The Best Product Management Books – A Quick Guide
Product management books are a fantastic way to go in-depth and learn from some of the best minds in our field. From theory and strategy to practical methods and real-life case studies, there’s a lot out there!
Because time is limited (and let’s be honest, so are our attention spans), I’ve dialed down the vast library of product resources to a shortlist that will help you become the best PM you can be.
We’ve got books about:
- General product management excellence
- Building the right stuff
- Positioning and product marketing
- Product leadership
- Team culture and goal setting
Without further ado, here are 10 of the best product management books to read this year – and to revisit every year after.
Best product management book for anyone on the team
INSPIRED is a great baseline for PMs and pretty much anyone in the company who wants to understand the principles and practices behind powerful product management.
Cagan is a household name in product management, and this is his first book. He combines personal stories with profiles of some of the world’s biggest tech companies to show how great product organizations are built – and how you can implement what you’ve learned in your own team.
Best product management books about Building the Right Stuff
Every product manager should have their hands on a copy of The Lean Startup. This book has institutionalized the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) among tech startups around the world.
Ries argues that most companies try to do too much too soon. They end up wasting effort and money building out parts of their product that they don’t actually need – rather than testing as they go. The Lean Startup teaches companies how to pursue product development in cheaper and fast ways. Ries explains how to operate under the MVP principle, as an individual and as a team.
With this book, you’ll learn how to work in a lean way, which experiments allow you to learn fast – and most of all – you’ll learn the mindset that dominates today’s approach to tech.
What Perri names “the build trap,” others have called the feature factory. And even more people (us included!) have written about how to avoid it. The idea is that you don’t want to build for building’s sake, you want to identify the ripest opportunities that will satisfy your customer.
Escaping the Build Trap actually goes far beyond the “escape” to show how a business can proactively shape its entire product culture around value – and values. The first is providing real usefulness to the customer through whatever is built. The second is about a way of working that prioritizes learning, discovery, and reflection.
We’ve written quite a lot about continuous product discovery on this blog. That’s because it’s essential to great product management: always learning from your customers and always experimenting.
If you’re looking to go in-depth on the concept and to set up practical habits, this is the book for you. Torres explains how teams can build it in, how to design their processes to allow discovery on a continuous basis. That way you’re keeping it fast and lean, while creating a product that actually hits your customers’ pain points and fills their needs.
Best product management book about Roadmaps
Full disclosure, I wrote the foreword on this one! But any possible self-interest aside, Product Roadmaps Relaunched is an excellent take on how roadmaps should function in a modern product management world.
Product roadmaps are not full of fixed ideas that you march through development. Nor is the roadmap a schedule of forthcoming features. Instead, the product roadmap is a tool for communicating vision and aligning teams (from across the company) around product decisions. This book includes examples of real roadmaps that suit today’s organizations, plus the best practices you can use to stay focused yet flexible.
Best product management book about Product Marketing
As the title says, this book is all about positioning. PMs have a tendency to get gung-ho about features and lose sight on how to package, position, and talk about them. Yep, marketing the product is overlooked, and the team isn’t sure how to sell it.
That’s where Obviously Awesome comes in. Not only does Dunford explain how positioning is an integral part of product management, she also offers a step-by-step process for defining what your product’s position is and how to bring it to market.
Best books about Product Leadership
This is Cagan’s follow-up to INSPIRED. While the first book has a wide-angle lens on the product culture and process within a company, this book speaks directly to leadership. He explains how product leaders can create the right environment for brilliant problem solving and innovation. Yes, it’s about empowering the team, as individuals and as a collective. Throughout the book, Cagan provides case studies that show how teams can be empowered to do their best product management work.
I’ve said before that part of becoming a great product manager is reading as many playbooks as you possibly can. That way, no matter what situation pops up (and each one is different), you’ve learned a little something along the way that can help you navigate it.
Product Leadership is the ultimate playbook, collecting insights from almost 100 interviews with PMs from around the world. Advice spans from the skills you need to lead your direct reports, from seed to scale, all the way to managing partners and external stakeholders.
Another disclosure: Martin Eriksson is a co-founder of mine at Mind the Product!
Best product management books about Team Culture
Emotional intelligence has been on the business world’s radar for some years now. In this book, Leto makes a case for the emotional quotient of product management work – the people! Finding the right people for your team, and functioning well together as a team, are the foundation for a great product.
She introduces the concept of Product EQ as an integral part of recruiting and coaching your team. She also reveals the importance of self-awareness, empathy, and other intangible skills to excel as a product leader.
This book is the gold standard on OKRs! Wodtke loads it with practical examples of how teams can define measurable goals and adopt an objective-focused way of working. Honestly, the book is suitable for any team, in any part of a business. But for product people, Radical Focus helps us learn how to prioritize, experiment, and make decisions with the company’s objectives in mind.
All book covers are courtesy of Amazon