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This illustrated list details the top 10 project management books as chosen by online communities. It doesn't matter whether you're an experienced project veteran or a novice just getting to grips with it all - there's bound to be a book here to tickle your fancy! Take a look for some books to inspire you!

Top 10 project management books

The thing that I and my colleague Alison found interesting while researching the best sellers on Amazon, reading reviews and talking to other project managers about their favourite project management books – was the reason that project managers liked to read. Although many of them come across as if they live and breathe project management, some project managers stated that they enjoyed publications that were less technical and when project management wasn’t the primary topic. They enjoyed understanding people, general management approaches and sought to be entertained even when delving into a business subject.

However, the best-seller and most mentioned book was the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBoK), definitely a necessity but not the most entertaining choice!

Here we have selected the top-10 project management books from delving into discussions and scouring reviews, everything from heavy reference text books to soft-skills and fictional stories.

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Take your pick and share what’s on your own project management book shelf!

1. A Guide to the PMBoK (Project Management Institute) - Probably not one you’d take on your summer holiday, but definitely a reference bible for your bookshelf especially if you’re studying for the PMP exam.

2. Making Things Happen (Scott Berkun) – Unlike some other project management books, this one uses philosophy and strategy to outline what it takes to get through a large software or web development project. The author writes from an experienced background, working on some of Microsoft’s biggest projects; and states that he understands that software development and project management can be boring, so he likes to make his point using “comedic” means or making jokes at his own expense.

3. Getting Things Done (David Allen) – A popular book on maximising your productivity and setting priorities even when plans are interrupted. A helpful lesson to anybody of mastering the art of relaxation while increasing productivity.

4. Project Management For Dummies (Stanley E. Portny) – In my experience the “For Dummies” books have always been a fantastic introduction to the chosen subject area. This 4th edition of the book principles of successful project management and shows you how to motivate any team to gain maximum productivity, including the latest trend of using social media within your project.

5. The Mythical Man-Month (Frederick P. Brooks Jr) - The classic book of essays on the human elements of software engineering and project management, with a combination of software engineering facts and thought provoking opinions.

6. Critical Chain (Eliyahu M. Goldratt) – A fictional business novel that explores the Theory of Constraints principles and applies them to problems in project management, a follow-up to the author’s previous book ‘The Goal’. A nice text-book alternative!

7. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling (Harold R. Kerzner) – The eleventh edition of this book states to be even more aligned to the PMBok

8. The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management (Eric Verzuh) – Both an excellent desk reference and introductory guide for beginners and experienced alike.

9. The Lazy Project Manager (Peter Taylor) - Fortunately the author is not implying that we do absolutely nothing, but to approach work using the Pareto Principle; that only 20 per cent of the things we do during our working day really matter. Quite an entertaining read that includes a chapter about eating dinosaurs and why the Jungle Book's 'Bare Necessities' should be the productive lazy theme tune. Learn simple techniques to master the art of “productive laziness”.

10. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Tom DeMarco) – This offers great insight into team development, stating exactly what makes a company succeed among those that fail – the people! They use statistical evidence and humour to point out that the manager’s function is not to make people work, but to make it possible for them to work. From office layouts, dress codes and hiring policies, this is a must-read for IT managers looking to maximise the productivity of their staff.

There’s a great selection there to pile your shelves up with. I’m particularly intrigued by the project management books that are written as business novels, such as Critical Chain.

"Books-to-read" list

I’ve found a few interesting ones for my “books-to-read” pile and would welcome anyone to write a review for the Knowledge Train blog!

The Luck Factor (Richard Wiseman)

Richard is a well-known psychologist/magician who opened the 2013 Association for Project Management (APM) conference with an interesting presentation about “making yourself lucky” through changes in thinking and behaviour, relating it back to project management. The Luck Factor identifies four behavioural techniques that have been scientifically proven to help you attract good fortune.

Alpha Project Managers - What the Top 2% Know That Everyone Else Does Not (Andy Crowe)

The author states that project management is both a science and an art-form. Presuming that the science can be obtained through qualifications, the book aims to teach you the art-form through sharing case studies; and the results of a survey of over 3,000 project managers identifying the 2% of “alpha project managers”.

The Phoenix Project (Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford)

A gripping, entertaining fictional story that follows an IT manager in a company with a troubled project, capturing the dilemmas and offering real-world solutions that the reader can learn from and implement.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (Patrick Lencioni)

Another fictional tale that delivers a powerful message about exceptional team leadership. The story follows a CEO that has to make big decisions to strengthen a chaotic team, in fear of the company falling apart.

The One Minute Manager (Kenneth H. Blanchard, Spencer Johnson)

A short, easy-to-read business classic that reveals three practical secrets: One Minute Goals, One Minute Praisings, and One Minute Reprimands.

The full details of the 15 books listed above are as follows:

1. Project Management Institute (2013). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK(R) Guide. Pennsylvania: Project Management Institute, Inc. 589. ISBN-13: 978-1935589679

2. Scott Berkun (2008). Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management (Theory in Practice). Sebastopol: O'Reilly Media Inc. 410. ISBN-13: 978-0596517717

3. David Allen (2002). Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. New York: Penguin Group. 288. ISBN-13: 978-0142000281

4. Stanley E. Portny (2013). Project Management For Dummies. 4th ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 408. ISBN-13: 978-1118497234

5. Frederick P. Brooks Jr. (1995). The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition. 2nd ed. United States of America: Addison-Wesley Professional. 336. ISBN-13: 978-0201835953

6. Eliyahu M. Goldratt (1997). Critical Chain. Massachusetts: The North River Press. 246. ISBN-13: 978-0884271536

7. Harold R. Kerzner (2013). Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling. 11th ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1296. ISBN-13: 978-1118022276

8. Eric Verzuh (2008). The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management. 3rd ed. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 480. ISBN-13: 978-0470247891

9. Peter Taylor (2010). The Lazy Project Manager: How to be twice as productive and still leave the office early. United Kingdom: Infinite Ideas. 152. ISBN-13: 978-1906821678

10. Tom DeMarco (2013). Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams. 3rd ed. United States of America: Addison-Wesley Professional. 272. ISBN-13: 978-0321934116

11. Richard Wiseman (2004). The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind. United Kingdom: Random House. 240. ISBN-13: 978-0099443247

12. Andy Crowe (2006). Alpha Project Managers: What the Top 2% Know That Everyone Else Does Not: What the Top 2 Per Cent Know That Everyone Else Does Not. Unknown: VELOCITEACH PRESS. 198. ISBN-13: 978-0972967334

13. Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford (2013). The Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win. Unknown: It Revolution Press. 343. ISBN-13: 978-0988262591

14. Patrick M. Lencioni (2002). The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series). San Francisco: Jossey Bass. 240. ISBN-13: 978-0787960759

15. Kenneth Blanchard, Spencer Johnson (1983). The One Minute Manager - Increase Productivity, Profits And Your Own Prosperity. London: Harper Collins. 112. ISBN-13: 978-0007107926

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Simon Buehring

Simon Buehring is the Founder and Managing Director of Knowledge Train.

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