When we think about ongoing learning, it’s easy to fall into the trap of automatically considering certifications, diplomas and other qualifications. But growing and developing your product management career – and yourself – doesn’t need to be an endless cycle of pre-packaged classes or repetitive seminars.
Wherever you are in your product management career, there’s incredible value to be gained from product management books written by the industry greats. From someone just starting out to someone looking to fill in the gaps in their knowledge or experience, some of the industry’s greatest experts have put the proverbial pen to paper and produced several books that are excellent resources for the product manager who wants to do more than simply achieve goals.
26 of the best product management books that you must read.
If you are wondering “what books should I read?”, you came to the right place. To help you along, we’ve put together a list of 26 of the best product management books available, along with a brief overview of each book. You will find the essential books to read, the best books on strategy, and so on. All these books are available to buy online, either as hard copies or e-books, at time of publication, so we’ve also included links to these, and to make things simple, we’ve broken them down into the following categories:
- Product Management Basics
- Leading People & Teams
- Strategy & Planning
- User Experience & Design Thinking
- Behavioural Economics
Product Management Basics
#1. Product Management For Dummies
by Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure
Perfect for: All levels of product manager who want to learn more about the job
The Dummies series of books has been a popular choice on a wide range of topic for a good couple of decades now, with good reason. Written by experts in the field, this book is no exception. Lawley and Schure take the reader through the world of product management step by step, from explaining exactly what the job entails at different expertise levels, and giving useful advice on how to stand out in the field. Peppered with relevant real-world examples, this is one of the best product management books for beginners through experts.
#2. The Product Manager’s Desk Reference (2nd Edition)
by Steven Haines
Perfect for: Anyone involved in the Product Management Life Cycle
Even if you aren’t the product manager, if you are involved in the product lifecycle at all, this book will come in handy for the team. The first edition of this book defined the product management life cycle, and this second edition revamps and revitalises it to be up to date. The Product Manager’s Desk Reference is universally acknowledged as one of the best product lifecycle management books available on the market.
#3. The Product Manager’s Survival Guide
by Steven Haines
Perfect for: Product managers from beginner to experienced who want to achieve high levels of success
Steven Haines is often cited as one of the thought leaders of product management, and this is just one of the many good books on product management he has written. The Product Manager’s Survival Guide is a step-by-step guide for those starting out in product management, and is also useful for those with more experience, who are looking to up their game.
#4. Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love
by Marty Cagan
Perfect for: Product managers looking for insight into agile methodology
One of the toughest tasks for product managers is deciding what products are worth developing and what ideas to shelve or discard. But that’s not all the job entails – it also includes your relationships with various company players and managing various teams. Finding the right balance is crucial, and learning from someone else’s experience will help you succeed. Inspired is one of the best books on agile product management written to date and is a valuable addition to any product manager’s bookshelf.
#5. Intercom on Product Management
by Des Traynor and John Collins
Standing out among the product management books for free download that are available, Intercom on Product Management covers all the product management basics you will need. In its four chapters, Traynor and Collins cover evaluating your product, new features, which features to build, and getting features used.
#6 & #7. Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager and The Hard Thing About Hard Things
by Ben Horowitz
Perfect for: A quick guide to the psychology of good product managers, and the ultimate guide to running a startup
Andreessen Horowitz are a venture capital and seed capital firm that specialises in tech. On their company blog, entrepreneurs and experts alike can gain insight into various aspects of the tech world, including this quick guide to what makes a good product manager vs a bad one. Horowitz also penned top product management books on running startups, The Hard Thing About Hard Things, all proceeds of which are donated to the American Jewish World Service. The short product management pdf serves both as a handy reference guide and as some much-needed inspiration when things get tough, while the book provides incredible insights into the intricacies of business in Silicon Valley.
Leading People & Teams
#8. Creativity, Inc.
by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace
Perfect for: Managers who want to lead teams creatively
As one of the driving forces behind Pixar, the company that changed animated movies forever, Catmull is one of the leading experts on getting teams to think creatively and do things differently. In this book, he and co-author Wallace talk about the unique environment at Pixar that led to the incredible innovations in computer-animated film-making.
#9. Steve Jobs
by Walter Isaacson
Perfect for: Product managers looking for insight into the way the greats do it
There’s no denying that Steve Jobs was one of the world’s leading product innovators and his unique people management style will be remembered for generations to come. In this biographical book on product management at its finest, Isaacson explores Jobs’ history, character and even flaws. The book makes for fascinating, inspiring and, at times, sobering reading.
#10. Elon Musk
by Ashlee Vance
Perfect for: Product managers who want an inside glimpse into the life of a product development genius
Much like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk has made a massive impact on the way we do business, with his talent for spotting needs that the market doesn’t know it has yet, then fulfilling them. He has also been much spoken about as a leader of people, pushing them to excel at creativity. The creator of some of the world’s most disruptive products, including PayPal, is uncovered in this biography.
#11. High Output Management
by Andrew S Grove
Perfect for: Managers who want to excel
In Silicon Valley, it’s not enough to just do your job well, it’s essential to do it better than anyone believed possible. Grove, as one of the leaders of Intel, wrote this guide to being a top-level manager, which is today considered a must-read in Silicon Valley.
#12. Managing Humans
by Michael Lopp
Perfect for: Those looking for learning backed by entertaining stories
Michael Lopp has worked for some of the biggest names in product development, including Apple, Symantec, Netscape and others. This collection of stories about his experiences as a manager for Silicon Valley’s greats is both an entertaining read and an educational insight into how to manage the people in your teams.
#13. Product Leadership
by Richard Banfield
Perfect for: The full product and people management experience
Product management is, at its core, about managing people effectively. In this software product management book, Banfield goes into detail about how successful teams work, the best approaches for guiding your team, and strategies and tactics for working with customers and other stakeholders.
Strategy & Planning
#14. The Halo Effect
by Phil Rosenzweig
Perfect for: Separating real working strategies from deceptive strategies
Rosenzweig holds no punches in this book that promises to expose the various business “delusions” that persist in corporate companies. The book discusses how to understand the mechanics of success, rather than focusing on financial success as an indicator of strategic brilliance. For anyone looking for realistic insight into what strategies really work and which don’t, this is certainly one of the best books on product management available.
#15. In Search of Stupidity (2nd Edition)
by Merrill R Chapman
Perfect for: Finding out what not to do
A good manager knows how to learn from the experiences of those who came before – and that includes the bad experiences. In this second edition of the book, Chapman takes the reader through twenty years’ worth of the most disastrous strategies and philosophies that have befallen the industry and analyses how to avoid making the same mistakes.
#16 & #17. Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado
by Geoffrey A Moore
Perfect for: Product managers looking for effective marketing strategies
There will always be early adopters for any product, but can you take it beyond them to business success? Moore’s Crossing the Chasm covers the early stages of getting a new product to market, through to full adoption, while the follow-up, Inside the Tornado, deals with what happens once your product goes mainstream. Individually, these books give valuable insights into the strategies of getting your product to market and then marketing it, but together they are hailed as two of the best product marketing management books available.
#18. The Four Steps to the Epiphany
by Steve Blank
Perfect for: Startups that need strategies that work
Blank believes that startups are vastly different from established corporates, and that they need strategies that work differently. This is the basic premise of The Four Steps to the Epiphany, which offers startups strategies for getting their products developed and business plans implemented well. For the product manager in a startup venture, this book is indispensable.
User Experience & Design Thinking
#19. UX for Beginners
by Joel Marsh
Perfect for: Newbies to the world of user experience, or experienced product managers looking for new ways to guide teams
User experience is absolutely critical to the success of any product, and the savvy product manager will make sure they and their team members understand the basic principles thoroughly. UX for Beginners is a series of 100 standalone lessons that can be absorbed and easily referenced again and again. Along with books 20 – 22, this forms part of the O’Reilly Media UX collection.
#20. UX Strategy
by Jaime Levy
Perfect for: Product managers who want to keep the user experience front of mind
Product design teams need to focus on the user experience while developing the product if they hope to succeed. With this book, product managers can lead their teams to develop and design digital products that customers want and need, and that they will enjoy using.
#21. UX Research
by Brad Nunnally and David Farkas
Perfect for: Product managers who want to build the user experience into products
It all starts with research – understanding your future customer’s needs and desires. With this product management book, readers are taken through how to properly research the market, then implement that research, without wasting time and energy on unnecessary research paths.
#22. Mapping Experiences
by James Kalbach
Perfect for: Understanding where the user experience succeeds and where it fails
Customer feedback is one of the most important tools a company has to ensure they develop better products and create better user experiences. Unfortunately, the feedback can sometimes get lost in translation. This book on product management helps guide you through collecting, interpreting and using user experience feedback to create consistently good products.
#23. Lean UX
by Jeff Gothelf and Josh Seiden
Perfect for: Understanding and embracing the Lean UX approach
Gothelf and Seiden took inspiration from the Lean and Agile theories of development and put together this guide to developing products from a user experience perspective. It’s full of problem-solving, proactive approaches to designing and creating products that serve users as well as the business.
by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein
Perfect for: Product managers who want to leverage customer emotions to steer decisions
More decisions are made based on emotions than on logic, and understanding this – and how to leverage it – is what makes the difference between a good product manager and a great one. This book helps you understand what makes people make the choices they do, and how to use that information to your best advantage.
#25. Designing with the Mind in Mind (2nd Edition)
by Jeff Johnson
Perfect for: Product managers looking for insight into perceptual and cognitive psychology
Since the beginning of user interface design, cognitive psychology has played an important role in the design and development of these products. This second edition of Johnson’s product management book gives an updated view on cognitive and perceptual psychology to help you understand UI design guidelines intuitively, rather than simply following a checklist.
by Nir Eyal
Perfect for: Practical advice for developing products that customers find addicting
Nir Eyal takes years of experience and applies them to this book, giving the reader a step-by-step guide to building products that customers can’t stop using. It’s all about subtly influencing customer behaviour and creating an ongoing user cycle that gives products longevity, without overspending on marketing and advertising.
What do you think?
What did you think about our list of must read books? Did we miss something? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’d love to know which books helped you in your professional development.