Product managers act as a glue to the functions of developers, designers, and marketers of the product and bring their acts together to create delightful user experiences. In addition, they take upon themselves the responsibility of identifying and solving any issues that come in the way of that. Given a rapidly changing field, with constantly-evolving skills required to succeed, it can be hard to keep up if you aren’t learning new things every day.
Our reading list for product managers contains some of the most fascinating reads about product management that will equip you with new ideas and skills about time management, prioritization, strategic thinking, and informed problem-solving. If you’re just starting out, some of these books will help you a lot in landing your first product management job.
Being a discipline that encapsulates many others, your reading list needs to be diverse in terms of skills and ideas it imparts in you. Apart from the best product management books, our reading list for product managers also contains essential books for leadership and communication, business strategy and planning, and design and UX.
1. Inspired: How To Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan
Marty Cagan, one of the most revered experts of product development in tech, has funneled his years of experience in product development into this book. The book contains Cagan’s observations about product development and various experiences from his time in the field.
The book also contains answers to many important questions about pursuing the development of a tech product that guide the readers from ideation to completion of a tech product. This book tops the list because Marty Cagan also shares lessons, learned techniques, and best practices for product development and management that he learned over the years working in the tech industry.
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2. Cracking the PM Interview by Gayle McDowell
Gayle McDowell is the founder and CEO of CareerCup who has held the torch for many aspirants of the tech industry over the years through books like Cracking the Coding Interview and Cracking the Tech Career. Her book Cracking the PM Interview is no different. It has become the #1 interview prep book for aspiring product managers.
The book outlines how the Product Manager role varies between companies, what experiences you need, how to make your existing experience translate, what a great PM resume and cover letter look like, and how to master the PM interview questions.
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3. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip & Dan Heath
Decision-making, prioritization, and dealing with tradeoffs are some of the primary responsibilities of product managers.
The bestselling authors known for publications like Made to Stick and Switch have come up with insightful analysis of how our biases affect our decisions and how we can improve our decision-making process.
The book will help you overcome your natural biases and irrational thinking to make better decisions about products.
4. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp
Identifying and solving problems under stringent deadlines along the product roadmap is one of the core responsibilities of a product manager. This book by Jake Knapp walks you through the framework used by Big-Tech companies. To start working on an idea and moving quickly from prototype to real-world feedback and decision, it has great insights on how to use agile product management techniques by accentuating their benefits.
5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
Every product manager wishes to have a guide at the start of their career to understand customer behavior and user psychology better. Turns out there is. Nir Eyal’s Hooked is the first book that you need to get your hands on if you’re just starting out as a product manager.
It outlines all the elements that you need to create products that stick and become your customer’s habit. The author’s grasp over user psychology is what makes Hooked such a fantastic read. The Hook Model talked about in the book helps companies to drive user behavior without expensive and aggressive marketing campaigns.
6. Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data by Charles Wheelan
Data analysis is an integral part of product management. Whether you are an associate product manager analyzing user feedback data to improve the product or a product leader monitoring success metrics to shape product strategy, you need a firm grip over statistics to enable data-driven decision-making.
This book will help you grasp statistical concepts like correlation and regression analysis easily by making them more interesting and accessible. It also highlights the ease of misinterpreting data which often makes product managers vulnerable to make skewed and based decisions.
7. The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz, the founder of Andreessen Horowitz and one of Silicon Valley’s most experienced entrepreneurs, offers his advice on building and managing a startup in the book. Even though it targets primarily founders; PMs would benefit a lot from reading this book since the challenges this book talks about (from time management and driving workplace productivity; to challenging stakeholders; to inspiring people; to managing performance) all overlap with the sort of challenges PMs face too. The book is also one of the few that address the toughest problems that confront managers every day and relays Ben’s practical wisdom on how to solve them. Even the most experienced product professionals out there will find valuable, actionable, and insightful advice on business strategy and planning in the book.
8. Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte
Product design drives user experience and hence is one of the most critical aspects of contemporary product development. And if there is a book on design that every product manager should read once, it is Beautiful Evidence by Edward Tufte. The book walks you through hundreds of gorgeous historical illustrations, from Victorian botanical diagrams to ancient paintings of mythological creatures.
Using these design examples from history, the book aims to deconstruct the idea of design and the elements that make a good design so powerful and appealing. Beautiful Evidence also identifies various excellent and effective methods for showing nearly every kind of information, suggests many new designs, and also provides analytical tools for assessing the credibility of evidence presentations.
These were some of our favorite reads, which we recommend every product manager at any level of their career path have a look at. You will find valuable experiences, ingenious ideas, techniques, and best practices of product management in these books. It should also be noted that this list is in no way complete or comprehensive. But these are probably hands down the best books to start your journey with.
"Inspired" is a well-written, thorough, and down-to-earth work covering all aspects of product management at software companies.