A project manager sitting and reading a book.I have always loved to read books but it is only by thinking about it now that I have realized that my tastes have changed dramatically over the years. I used to enjoy a lot of action and sci-fi adventure but I now look for a bit more depth and inspiration in what I read.

So what books would be best for a project manager to read? Every one of us needs to find the ones which most help, entertain and inspire us but I would humbly suggest the following ideas to get you started.

A Bit of Escapism

After a long, hard day at work comes the daily commute home, doesn’t it? I find that taking the train helps me relax more than driving or getting the bus. However, seeming the same old landscapes and the same old faces every single day means that my minds tend to wander while I travel in this way. This means that if I don’t have a book in front of me I will generally start thinking about work problems and get worried about things I did during the day. Sometimes I would prefer a bit of escapism to this and there are some books which help me do this perfectly. A few years ago I read The Piano Tuner, about a, well, about a piano tuner really. He goes to Burma to, you guessed it, tune a piano. It is a lot better than I have made it sound and it helped me forget about project issues for a good number of train journeys.

Some Learning

When I was learning Spanish I bought the original Spanish version of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I would sit with this on my lap and the dictionary beside me. It is a fantastic book but the fact I was still learning the language meant that it was a long, hard slog. To be honest, I should have chosen an easier one for my first ever book in the language, as I got completely lost on a number of occasions, a fact which wasn’t helped by successive generations of characters all having very similar names to the ones who had just died, gone crazy or had some other mishap befall them. I felt really good when I got to the end of the book after a number of weeks and this confidence helped me feel better at work as well.

Inspiration

I like to get inspired when I read but I like it to be wrapped in an adventure of some sort as well. For this reason The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is probably my favorite ever book.  I started it when I was feeling really down about my job and my current project. It is one of those books which seem to talk directly to the reader and to address your own current concerns, no matter what there are. This was my second ever Spanish book but it is written so simply and clearly that I could probably have understood it in Swahili or Urdu as well. If the direction of your job or your life is starting to make you have doubts about how well you are living out your personal legend then this book could turn the commute home into something which really makes a difference in your life.

Some More Learning

You might have noticed that I haven’t put anything work related on this list. There is a very good reason for this, as for me the train journey home is all about forgetting about my current project and enjoying something different. However, from time to time I will need to complete an urgent report on the way home or read up on the something while traveling to work. Of course, we are all different and maybe you will want to do a lot of learning on your commute to the office. This is fine but I would suggest that you mix things up by reading some of the other things I have suggested here. After all, this can be one of the best periods of the day if you do it right and let your mind wander thanks to a good book. I have absolutely nothing against getting some work done on the train or reading a training manual on the bus but I just think that saturating your life with project work isn’t going to give you the work / life balance you want in the end.