Why are Product Management Books important? In the old times, it used to be the case that you would learn side-by-side with another professional. They would tell you the secrets of their trade, behaving like veterans who have marched into a hundred and one battles.
Today, the amount of free online information is inversely proportional to its usability. Equally, there is more competition than ever to land those practical experiences in Product Management. Your next best thing is to pick up a book.
However, you need to make sure that the authors have actually lived through the experience. You will never learn anything by listening to theories: you must reflect on real case studies. These books below are all well-regarded works that have been used by PMs to finalize their transitions. Experienced Product Managers will also benefit from reviewing some of their key concepts.
Have you read any of these?
Top 15 Product Management Books
For aspiring PMs
The famous series of manuals for beginners took care of Product Management a couple of years ago. This book is no replacement for a structured, dedicated course. However, it is a useful starting point for aspiring techies who want to transition into PM. Its simplistic approach will help you flesh out the generalities of the position, while you develop a thirst for more advanced perspectives.
Gayle McDowell, the author, is the Founder and CEO of CareerCup and the author of Cracking the Coding Interview and Cracking the Tech Career.
Gayle has worked as a Software Engineer for Google, Microsoft, and Apple and has extensive interviewing experience on both sides of the table. Cracking the PM Interview has become the #1 interview prep book for aspiring product managers. Watch our talk with Gayle to learn the essentials.
Subtitled “How to Become a Great Product Manager”, this book by Josh Anon (former Pixar PM) and Carlos González de Villaumbrosia (Product School CEO) is all about the PM life. With practical examples supported by theoretical innovation (rather than the opposite, which is the usual!), The Product Book will help you take your first steps in product. For experienced PMs, it will help them review the essential concepts in the discipline.
Marc Abraham has prepared this guide with some of the most common tools used by Product Managers. Every function of the job (customer knowledge, stakeholder management, product development) is linked to certain methods and applications. Learn how to match every challenge with its solution. If you want to know more, check out this post we wrote on the most essential tools and software for this year.
This “real-world guide to the key connective role of the 21st Century”, by Matt Lemay, emphasizes the stakeholder management function of PMs in small and large organizations. The position emerged some time ago, but it gained popularity as technological companies began to realize the many problems that emerged from increasingly siloed professionals and technical challenges from new technologies. Here, you will learn how to remain connective against adversity.
It is not often easy to understand the dynamics of career transitioning and job searching in the product sphere. This dedicated guide makes sure to provide information about the most common and uncommon transitions; getting a job in particular tech companies; and providing direct interview advice. It is all backed by the wise experiences of PMs who have worked for companies like Google, Airbnb, Facebook, Apple or Amazon.
David Allen’s productivity classic was released at the early stages of the digital revolution. That said, professionals across disciplines will find his materials extremely useful to improve productivity without stress. Its GTD workflow has different stages that help you get rid of that backlog for once and for all. Recent studies have shown that Allen’s methodology is particularly suited to the demands of contemporary firms.
For established PMs
Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson and Nate Walkingshaw have been in tech for many years, as developers, designers, product managers and founders for several initiatives. This book is aimed to those who have worked in Product for a few years but are still finding it hard to leave a mark on the industry. It has lots of practical examples, but keep in mind that it is aimed mostly to those PMs closer to executive positions.
The Lean Product Playbook provides specific, step-by-step guidance on how to apply Lean Startup ideas. The author, Dan Olsen, is a seasoned tech consultant and he has developed an actionable model for product-market fit. It consists of a 6-step process that explains how to rapidly iterate based on customer feedback, illustrated with real-world examples. Check out our exclusive discussion of the book with his author.
SAS Principal Product Manager Blair Reeves and Adobe Group Product Manager Ben Gaines have experience in a sphere which is often complex for novel PMs. Business Product Management is one of the toughest tasks, and involves very different concerns to those of B2C markets. Learn how to make the transition or how to improve your practice with this book.
Tech is constantly changing. While Product Managers are professionals with an established legacy, their areas of interest evolve. In later years, Blockchain, Machine Learning and other advancements have increased their usability. Learn from experienced Product Managers how they have dealt with these opportunities while overcoming their challenges.
This book by Roman Pichler, with the subtitle “Product Strategy and Product Roadmap Practices for the Digital Age”; makes an inventory of existing roadmap and planning techniques for Product Managers. While PMs are know for their adaptability, agreeing on set plans with healthy timing is fundamental (even if you end up taking a completely different route!). Learn how to make better product roadmaps today.
Admittedly, it is hard to sell textbooks to tech people. They are supposedly here to disrupt everything we know about the world! However, Steven Haines’ book dedicated to Product Management is a fantastic reference for established PMs. They can check out the guide every time they are wanting for inspiration. It can also help aspiring PMs who want to understand what are the theory and key methodological lineages behind the discipline.
Even the best Product Managers cannot work through instinct alone. You’re not psychic. You need to gather data. You need to systematically understand your users. And you need to learn how to effectively communicate this understanding to your team, so they are inspired to share your vision and stay on track. Inside ‘Ship It’ you will find specific advice and general wisdom about Product Management.
Product Management Interviews are a tough process that everyone has to go through if they want to make the transition. Thankfully, Lewis C. Lin has prepared an extensive guide that will prepare you for both the content and methodology that you can expect at these meetings with your future employers. Check also out dedicated posts on tips and questions to be even more prepared!
Bonus Track: Books on Product Management Techniques
Sprints are one of the techniques most favored by Product Managers and their teams. This book written by Jake Knapp, one of the Google minds behind the methodology, will teach you how to accelerate your workflow. While Sprints are employed, like Agile, across many disciplines; we have published a guide on how to use them for Product Management. Check it out!
This book is definitely not just for Product Managers. Edward de Bono starts from psychology to explain how the human brain has a set of thought processes that can and should be challenged. These include Managing, Information, Emotions, Discernment, Optimistic response, Creativity. Our head switches directions responding to different stimuli: the problem with this automated reactions is that they occlude productive thinking. Learn more about what product thinking entails here.
Even More Product Management Resources
Hungry for more? After reading most of these books, you will be a Product Management master. However, it is possible that you might want more. There are some things you can do to increase your PM knowledge: