Learn Product Management With These Great Books

You won’t find many, if any, colleges teaching software product management. I started my career in the early 90s and was lucky to have some great mentors.

Today, it’s a lot easier to kickstart your career in product management through a number of really great books. In this list I’ve compiled my favorite product management books.

Reading these is great starting point for you to begin learning about this really rewarding career.

I’ve listed only the best books that I’ve found that have helped me become a better product manager.

The list is broken into a number of key areas around product management. Where appropriate I’ve tried to cite the chapters in the books that pertain to the area they are listed. You will notice that some books are listed under multiple sections. 

What is Product Management?

Product Management is building the right product for the right customer. Of course the devil is in the details. The chapters cited in these books provide a really great overview of Product Management. If you’re interested in getting into Product Management you should start here.

Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love

Product Manager Marty Kagan walks you through the things you need to do to build amazing products. The first couple chapters of his book talk about what Product Management is and isn’t.

Read Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love

Agile Product Management with Scrum

Many organizations have adopted Agile Scrum as the process in which product is developed. In the world of Scrum there exists the role of Product Owner. This is very similar to a product manager and you may hear the terms used interchangeably. Roman Pichler’s book takes you into the role of Product Owner. He talks the steps you need to take to develop your product iteratively. In Chapter 1 Understanding the Product Owner Role he lays out what it means to be a Product Owner.

Read Agile Product Management with Scrum

Understanding your Customers

You can’t begin to build a great product unless you understand who your customers are. These books will help you learn how to do that.

Inspired: How To Create Products Customers

Chapter 17 – Personas for Product Management talks about the benefits and pitfalls of using Personas.

Read Inspired: How To Create Products Customers

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Alan Cooper, the father of Visual Basic, wrote this classic User Experience (UX) book almost 20 years ago. It’s still relevant today and should be essential reading to any aspiring product manager. Pay particular attention to Chapter 5 – Customer Disloyalty and Chapter 9 where he introduces the concept of Personas.

Read The Inmates Are Running the Asylum

Predictably Irrational

People tend to think they behave in rational ways. Author Dan Ariely sets out to prove that by and large, we don’t. This is a great book for understanding the psychology of behavior and learning why we do the things we do.

Read Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Crossing the Chasm

Crossing the Chasm has had a huge influence on my thinking about bringing high tech products into the marketplace. It’s a great book on strategy and should be on every Product Manager’s bookshelf. In part one of the book, he breaks down the product adoption life cycle and illustrates why companies continue to fail as the move along their products move along the lifecycle curve. Understanding who your customers are and where they are along the product adoption life cycle can mean that your business will succeed where others have failed.

Read Crossing the Chasm

Building the Right Products

It’s not enough to understand your customers. You need to take what you have learned and build the right product for them. These books talk about how to make that happen.

HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy

This book pulls together essays written by great strategic minds in the business world. They don’t focus on any specific industry because the advice transcends any industry. Specifically read the chapter “What is Strategy?” from Michael E. Porter.

Read HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Strategy

Competitive Strategy

After you’ve read the initial piece What is Strategy?, take a deeper dive with into strategic thinking with Competitive Strategy. Michael E. Porter’s book has transformed the theory, practice, and teaching of business strategy throughout the world. It’s a heavy read but if you really want to become a good strategic thinker it’s essential reading.

Read Competitve Strategy

The Lean Startup

The Lean Startup takes ideas from Toyota’s world-class manufacturing process and applies them in a novel way to building startups. While the title has the word “startup” this book applies to companies at all stages of their development. To learn how to build the right products, pay attention to part one – Vision.

Read The Lean Startup

Running Lean

While the Lean Startup tells you what to build, Running Lean gives you a framework to figure out how to build it. I particularly like the Lean Canvas as a tool for mapping out product + market fit

Read Running Lean

Agile Product Management with Scrum

Roman Pichler spends an entire section around Envisioning the Product. He provides both an understanding of what goes into a great product as well as specific techniques to follow to create the vision. In Chapter 2 Envisioning the Product, Roman provides guidance on creating the vision that you need to lead a team to execute building your product.

Read Agile Product Management with Scrum

Using data to make decisions

It’s easy to think that you know what to build. It’s better to use data to help drive that decision. This doesn’t have to be hard either. These books talk about how to use data to make better product decisions.

Web Analytics an Hour a Day

This book by Avinash Kaushik digs into the world of website analytics. If you’re building an online product you’re going to need to use some form of analytics. This book helps you through the concepts.

Read Web Analytics: An Hour a Day

The Lean Startup

In Part Two – Steer author Eric Ries dives into how to use data to validate your product experiments.

Read The Lean Startup

Running Lean

In the Lean Startup, the author talks about getting into an experimental mindset. In the book Running Lean the author provides a framework for making that happen. Chapter 5 – Get Ready to Experiment breaks down ways that you can conduct experiments to ensure that you’re iterating on the right product.

Read Running Lean

Building your Products with Agility

I’ve developed products using a number of processes over my career. I’ve settled in on Scrum because it’s a simple framework with a bias toward action. You can choose whatever method works best for you.

Agile Product Management with Scrum

Section three of Roman Pichler’s book talks about working through your list of priorities – the Product Backlog in Scrum parlance. Read Agile Product Management with Scrum

50 Quick Ideas to Improve Your User Stories

User Stories are the typical unit of work in Scrum. This book takes you through ways that you can improve upon how you think about and deconstruct product requirements into User Stories. It’s a small read but packed full of really useful information. I’ve read this book a few times and never fail to pickup on something new.

Read Fifty Quick Ideas To Improve Your User Stories

Getting Real

The book Getting Real doesn’t advocate any particular software development framework. Instead it details the business, design, programming, and marketing principles of 37signals. 37signals is a software as a service business that has built the Basecamp project management tool and Highrise CRM. The “Feature Selection” and “Interface Design” section illustrate how they get products built.

Read Getting Real

Iterative Development

Getting Real

The Process section in Getting Real illustrates a methodology for getting your product done from start to finish.

Read Getting Real

Agile Product Management with Scrum

In the world of Agile Scrum development the Product Owner and the Product Manager are very similar roles. You may hear them used interchangeably. Roman Pichler’s book takes you into the role of Product Owner. He talks the steps you need to take to develop your product iteratively.

Read Agile Product Management with Scrum

Effective Communication

Product managers need to sell ideas both internally and to the public. Like it or not you will have to get good at public speaking. Here are some of the resources I’ve used to improve my public speaking and sales skills.

The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

In this book the author dissects some of Steve Jobs best presentation and tells you why they were successful. He gives you point by point examples illustrating how you can sell your ideas in an enthusiastic way.

Read The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs

Steal the Show

I once met the author Michael Port when he conducted an in-house public speaking course. He is an amazing, dynamic guy and that comes through in his book. Product Managers need to be good presenters. Escape the boring slide deck and learn how to tell stories.

Read Steal the Show

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Great product managers lead by influence. This classic book gives you a number of techniques you can follow to help build rapport with your team and change their thinking.

Read How to Win Friends and Influence People

Launching new products and features

Ok, your product’s built. Now you need to get it out the door. These books will show you how.

Crossing the Chasm

Part two of Crossing the Chasm talks about bringing your product to market. He uses a D-Day analogy to describe how to conqueror your market.

Read Crossing the Chasm

Getting Real

While Crossing the Chasm talks about defeating a market in broad terms, Getting Real offers more tactical advice. The section “Promotion” offers a number of ideas on how to successfully launch and market your product.

Read Getting Real

Agile Product Management with Scrum

When will it be ready? It’s a question you’ll hear with a lot of regularity as a Product Manager. In Chapter 4 – Planning the Release Roman describes the steps to follow to get products out the door in a Scrum environment.

Read Agile Product Management with Scrum

Finding a Job in Product Management

If you’ve studied the books in this section you might be ready to take a shot at product management. Here’s are two really good books to help you network and nail the job interview.

Knock ’Em Dead

If you are only going to read one book about finding a job, this is the one. It covers the gamut of how to conduct an effective job search.

Read Knock ‘Em Dead

Never Eat Alone

In this excellent book, Keith Ferrazzi teaches you how to build your network before you need it.

Read Never Eat Alone

Leading Product Teams

The best organizations push product management out to the edges. What I mean is that individual product teams should be empowered to make decisions about their products because they are closest to the problem. Here are some great books that talk about organizational structure that is relevant to product management.

Team of Teams

General Stanley McChrystal’s book talks about empowering teams using the formation of the Joint Special Operations Team as the through-line.

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Patrick Lencioni uses a fable to describe the five common problems that even high performing teams struggle with.

The Truth About Employee Engagement

In this fable, Patrick Lencioni talks about to improve the performance and job satisfaction of employees.

Note: If you purchase one of these books on Amazon I get a percentage of the sale. It helps pay for server costs. Whether you buy them from Amazon or somewhere else these are a really great set of resources to help you. I’ve read all of them, some multiple times