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My Top 10 Must-Read Business Books

Top business books

There are so many management and leadership books out there, how do you know which ones are worth your time?

My bookshelves are loaded with business books. Mainly project management, but also general leadership and team management stuff. I don’t tend to keep the novels – they get passed on to friends and family. But the management books? Mostly I hang on to them.

A reader got in touch recently and asked for a list of my 10 all-time favourite work-related books. So here we go. Stefanie, this list of my best business books is for you!

1. Making Things Happen

Scott Berkun’s book, Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management* is a fantastic read for people responsible for managing projects but it’s more than that. It’s about the challenges of getting work done in teams. It’s practical, full of useful advice and it covers the theory in a way that makes it accessible and real.

It’s a bit heavy to lug around though – keep it as a desk reference. Read my review of Making Things Happen.

2. The Accidental Leader

I bought this because being a line manager wasn’t exactly my calling. The Accidental Leader by Harvey Robbins and Michael Finley is a truly excellent primer for people thrown into a leadership job.

It covers everything from what to do your first day to how to make decisions, set goals for your team and getting rid of the ghost of your predecessor. Very easy to read, small enough to fit into your bag!

3. Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers

Now in its second edition, I’m quoted on the back of Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers saying it’s the book I wish I had written. Sadly for me, Anthony Mersino got there first.

This book is an exploration of what emotional intelligence means in non-hierarchical teams and there’s lots in there for team leaders at all levels. It’s a book about soft skills, and managing people without being annoying. You’ll also find it helpful for deepening your self-awareness.

4. Leading With Honor

Subtitled Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton, Leading With Honor is a moving and meaningful book by former US Air Force pilot Lee Ellis. He survived five and a half years in a POW camp in North Vietnam.

The stories of bravery, leadership, courage and teamwork will have you reaching for the tissues and wanting to be better at work tomorrow.

5. Beyond The Boys’ Club

Beyond The Boys Club by Suzanne Doyle-Morris gave me some new strategies to be successful as a young woman at work. Even now, as a slightly older woman at work, there’s stuff in here I return to time and time again.

It’s full of stories about how senior women reached career heights (or didn’t) but with the added advantage of tips that show you how you can take their lessons and apply them to your own career journey.

Some of the advice in here might not be new to you but if you work in a male-dominated field then it’s definitely worth a read.

6. Friends With Benefits

Don’t type Friends With Benefits into Amazon because what pops up is not the book I am referring to. This link will take you to the management book I mean: .

I love No Starch Press, the publisher, and I loved this. It changed the way I thought about social media at work. Read my review of it here.

7. Results Without Authority

Results Without Authority by Tom Kendrick is a great book because in so many leadership roles you don’t have direct line management responsibility for your team. This is especially the case in a project environment, where you have to draw on resources from lots of different areas. You have to get things done through flat structures and non-hierarchical means, and that doesn’t always work as smoothly as it should.

This is a fine, practical book full of tips and stories about how to control a project when the team doesn’t report to you.

8. Math For Grown Ups

This book helped me realise that actually, I can do math. Or maths, as we call it over here. It wasn’t my top subject at school and I’m happy to confess to being numbers blind: when anyone asks an arithmetic question in a meeting I don’t even try to answer as I simply can’t process what’s being said. But I’m OK with a calculator, especially after reading Math For Grownups by Laura Laing.

Anything that boosts your confidence for basic workplace skills has to be good, right? Definitely worth a read if you need more confidence handling the numbers part of your job.

Read my review of Math For Grown Ups.

9. slide:ology

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte is a book I got from the library many moons ago. I took notes, and I think it made my presentations better.

Today I wonder if you’d be better served by following the Slideshare blog as trends have most likely changed since that book came out. I get lots of good tips from there, most recently on using icons on slides as well as images – I have to find a presentation I can do that with.

10. Conflict 101

by Susan H. Shearouse is a well-thumbed book on the shelf in my office.

This book is essential reading for anyone trying to keep the peace in a team. Lots of practical strategies for resolving problems so that no one feels like a loser, and plenty of advice for reframing your own experiences. Being self-aware is such an important part of being a good leader and manager and especially so in conflict situations. Read my review of it here.

So there you have it. I’ve been reading management books since I was at university and that’s a lot of years now. These are the ones that have made the most mark on me (aside from my own – but they marked me in a different way!). I hope you can get something useful from them too.

* This article contains affiliate links. They don’t cost you extra, but they keep me in coffee. Thanks!

The best business books for managers and leaders

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About Elizabeth Harrin

Elizabeth HarrinElizabeth Harrin FAPM is a professional project manager and award-winning blogger behind A Girl's Guide To Project Management. She's passionate about demystifying project management and making tools and techniques work in the real world. She's also the author of several books including the PMI bestseller, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers.
Elizabeth lives in the UK with her family. She uses her organisation and project management skills at home, and also to help other bloggers at Totally Organised Blogging.


  1. Tony Adams says

    Great list, thanks Elizabeth. I will definitely check each of these out.

    A couple of Business type books that have caught my eye, each of which focuses on communication (both within teams and across the wider client organisation), are
    => A World Gone Social (How Companies Must Adapt To Survive), by Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt
    => The Idea-Driven Organization (Unlocking The Power In Bottom-Up Ideas), by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder
    => Overcoming Fake Talk (How to Hold REAL Conversations That Create Respect, Build Relationships and Get Results), by John Stoker

    I’ve reviewed each of these over the past couple of years and think they are stand-outs. Well worth sharing.

  2. Gordon Tredgold says

    you should try my book FAST – 4 Principles Every Business Needs To Achieve Success and Drive Results

    i’d be happy to send you a copy if you’d do a review



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