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Eight (+1) of the Best Project Management Books

Best of... Project Management Books

Any selection of the best project management books must, perforce, be subjective. So with this clarification, but  without apology, here are my recommendations. Please add your own to the comments section below. Also, I shall make my recommendations on specialist areas of project management, like risk management, leadership,  and stakeholder engagement, in subsequent blogs.

We have written an updated and improved version of this article: ‘What are the Best Project Management Books?’

Eight of the Best Project Management Books

Performance-Based Project Management: Increasing the Probability of Project Success
Glen B Alleman

This guy really knows his stuff, so this is rigorous, reliable, yet completely straightforward. This represents the distillation into simple ideas of a vast wealth of experience delivering high value, high criticality projects – often in software systems. It may be relatively new, but as soon as I knew Glen was writing a book, I was confident it would rank highly among my best project management books.

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Project Management for You: How to Turn Your Ideas Into Reality, Deliver On Your Promises, and Get Things Done
Cesar Abeid

I don’t usually like nor recommend self-published, Kindle only books. But I will make an exception for this well-written ebook. It is written in a personal, first person style that you may or may not like, but it is full of good pragmatic advice, clearly explained.

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Project Management Coaching Workbook: Six Steps to Unleashing Your Potential
Susanne Madsen

If you want to self-coach, to become a better PM, and are prepared to put in the work of doing her exercises, Susanne offers a great book. It is one of those project management books you are likely to return to at different stages of your career. She comes from a business project background.

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A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK(R) Guide 5th Edition
Project Management Institute

This is the PMI’s guide to its body of knowledge. It is a hugely valuable reference book but a poor place to start learning from. It contains a huge amount of information but does not set out to teach or to describe the underlying principles. If you plan to get the PMI’s Project Management Professional qualification, this will be your primary reference work. Darn it but there’s more new stuff since my 4th edition, which already dwarfs my first edition! This is quintessentially a reference book, but if you are serious about a project management career, this is one of the few essential project management books.

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Project Management For Dummies
Stanley E Portney

I’ll admit it… for years, I held out against …Dummies books for, well, snobbish reasons. I’m not a Dummy. But this book, like its modern stable mates, does not treat you like a dummy. Quite simply, it’s very good.

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Project Management: A Managerial Approach 8th Edition
Jack R. Meredith & Samuel J. Mantel Jr.

To be honest, my copy is the third edition and 20 years old. But this was my reference manual when I was learning, so I can heartily recommend the latest edition. It’s a textbook, so you get a huge amount of content, lots of detail and, whilst easily readable, it ain’t reading-for-pleasure. But if you’re a serious student of PM, or you want a good solid reference book on your shelves, to see you through years of ‘let me just look that up‘, then you’ll want this. Maybe save some money by picking up a second hand 6th or 7th edition. For me, this is one of my truly indispensible project management books.

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Project Management in Practice 5th Edition
Jack R. Meredith, Samuel J. Mantel Jr, Scott M. Shafer & Margaret M. Sutton

A lighter-weight text book than its cousin (above). I haven’t seen it, but this may suit you as a halfway house (though it’s priced a little beyond half way). Textbook pricing is shocking (and arguably unethical).

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What You Need to Know about Project Management
Fergus O’Connell

In my opinion, the (second) best of the lightweight mass market trade paperbacks about project management. It has all the basics written clearly in bite sized chunks.

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So, if that’s the second best: ‘what’s the best?’ you ask.

This will have to be my plus one on my list of eight, and I’ll declare an interest… I wrote it. Of all my project management books, this is the fundamental one, designed to take a beginer to a good level of competence, in eight easy steps. So instead of telling you what I think, here is what Anne-Marie O’Hara, Head of Projects at The National Trust for Scotland, said;

‘Read this book, follow his advice and you will succeed.’

How to Manage a Great Project: On budget. On target. On time.
Mike Clayton

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My Own Project Management Bookshelf

In case you think I am bluffing on all of this, here is a picture of my own project management bookshelf…

Project Management Bookshelf - Mike Clayton's Project Management Books


The links here are affiliate links. If you are interested in buying one of these books, please use these links, to support our blog. Many thanks… Mike

About the Author Mike Clayton

Dr Mike Clayton is one of the most successful and in-demand project management trainers in the UK. He is author of 14 best-selling books, including four about project management. He is also a prolific blogger and contributor to and Project, the journal of the Association for Project Management. Between 1990 and 2002, Mike was a successful project manager, leading large project teams and delivering complex projects. In 2016, Mike launched OnlinePMCourses.

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  • Angus Duncan says:

    An interesting list of books, Mike. I was going to mention yours until I saw it on the list! 🙂 As you’ve said, any list of “best” books is going to be very subjective and it depends on your current level of PM knowledge. I’ll give a mention to “Project Management, Planning and Control: Managing Engineering, Construction and Manufacturing Projects to PMI, APM and BSI Standards” by Albert Lester, and “20:20 Project Management: How to Deliver on Time, on Budget and on Spec” by Tony Marks.

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