To excel as a product manager, it’s essential to cultivate good habits and continuously expand your knowledge base.
If you want to become a great product manager, then start by forming good habits. If you’re already a good product manager, then add more good habits to your routines and rituals.
While online courses and classes are invaluable, many of these programs draw inspiration from foundational books. So, if you’re an avid reader or prefer to learn at your own pace, diving into these product management books can be a game-changer.
That’s why I’ve gathered together 15 of the best product management books out there. I’ve divided them up into different sections based on where you’re at in your PM journey.
If you’re at the start of that journey and would like to get some hands-on practice, check out this free 5-day beginners product management course.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:
- Product management books for beginners
- The best agile product management books
- Diving deeper
- Inspirational product management books
- How to use the best product management books
- Next steps
Ready to explore some of the top PM books out there? Let’s get started!
1. Product management books for beginners
The rise in individuals transitioning to product management roles in recent decades is undeniable. Many have paved their paths through formal education, product management bootcamps, or self-study.
With this surge, there’s been an influx of books catering to aspiring product managers. These books not only lay the foundations of the role, but also address challenges like leveraging transferable skills and overcoming impostor syndrome.
Product Management for Dummies by Brian Lawley and Pamela Schure
While this blunt-titled series of self-help books have been around for decades, they might not be to everyone’s liking. However, don’t let the suggestion that you might be a “dummy” put you off.
Why? Well, the series’s pedigree means that they not only get experts to provide the material (in this case 280 Group veterans Lawley and Schure), but they also know exactly how to structure and find the right tone for beginners.
Product Management for Dummies is aimed at not just those looking to transition into product management but also those who may have landed in these roles without formal education. In it, you’ll learn everything from what is product management to how to create product roadmaps, as well as how to find and develop key product manager skills.
Who it’s best for: Beginners in product management or those transitioning into the role without prior experience.
Pivot To Product Manager by Irving Malcom
Becoming a product manager in only three steps?!? That’s even fewer than the six steps in our own guide to how to become a product manager!
Being serious, this is of the most important product management books on our list. Irving Malcom’s guide is specifically designed for career-changers, and is definitely thorough. Essentially it’s a detailed playbook for career-changers, complete with interview prep and PM interview practice questions.
Who it’s best for: Professionals looking to change career into product management.
One of the major publications that you’ll constantly hear PMs across the world name-checking as a core text is Product Mindset. And it’s completely free!!
The title is certainly effective—it’s crucial that not just junior product managers starting out develop a product mindset, but also the teams and organizations around them. Put simply, a product mindset is a customer-focused mindset. A collaboration between Gainsight and Product School, this book teaches us that keeping the customer as the top priority of every single step of the product development process is crucial to creating and maintaining successful products.
Although it contains elements such as personalisation and building MVPs, this is very much not just a book for PMs. Everyone, from UX researchers to software engineers will benefit from working in a customer-centric way. And did we mention it’s free?
Who it’s best for: PMs of all levels aiming to cultivate a customer-first mindset in their product development process.
The Influential Product Manager by Ken Sandy
This book is designed for those who want to optimize every element of their job as a PM, by showing them the tools and techniques necessary to thrive. The author, Ken Sandy, has an extremely impressive resume behind him—with over 20 years of working in product in the San Francisco area, it’s fair to say he’s seen it all.
What’s neat about this product management book is that it’s situationally designed for PMs in different types of companies.
Are you one of the only PMs in a fast-growing tech startup? Great! Ken has advice and experience to share on ensuring that you are able to develop effective products at pace?
Are you a digital product manager in a large, established company that is slowly trying to digitize itself? Ken has advice for you as well on how to become an advocate for your product and influence others.
Who it’s best for: PMs looking to optimize their influence and effectiveness in diverse organizational settings.
2. The best agile product management books
With Agile methodologies dominating the tech industry, it’s crucial for PMs to be well-versed in its principles and practices.
If you need more to brush up on your knowledge than CareerFoundry’s guide to Agile product management, here’s a selection of some must-reads: Whether you’re a seasoned PM or just starting out, these books will provide insights that can transform your approach to product development.
Official Scrum Guide by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland
If you don’t already know much about what is Scrum and how product managers work with it, it’s best to start with their Bible.
The cornerstone of this subset of Agile is The Official Scrum Guide, a concise, up-to-date, and easy-to-read guide that covers the basics of Scrum, including the roles, events, and artifacts. The authors, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, are the co-creators of Scrum, so you can be sure that they know what they’re talking about.
What’s neat about The Official Scrum Guide is that it’s situationally designed for Scrum teams in all types of companies. Whether you’re working in a fast-growing tech startup or a large, established enterprise, Scrum can help you deliver value to your customers more quickly and efficiently.
Who it’s best for: Anyone looking to understand the foundational principles of Scrum, from beginners to seasoned professionals.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
A staple in the product management world, this book introduces the concept of building lean and iterating quickly. Essentially, The Lean Startup is a process for building products that customers love, without wasting time and money.
As Ries explains, you start with a simple product and test it with customers early and often. Use their feedback to improve your product and iterate until it’s something they love.
It might not sound like rocket science, but it’s something often ignored, and ideal for PMs working in startups in the tech sphere. Ultimately, this is a great way for beginner product managers to learn about the customer development process and build products that people actually want to use.
Who it’s best for: Startups, entrepreneurs, and PMs interested in lean methodologies and rapid product development.
Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn
For all the creative examples out there, some of the best product management books do exactly what they say on the cover. Agile Estimating and Planning is one of those.
Basically, this is a dive into the intricacies of planning in an Agile environment. Anyone who’s ever arrived at a sprint review meeting or a a retrospective knows that the cadence and smoothness of these meetings contributes greatly to their effectiveness.
Who it’s best for: PMs and Agile practitioners looking to refine their estimating and planning skills within Agile frameworks.
3. Diving deeper
Just like every company is different, so too is every product manager role.
As you continue along your way in this discipline, you’ll likely want to learn more or develop yourself more in one topic or subject. Considering that according to a ProductSchool survey over 50% of PMs came from another background, it’s completely natural for there to be gaps in your knowledge to fill.
A great way of doing this of course is by finding yourself a product management mentor. This mentor can be a friend, colleague, or someone completely outside of these circles who you actively seek out.
Another solid approach is by reading specialist PM books around this. Let’s briefly go through at some of them now:
Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
If you’re even slightly aware of the Product scene, you’ve more than likely heard of this author. As the title suggests, this book is designed for PMs working in the tech field most of all, but a lot of the wisdom is transferable to other spheres.
Inspired has been around for well over a decade now, and instead of laying out a standard structure of product culture for you to follow, it examines what “winning” companies (your Googles, your Facebooks back in the day) did differently.
Who it’s best for: Product managers aiming to create user-centric products that can solve real-world problems
Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
For something a bit different, this book is a deep dive into what makes a product successful. Sure there might be plenty of product management books out there promising to do that, but Hooked does it very very well.
Eyal achieves this by focussing on habits and how successful products leverage “hook cycles” to influence user behaviour. Using solid examples such as Apple’s iPhone and Pinterest, this book will seriously inform how product managers think about user stories and product features.
Who it’s best for: PMs interested in understanding user psychology and designing addictive product experiences.
It’s 2024 now, and if your business or product/design team hasn’t learned that empathy is a crucial component of the product process. If they haven’t, or if you need a refresher, then pick up a copy of Well-Designed.
Sure, this isn’t technically one of the product management books you’d think of. Essentially, this is a deep dive into the importance of empathy in product design and management, ensuring products resonate with users on an emotional level. We’ve talked before about the importance of empathy in UX design, but it doesn’t just stop at the design hand-off. In fact, as Kolko points out, empathy for the users should be a key part of product strategy itself.
Far from being a high-minded treatise on the importance of understanding others, Well-Designed comes with a practical four-step design process that companies use and that you can also employ.
Who it’s best for: PMs looking to infuse empathy into their product design and development processes.
Building For Everyone: Expand Your Market With Design Practices From Google’s Product Inclusion Team by Annie Jean-Baptiste
As you’ve gathered from reading the very wordy title, this book, while more on the product design side of things, is full of insights for product managers to ensure that their teams are building inclusively.
Just like with empathy, if your company or team is still not designing inclusively in this day and age, then they’re really going to struggle. The book is jam-packed with insights from Google’s product inclusion team on creating products that cater to a diverse audience.
Who it’s best for: Product managers aiming to create inclusive products that cater to diverse user bases.
4. Inspirational product management books
Sometimes, inspiration is what you need to push boundaries and think outside the box.
Inspiration is the fuel that drives innovation. In the challenging world of product management, it’s often the stories, insights, and lessons from trailblazers that ignite the spark for the next big idea.
While daily tasks and responsibilities can sometimes become routine, it’s essential to step back and draw inspiration from thought leaders in the field. I know that in the helter-skelter life that is the role of product manager this can be difficult, but it really pays off.
On top of that, these books not only motivate but also provide a fresh perspective on the art and science of product management, and product in general.
Trailblazing Women in Product Management by Mira Wooten
Unfortunately like a lot of tech, for too long it seemed like the product sphere was one dominated by men. However, Celebrating the achievements of women in the PM field, offering insights and inspiration. In this ebook produced by the 280 group, the career journeys of more than 20 women who came to make product management emphatically their own.
This product management book is just one of many, many inspiring resources out there for women in tech.
Who it’s best for: Women in product management or those aspiring to join the field, looking for role models and success stories.
Dare to Lead by Dr. Brené Brown
Dr. Brené Brown has been a longtime favorite of CareerFoundry’s, ever since her video about the importance of empathy made it to our list of top resources for UXers.
Dare to Lead is at its heart a guide to courageous leadership, emphasizing vulnerability and innovation. Brown challenges conventional leadership notions, asserting that vulnerability, not invincibility, is the cornerstone of effective leadership. Essentially, people are more inclined to do things for and with you if you’re honest and human with them. Who’d’ve thought!
Knowing how to harness these traits is very useful to product managers, where working with disparate people who have varying priorities is a staple of the job. Do you hold ideas of working your way up the Product ladder and becoming a CPO one day? A sure way to get there with the respect and support of your colleagues is through having the strength to be an empathetic, open leader.
Who it’s best for: PMs and leaders aiming to lead with courage, vulnerability, and innovation.
The Diversity Advantage by Ruchika Tulshyan
This is an excellent exploration of the value of diversity in product development and team dynamics.
Personally I first came across the author when reading her fascinating article “Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome” in the Harvard Business Review. This book is an interesting and forthright examination of why a diverse and equitable workplace should be far from a “nice-to-have” for any company or team.
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
Another deep-dive, this book is super useful to product managers of all levels, as it gives you great insights into the psychology of motivation, as well as its implications for product teams and leadership.
You don’t need to be a leader to get a lot of Drive—in fact, being able to understand when the dynamic is working well and when it isn’t will really help to inform your own stakeholder management work.
Who it’s best for: PMs curious about the psychology of motivation and how it can be harnessed in product teams.
5. How to use the best product management books
Having a collection of books is great, but applying the knowledge is where the real value lies.
- Dedicated reading time: Set aside regular intervals for reading. Whether it’s 20 minutes a day or a couple of hours every weekend, consistency is key. If your work allows for
- Take notes: As you read, jot down key points, ideas, or concepts that resonate with you. This not only helps in retention but also serves as a quick reference in the future.
- Discuss them: Engage in discussions with fellow product managers or colleagues. Sharing insights and debating concepts can lead to deeper understanding. There are even product book clubs out there that you can join.
- Implement in real-time: Try to apply the concepts you read about in your day-to-day work. Whether it’s a new strategy, a design principle, or a leadership technique, real-world application will solidify your learning.
So there you have it, 15 of the very best product management books out there right now. With more than enough choice, we hope you found some titles to add to your booklist, even if you’re a seasoned product manager!
If you’re a junior PM, or someone looking to move into this exciting and rewarding career, you should definitely leaf through at least one of the books we recommended at the start. Reading advice and experience from seasoned PMs and product experts who’ve seen it, done it, and taught it all before is a great way to learn.
You’ll benefit from it even more by learning by doing, and CareerFoundry’s free product management short course is a nice way to pick up the building blocks of what it’s like to be a product manager in 2024.
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