best practices via four main principles: simplicity, specialization, creativity, and collaboration. We’re certainly believers in collaboration being a cornerstone of great work, and this book speaks to why that is in practical terms.

The Unicorn Project, by Gene Kim

When information is delivered as a story, rather than just a string of facts, research shows it becomes 22 times more memorable. That’s one reason why The Unicorn Project is such a great project management resource. It’s a novel that follows Maxine Chambers as she is set upon a failing project as punishment for a payroll mishap, and turns the drudgery of day-to-day development management into an engaging story about rising up against bureaucracy to work smarter and better. By putting project management tips and best practices into the context of a relatable and interesting story, The Unicorn Project teaches through showing, not telling.

Creating Magic: 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney, by Lee Cockerell

Although this isn’t strictly a project management book, it features some incredible leadership and communication best practices that will help improve relationship building for PMs everywhere. And — it’s delightful! Just as you’d expect from a Disney executive, Lee Cockerell’s Creating Magic makes you believe in the goodness of people, and the importance of every team member to weigh in and take a project from good to great. This is one of those rare self-improvement career books that you’ll enjoy reading, and return to again and again.

If you’re interested in project management but don’t feel like cracking a book, try CROOW — a unique software that combines creative collaboration and project management together.