Ideally, we would like a book that is written by a well-respected, seasoned subject matter expert that has “walk the walk.” It will be a book that is clear enough for beginning project managers but substantial also for those who are experienced. It can discuss all aspects of the topic, from the principles to the practices, with plenty of real-world examples. Ideally, it will be thick enough but still very affordable. It will be up-to-date, reflecting the latest standards and best practices, and popular to readers. It will be a book that deals with a relevant topic, related to the whole PM process, or focused on a single one, or something in between. It will be more exciting to read than a textbook, and will not only offer practical tools and tips but would also challenge the thinking of the reader to become resourceful and creative.
Unfortunately, we have not come across that ideal book, but we have encountered several that have many of these sought-after characteristics in a combination of sorts. Here, we attempt to present, like many before us, a recommendation of ten books about project management in general rather than a book about a single performance domain or knowledge area. (That may come later.) It is a list that the beginning or accidental project manager can quickly use, but also a selection that can help review and remind the experienced professional of the fundamentals. It is a healthy mix of theory, practice, reference, experience, templates, and perspective that will be a valuable companion in one’s career development.
The Book List
The price of a book alone does not define the book’s overall value, but it is a good sorting criterion for presentation purposes. The list is therefore presented from the lowest price to the highest as of the date this article was written.
Summary: The book is written by Juana Clark Craig, PMP. It was published in November 2012 and has 138 pages. The paperback edition costs as low as 13.63 USD in several online bookstores, including Amazon. This book is recommended for beginners in the PM field, accidental project managers, or those who have to manage a project just one time. It is a step-by-step guide in plain terminology absent of the usual jargon. It also has worksheets and checklists for easy project execution.
2. The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management (Fourth Edition)
Summary: Author Eric Verzuh is the president of Versatile, a PM training and consulting company that started in 1990. His updated fourth edition book was published in December 2011. The paperback edition has 544 pages and a price that starts at 16.63 USD, a real bargain. It will appeal to both new and experienced professionals for its comprehensive coverage that can serve as an introductory manual and desk reference. It offers forms and spreadsheets, tips in using MS Project, and covers new topics such as IT projects and agile techniques.
3. Strategic Project Management Made Simple – Practical Tools for Leaders and Teams
Summary: Terry Schmidt, PMP, is a management consultant, educator, strategy coach and founder of ManagementPro.com. The book was published in March 2009, but has remained relevant all these years. This hardcover book has 272 pages and is priced at 19.36 USD. This book drives the reader to ask important questions first before haphazardly starting a project. It is also a book that offers a methodology to help achieve a goal no matter how complex it is.
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4. Project Management JumpStart (Third Edition)
Summary: The book is written by Kim Heldman, a PMP since 2001 and has two decades of IT PM experience. This third edition paperback was published in May 2011 and contains 360 pages. It costs as low as 19.89 USD, available in many online bookstores including Barnes and Noble. It is an introductory guide for the aspiring professional who is serious in understanding the essential fundamentals. The book covers project initiation up to closing, and has some sample forms and checklists that are usable.
5. Project Management Absolute Beginner’s Guide (Third Edition)
Summary: Author Gregory Horine, PMP is an IT PM professional with over two decades of experience. His third edition was published in October 2012 and has 432 pages. It costs about 20.04 USD. This paperback book is for the relatively new professional who needs to hit the ground running. It covers the whole process cycle but focuses more on the planning, control, and execution of the project. It also has some tips on how to use the latest MS Project software and has many overview charts as guide.
6. Brilliant Project Management: What the best project managers know, do, and say (Third Edition)
Summary: Stephen Barker and Rob Cole have about 35 years of PM experience between them. This third edition paperback was published in June 2012 by UK publisher Pearson. Their book has 200 pages and costs as low as 22.26 USD. They shared in this book information based on experience of what makes a project successful, how to deliver what was promised, and how to stay on budget and on schedule. The authors also share their insight regarding methods, training, and associations.
7. Guide to Project Management: Getting it right and achieving lasting benefit (Second Edition)
Summary: Written by Paul Roberts, a seasoned project manager and the founding director of fifthday.com, a change management consultancy. The hardcover second edition was recently published in February 2013. It has 368 pages and costs 29.12 USD. Aside from discussing the processes, the book puts emphasis first on the importance of getting the commitment of the whole organization and successfully engaging the project stakeholders. The rest of the book shows steps for managing the project throughout the process cycle, with useful flowcharts, diagrams and other tools.
8. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management
Summary: Scott Berkun is a veteran project leader, best selling author and speaker who has led software projects for Microsoft for a decade. The book was published in July 2008. This revised paperback edition has 410 pages and sells at about 36.43 USD. It is different than the usual PM book in terms of style because it is in the form of essays rather than the usual outlined structure. It offers insights about scheduling, decision making, leadership, strategy, and basically, how to make things happen.
9. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge: PMBOK® Guide (Fifth Edition)
Summary: From the PMI, the standards body that collects the knowledge and best practices for the PM field. This is the latest PMBOK Guide, published in January 2013, and reflects all the changes and updates needed for PMP certification. The paperback edition is priced at around 36.75 USD, available in most bookshops and online stores, including Books-a-Million. It is a very comprehensive reference book.
10. Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling (11th Edition)
Summary: Harold Kerzner, Ph.D., is a senior executive of IIL, a learning solutions company. Dr. Kerzner’s book has become a textbook for students of PM as well as professionals studying for a certification exam. The latest edition was published in February 2013. It has 1,296 pages and costs about 71.80 USD. It is a comprehensive text of principles and practices which in this latest edition added more than 30 new sections on the different PM processes, including types of project closure, sponsorship, and teamwork. It is aligned with the PMI’s Body of Knowledge reference.
This ten best list is about options for the project manager. For example, he or she might prefer the reference-type PMBOK Guide over the school textbook-type by Dr. Kerzner. Another might prefer the style by which Scott Berkun questions existing practices rather than how the book Strategic Project Management suggests. Or the starting professional might easily afford Project Management Lite over the Absolute Beginner’s Guide. In the end, as long as there are options, people can make choices.