The Reading List for Agile Newbies

Prison-booksRecently I got asked a few times to give some advice on the best books to study when you’re a novice in Agile & Scrum. This resulted in me checking my Kindle library and giving some custom made advice. Of course this is a small effort, but it gave me the idea to bundle it in a blog post, which makes it easier to send around whenever anyone asks me. The result is some kind of personal Agile reading list for newbies; I hope it’s useful for anyone entering the awesome world of Agile software development.

My original plan was to focus on Scrum, but when you’re a novice in the world of Agile software development, I find it more useful to study multiple practices & tools and select the one that suits you best. Therefore I’ve added some books and articles of the most common Agile practices. This list is based purely on my personal preference. Probably a lot of obvious books for a novice might be missing, if so, feel free to suggest them.

  1. The Agile Manifesto

For sure, you start with reading the Agile Manifesto. You should know the values and principles by heart. Print a copy and put it in your bag. Have it close at hand so you can study it whenever there’s a difficult or questionable situation. You will only really understand the essence of the Agile Manifesto by applying it during real life experiences.

  1. The Scrum Guide – Jeff Sutherland, Ken Schwaber

The subtitle says it all: the definitive guide to Scrum, the rules of the game. The essence of Scrum captured in only seventeen pages. Together with the Agile Manifesto, this guide should be on top of your mind.

  1. The Power of Scrum – Rini van Solingen

A classic. Sure, it doesn’t cover the whole spectrum of Scrum, but it’s a great book to read as a starter. The storytelling style makes it easy to read and understand, and invites you to study Scrum in more depth.

  1. Scrum: A Pocket Guide – Gunther Verheyen

This guide gives a clear description about the background of Scrum and what is really intended with the Scrum values. It captures the essence and makes a valuable distinction between the core of Scrum and the best practices that nowadays already seem intertwined with Scrum.

  1. Succeeding with Agile – Mike Cohn

One of the first books I’ve read about Agile and Scrum. It describes the most common problems and offers practical solutions and guidelines to deal with them. If you want to study Scrum in more detail, this is the one you should read.

  1. The Agile Samurai – Jonathan Rasmusson

Awesome book; written with a lot of humor and offering spot on quotes. Luckily I’ve got a digital version of this book; or else it would have cost me quite a few highlighters! It contains the Inception Deck, which is a great tool to kick off a project. I wish I would have known this tool earlier in my career… It explains most of the Extreme Programming (XP) practices. Knowing the existence of these practices is a very valuable asset to your Agile journey. Also check out the related website ‘Agile in a Nutshell‘.

  1. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team – Patrick Lencioni

Not a book about Agile or Scrum, but about teamwork, which is of course what Scrum is all about. Being aware of the five team dysfunctions and learning the exercises to cope with them is tremendously valuable when starting in the field of Agile software development. I’ve read this book multiple times and it has supported me in understanding difficult situations, not only with Scrum teams, but basically with dysfunctions throughout the entire organization.

  1. The Scrum Field Guide – Mitch Lacey

This book is a must read for beginning as well more experienced Scrum practitioners. It’s a very practical approach on how to implement Scrum and deal with the most common obstacles. Therefore it’s a great book to use when you’re actually starting with Scrum. The stories are well balanced with theory and real life experiences.

  1. The Phoenix Project – Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

Written as a novel, it describes the story of Bill working as an IT manager of Parts Unlimited. His mission is to save the company with the seemingly impossible Phoenix Project. Using the DevOps (Development & Operations) principles he tries to make it a success. It’s an entertaining book to get some basic insights behind the idea of DevOps.

  1. Kanban – David J. Anderson

The first years of my Agile journey, my primary focus was Scrum. It took a while before I started to discover Kanban. If I could change anything about my Agile journey it would have been studying and applying Kanban earlier. Kanban is far less disruptive than Scrum; therefore it’s a great method to use if you want to introduce the Agile mindset in a cautious manner. David J. Anderson is the Kanban guru, he has written multiple books about Kanban, but this one is great to start with.

  1. Clean Code – Robert C. Martin

For developers starting their Agile journey this is a must-read. It offers valuable guidelines for producing readable, maintainable, and testable code and with this also clean code. For any beginning developer, this book probably is a gold mine!


So there you have it, my personal Agile reading list I advice to newbies in the world of Agile software development.

As mentioned before, some obvious books might be missing. For example I’ve doubted a lot to add the books of Henrik Kniberg to this list. I really love the ‘from the trenches’ books he has written. But the title is also the reason why I haven’t done it. The power of these books is the highly practical approach. For people new in Agile this might be confusing. First start with the basics, follow the given rules and principles and when you’ve mastered them, start deviating with your own best practices. This is also the moment to read all the great stuff Henrik Kniberg has produced.

Do you know any other great books for Agile newbies? Please let me know, I might even read them myself, because learning is an everlasting joy!