One of the best methods for enhancing your product management skills is by picking up a book. There are so many resources when it comes to learning about product management. I find that it’s helpful to read at your own pace and understand the skills that the book is trying to teach.
Now, if you’re trying to pick where to start, you may be a bit confused. With so many books out there, you may be at a loss for which ones may actually be worth the investment. That’s why I’d like to take the time to help you with a few recommendations.
I’ve taken the time to read through many of the recent product manager books and can help give my insight into the best books for product managers. I prefer to start with beginner-level books and work my way up. After reading so many, I can definitely say that each product management book has different advice.
There are usually four different types of product management books. The beginner is useful if you’re just settling into the field, while the intermediate is suitable for those who already have their degree or experience. Advanced is perfect for anyone who’s had experience and is looking to refine their craft.
The very last one is industry-specific product management, which gives specialized advice. These are good for those in the field already and want to get advice based on their specific job.
As you can see, there are so many options when it comes to the best product manager books. That’s why I’ve done the hard part and read a majority of the books for you.
The books listed below are my top recommended books for product managers. These can help you learn how to advise and hone your craft and be productive in your field.
Best Books for Product Managers
I’m a technical guy. I studied the IT field and did software development for a long time until I discovered the business world. So the path for me is to slowly adapt from the clear, technical world, to the fuzzy, way more complex, business world. All the books that I recommend help this transition.
“Succeeding with Agile” - Mike Cohn: for approaching the process involved into building a product in an organized manner.
How to make amazing products. Super fun to read too.
Within Buffer, we have a concept where anyone is able to make any decision, provided they get advice from people who will be affected by the decision. It is the way we've found to envision a company without managers or bosses. We're still at the beginning of this journey, it's an exciting one to be on and I think we're creating an incredible company to be part of.
This decision making concept originates from a company called AES. I already mentioned Joy At Work, AES co-founder Dennis Bakke's first book and this is a fable he wrote to describe a company changing how they work and adopting the Advice Process.
This book is amazing—it didn't change my mind, so much as it has changed the way I think. It helps to understand the difference between the way you make quick decisions, versus considered decisions—it takes different mechanisms in the brain. Understanding which you're doing at any given time can have a profound impact on what you ultimately decide.
Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind (The 99U Book Series)
It's important that we make this transformation, because of what Clayton Christensen calls "the innovator's dilemma," where people who invent something are usually the last ones to see past it, and we certainly don't want to be left behind.
I read this book at a time when Udemy was rapidly growing—over the 18 months where we went from 30 to 200 people. It was helpful to read about Horowitz's challenges, worries, and triumphs when addressing the same types of issues at a similar stage of growth. There are so many big decisions you need to make where there's just no clear-cut, right or wrong answer. There are a lot of gray areas. You gather information from your team, but the hard decisions rest with you. This book helped me realize that while I needed to carefully and objectively consider feedback, I was responsible for making a decision in the end—even when it was an unpopular one.
Jeff Bezos is known as an authoritarian leader. He has established rules, processes and methods that are strictly followed. Jeff’s Reading List is a list of 12 books Bezos expects Amazon employees to read. Many are related to business, but there are other themes as well.
Author Brad Stone who wrote the Bezos biography The Everything Store lists those 12 books. The author says the books have shaped Bezos’ leadership style and way of thinking. Lean Thinking is one of those 12 books.
CA$HVERTISING: How to Use More than 100 Secrets of Ad-Agency Psychology to Make Big Money Selling Anything to Anyone
Breathe To Succeed: Increase Workplace Productivity, Creativity, and Clarity through the Power of Mindfulness
One book that actually helped me a great deal in the way I was communicating with my products and marketing, is Contagious by Jonah Berger, in which he describes “why things catch on” or “how to create viral content”. I did apply lots of his ideas and even inspired my team to work on those principles both online and offline. I remember reading it and taking notes (things I actually rarely do when I read, I like to be in it and absorb without being distracted by nothing) and really trying to soak in those principles. and I think I did.