Top 3 Books for Scrum

I stumbled into Agile and Scrum rather accidentally and in an environment that didn’t offer a great deal of training, so for the first few years, I learned about Scrum by reading every book I could find.

I divide books (at least those I read for professional development) into those where I jot down a few concepts and those I can’t read without a computer nearby so I can take a ton of notes as I did with my college textbooks.

So what you have below are my top 3 books, targeted for those new to Scrum, but useful as a refresher for everyone else:

1.      Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process by Kenneth S. Rubin

This was the one book I used on a near-daily basis for my first two years. You don’t have to read it all at once; I actually recommend that you don’t. Instead, read it in sections as you can put those concepts into action. This book is for “doers”, so read it as you’re doing Scrum if possible.

For example, if you are a new member of a Scrum team, read Chapter 2, Scrum Framework; shouldn’t take too long since it is about 25 pages. Then skim Chapter 3 for a great overview of the key Agile values. Then for Chapters 4 through 8, read at a high level – overviews and closings as well as sub-headings, and delve into detail for any topic that catches your attention.

After than, skip ahead to Part II of the book and thoroughly read Chapter 11, Development Team. You now have the bare minimum of information needed to function in a Scrum team.

After a sprint or two when you’ve gotten past all the new terminology and processes, you can then focus on Part IV. Sprinting. Read at a high-level to understand the scope of what is covered and then refer to this section regularly as different scenarios emerge in your working life.

The other chapters will become more relevant if and when you want to understand more about how and why this framework works – and equally important when it doesn’t seem to work.

2. Succeeding with Agile: Software Development Using Scrum by Mike Cohn

Mike Cohn covers much of the same ground in this book as Essential Scrum does, so it’s probably just down to personal preference. I’m an avid reader of Cohn’s blog, but found the structure of Essential Scrum to better fit my purposes.

I’ve found Succeeding with Agile to be more insightful after I was relatively comfortable with the framework basics, especially as various challenges emerged in my Scrum implementation experiences. So, this is more the “what to do if what you already know doesn’t seem to work” book!

I’d recommend looking through both books online to review the table of contents and read a sample chapter if available, and then buying whichever best suits you. You can’t go wrong either way.

3. User Stories Applied. For Agile Software Development by Mike Cohn

Considerably more in-depth than most of the previous book recommendations, this book is the bible for anyone writing user stories. So, especially for business analysts or product owners, this book should be at the top of your list.

Don’t just read it and put it down. Read it, take notes, and use it regularly as you are developing user stories. Remember that good user stories are the foundation to a successful delivery of value!

A quick note about the following two books that are often referenced to for “introduction to Scrum”, I think they provide great insight into the origins of Scrum and make for good reading.

  • Agile Software Development with Scrum by Ken Schwaber and Mike Beedle
  • Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time by Jeff Sutherland

These are essentially idea books, not implementation books. And as I pointed out above, these are books I enjoyed reading but didn’t end up with a lot of notes.


4 thoughts on “Top 3 Books for Scrum

  1. mikecohn says:

    Hi Leila–
    Thanks for including two of my books on your list. I appreciate that.

    I love that you listed Ken Rubin’s “Essential Scrum” as #1 on the list. He started writing that about the same time I started writing “Succeeding with Agile.” In the preface to “Succeeding with Agile,” I actually wrote that my book was not intended to be someone’s first book on Scrum and to go get another book. I wanted to tell readers to go get Ken Rubin’s book but it hadn’t been published yet so I couldn’t do that. But, Succeeding with Agile was written completely with the intent that someone would have first read his excellent book.

    So, again, thanks for including me on your list.



  2. You’re very welcome Mike — as you can tell I’m a huge fan of both your blog at Mountain Goat and your books.

    Thanks so much for sharing the details behind Ken’s Essential Scrum and your Succeeding with Agile! It certainly fits my experience with both of your books.


  3. Ken Rubin says:

    Hi Leila–to follow-up to Mike’s comment, I appreciate the kind words. Our books are really setup to be quite complementary. In fact, in the final Chapter of Essential Scrum I mention that the next step would be to read Mike’s Succeeding with Agile!

    Wishing you the best of success!

    Liked by 1 person

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