(Photo by Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash)
There is no industry-accepted education or training program for product managers. Nor should there be.
Product managers are by their nature cross-functional and must to understand every aspect of the business and customer. As a result, the competent and effective product manager requires a diverse set of skills in many different disciplines.
While product management classes have started to pop up everywhere in recent years — there is even a Master’s degree in the subject — the role of product manager is as varied and nuanced as the markets, verticals, and products that it serves. And the range of talents and competencies required to be effective are just simply not possible to teach in a school setting. 
It probably goes without saying that the best education for a product manager is on the job. However, unless (and even if!) you have a fantastic mentor in your corner, the fact is that you simply don’t know what you don’t know, which can be a huge disadvantage to your (and your product’s) success. In addition, there might be concepts that you understand intuitively — but not logically — which makes it hard to both correlate your actions with success and communicate what success looks like to your team and to your leadership.
You should certainly seek out mentors both within your company and without. But to me, a book written by an expert in their field is the ultimate mentor. 
With that in mind, here are my book recommendations for learning how to be a highly effective product manager and product leader. 
(If you want to just jump to the punchline, see the end of this article for a condensed list of books.)
These books speak to the core of being a strategic and effective product manager.
Inspired by Marty Cagan
Cagan is one of the luminaries of product management, and the latest edition of his book is one of the best sources available for product strategy. While primarily a framework for how to operate effectively as both a product manager and as part of a product team, it offers specific actions and advice as well. Both new and experienced product managers will find it immensely valuable.
And if you’ve read this book before, you must read it again, because the second edition is like a whole new version. It’s tighter, clearer, and updated for what you might call the ‘new age’ of product management.
Everything in this book was an affirmation of what I’ve learned as a technology PM over the past decade, which was both comforting and enlightening. Here are some of the topics that resonated with me.
1) Product teams.
Product teams are cross-functional, typically staffed with a product manager, product designer, and engineer, and are responsible for solving business objectives and problems.
The ideal state for this team is one in which they are either dedicated (focused on one problem or product) or durable (stick together through projects), autonomous (are tasked with not only implementing the solution, but discovering the best possible solution), and collaborative (each team member, including engineers, are involved in the entire process including discovery).
Product teams should also have their own objectives (or OKRs – aka objectives and key results) which apply to the entire team, not just certain members of the team. So for example, the objectives of the engineers should be the same as the objectives of the designer which are the same as those of the product manager.
Finally, there should only be one product manager and designer per product team, while there can be a multiple of engineers. Too many cooks and all that.
2) What we think of as agile often doesn’t apply to product management.
Many companies still employ a waterfall product management process. It might be sacrilege to say this in the typical tech company, especially if the co is using Scrum or Kanban or some other agile process on the engineering side, but it’s true.
No project which includes heavy up-front roadmapping, requirements, design, specs, etc. can be considered agile. And neither can any project which includes top-down or sales driven ideas and solutions. If the customer validation is coming at the end, it is waterfall.
The only solution for this particular problem (which, unfortunately, may be heavily ingrained into the company ethos) is to prototype and test solutions as quickly as possible. Product teams also enable this, as they can focus and rally around a particular problem and test into a solution.
The good news is that if you can carve off a product team even just for a few weeks, you can probably prove the value of this approach.
3) The value of product design.
It still surprises me how many technology companies still don’t grok the value of product design. They might think of it as graphic or visual design and believe they can either treat it tactically, outsource it entirely (99designs anyone?), or expect their product managers or engineers to handle it.
Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoy UX and UI design. I’ve also been known to spend hours creating highly detailed wireframes which (to the untrained eye) could be mistaken for a mockup. I’ve even (gulp) worked on projects where I don’t have an in-house designer and so I have to provide someone external with detailed UI that they can turn into mockups.
The problem with entrusting this critical competency to product or engineering or business folks is many.
First, product managers and engineers are not designers, and graphic designers are not product designers. And don’t get me started on outsourced designers … well, do you think it would be a good idea to outsource your business strategy and vision too? Answer that and we might be able to have an honest conversation about it.
The effective product designer has a wide and deep set of skills that the product manager either doesn’t have the time or aptitude to master. This includes UX design, interaction design, visual design, user testing, and prototyping. You can try to own these, but you won’t do them well, especially not if you expect to handle all of the other responsibilities required of your role.
Second, you can’t ask a designer to do their best work if they don’t have a deep understanding of the user and the problem they’re going to solve. For that, they have to be a core part of the product discovery process.
Finally, UX is not just the user interface. It is the entire user experience, from end-to-end, which could include offline experiences as well (e.g. for a physical product, or service like ride sharing). You will not be doing your best work if you don’t involve your designer in every aspect of the UX.
4) Roadmaps suck and are probably screwing up your product.
The fact of the matter is:
- Many of our product ideas are not going to work, for various reasons
- Customers may not be as excited about an idea as we are
- Whatever we build may be too hard to use
- What we set out to build ends up being harder than we thought
- There are other risks (financial, legal) that we didn’t consider or didn’t know about
- To get to a solution that actually works may take a few tries (iterations).
The thing about roadmaps is that they attempt to define a list of ideas to execute on that may or may not have business value. They also represent a commitment to the organization. The problem with these things is that we often don’t know what’s going to work until we’ve done product discovery or attempted to provide a solution to users. And if we do commit to some idea because it was on the roadmap, and it fails, we are more likely to keep trying to make the idea work, rather than asking ourselves what the idea was trying to solve for in the first place.
5) You must tackle critical risks first. We often underestimate risks that we are uncomfortable with, so it is important to face these as quickly as possible.
During product discovery, you need to be focused on understanding the risks. Key risks include:
- Value – does the customer want what we’re selling?
- Usability – is this something that people can figure out how to use?
- Feasibility – how hard is it to build?
- Viability – will this work for our business?
Other risks might include legal, ethical, financial, sales, or marketing. And depending on the project or product, you might have to consider them all.
The most important risk though — and the one that product teams and CEOs alike often underestimate — is value risk. You absolutely must create sufficient value in your product so that customers will choose to use it over other products (or, in the case of a truly new product, nothing at all). This is a high bar to clear, but one that you must if you want a shot at success.
Stated another way: all other risks pale in comparison to the value risk.
Product Leadership by Martin Eriksson, Nate Walkingshaw, and Richard Banfield
One of the core concepts of this book is that not every product manager is a product leader, but a product leader must be first and foremost a great product manager.
While I found Product Leadership both harder to read and less engaging that Cagan’s book, it also takes a different tack. In essence, it is a series of interviews and case studies with a wide variety of successful product teams, which helps make the concepts real. Definitely worthy of a read.
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
This is the book that radically changed the Agile movement for the better. It also popularized the concept of an MVP (minimum viable product). And the 5 Whys exercise (borrowed from Six Sigma) is pure gold.
If you haven’t read this one yet, you need to.
I do have a few issues with this book, however. I’m not certain that they are the fault of Ries directly — perhaps they are the fault of the community that has built itself around the Lean model — but they are worth discussing.
1) The MVP is a bit of a problematic term. Customers don’t want ‘minimally viable’ products. They want products that solve their problems. While you should ship as quickly as possible, you also need to ship something that people will want. Personally, I like to think of MVP as a minimum valuable product in order to focus on value over sheer speed. 
2) MVPs are better than building for months or years and shipping something that no one cares about. But before you build an MVP (or anything at all) you should start by validating your ideas with prototypes as quickly as possible. See Sprint (under the Product Tactics section) and Inspired for examples of how to do this. If you are spending months building an MVP without testing your theories, you are not doing agile. (Ries is a proponent of this approach, but this concept sometimes gets lost.)
3) Customers don’t buy features, they buy products with features (note the plural) that help them solve a problem. But Lean is skewed toward features, and the MVP is a big part of that. You have to start somewhere of course, but just make sure that the MVP isn’t the sum total of your product. You should have a vision and plan to build it into something great.
4) There is very little in the way of tactical advice in this book. See Running Lean under Tactics below for specific recipes.
5) For whatever reason, companies attempting to follow lean principles don’t necessarily apply those to product discovery. I’m not sure that this can be blamed on Ries — it’s just something that has been baked into the product management process. Just be careful that your entire process is agile/lean by doing quick sprints and testing into solutions, before you build them, instead of falling into the trap of building out detailed requirements during the discovery phase (waterfall) and then attempting to follow lean principles (agile) during the build-out phase. Also, see point #2.
Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
Blank is in some ways the father of the Lean Startup startup movement, and Ries was a student of his. (Blank was an investor at Ries’ company, IMVU, and insisted that the IMVU team audit his class. The rest, as they say, is history.)
The concept which Blank calls Customer Development is one of the foundations for Lean, and Blank’s version offers practical and specific steps for understanding your customer and what they need.
At the very least, read Four Steps to better understand Lean Startup principles. But you may also find that it provides a level of detail which The Lean Startup and other books do not.
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs is in some ways the penultimate product manager, and there is a lot to learn from him and his life in this book. Personally, I don’t empathize with his bratty and egotistical management style, but he was certainly effective and knew how to motivate people to do their best work.
The most interesting takeaways here for me were around how he made various product decisions and negotiated business deals, in particular for products like iTunes and iPod.
BUSINESS MANAGEMENT AND STRATEGY
To be a successful product manager you must be a successful and woke leader, and you must understand how and why a business operates effectively. These books will show you how.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Ben Horowitz learned the hard way. Fortunately, he’s here to share those learnings so that you don’t have to suffer (as much). His book is also a fantastic view into what it takes to scale a business, and a reality check on whether you and your team members have the right skills for where your company is now, and where it is heading. The fact is that people don’t always scale with the business — which is just one of the many hard things about hard things.
This book could also easily fall into the product strategy category.
High Output Management by Andy Grove
Ben Horowitz highly recommends this book. That alone is is reason enough to read it.
The main reason you should read it though is that it will teach you how to be a great manager. You may not be a people manager now, or ever, at least in terms of HR authority — but make no mistake, you have to be a leader. Andy will teach you how to do it.
Accounting for Non-Accountants by Wayne Label
If you don’t understand the financials of the business you’re supporting, you’re simply not going to be as effective in helping it get to where it needs to go. If you didn’t get a chance to take an Accounting 101 course in college — and I don’t blame you — then read this book. (It’s also a lot cheaper.)
Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (aka DHH) have built a tech business like no other. They also have an approach to business and product development that, while not suited to everyone, should be food for thought for every entrepreneur and product manager. Many of their ideas are at once obvious, radical, and simple.
Jason Fried, in particular, has a way of focusing on what really matters and ignoring everything else. This alone is a reason to listen, and learn. And while their advice is very high level and philosophical, it will get you thinking. A lot. 
Traction by Gino Wickman
In some ways, this book is the opposite of Rework. It’s much more focused on making ‘traditional’ businesses work — which also means that it’s not geared to tech companies — and it provides a recipe to get there with specific resources and exercises. But like Rework, it is also centered on keeping your business simple, and advocates focusing on what matters and dumping the rest. If your company is unfocused or chaotic, this book might just turn it around.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
In our solution-focused society, we often start with either what, or how. What is the problem? How are we going to solve it?
Sinek instead encourages us to start with the Why. Why are we doing this? Why is it a problem? Focusing on the why gets to the essence of your purpose, your product, your company, your raison d’etre, and inspires you and your team to do their best work.
According to Sinek, the most successful people (MLK, Wright Brothers) and companies (Apple, Southwest Airlines) started with the Why. He has a point, and you should probably listen. 
You’re only as sharp as your tools, and as a product manager, you best have the sharpest damn tools in your particular shed.
Sprint by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz
Sprint takes this and boils it down to a week-long design sprint, and provides a recipe and tools to make your design sprint successful.
Over the course of a (dedicated, devices down) week, a core group of people works on identifying a problem, designing a solution, and then testing it. The goal is to reach the end of the week with a clear solution that can be built or even launched.
A sprint is not a hackathon; whereas a hackathon revolves around quickly building and demoing a product idea, but not necessarily building a production version of it, the sprint process is highly pragmatic and focused on delivering a solution that can actually make a difference to your business.
The method described in Sprint requires a lot of dedication and organization in order to actually make it work. But it also only requires a week. So if you could come up with a solution that has a high likelihood of success in one week, would you do it?
User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton
User story maps are an effective and intuitive way to visualize user and application workflows. (In fact, you should be mapping just about everything you plan to do first, but that’s a story for another time.)
The concept is simple, but the details are important. Patton’s book provides both, along with many examples to illustrate how story maps work.
While story maps are fantastic for clearly organizing and prioritizing workflows, I think their greatest power is that they quickly and effectively communicate the user experience for everyone involved. Anything that focuses us on users and the problems we are solving for them is welcome, and a list of stories in a backlog simply won’t communicate that.
(For a great intro to story maps, check out David Hawk’s post over at Agile Velocity.)
Running Lean by Ash Maurya
If you read The Lean Startup, you need to read this book as well. Maurya describes how to put lean principles into practice, and provides a great set of tools to get there. His lean startup canvas (which you can also get on his website is invaluable as well.
Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug
This book is essentially a ‘how-to’ for running usability tests. If you want to learn how to run usability tests quickly, cheaply, and effectively, read this book. You might want to read Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think first though for some context.
While a product manager does not need to be on the same level as their product designer, they still need to understand some fundamentals of good design.
Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
Krug’s book on usability is a classic. It is more focused on Design 101 than on advanced concepts in design, but it’s still highly relevant and especially helpful for the non-designer. Even if you have a solid grasp of UX design principles, it will serve as a reminder of what really matters in terms of customer-centric design. And it will make you think!
The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman
Don Norman is a pioneer in human-centered design. This is his seminal book on design that literally everyone should read. It’s more focused on theory than practice, which makes it a good companion to Krug’s books.
For most of us, the range of life skills that enable us to do our best work doesn’t come naturally. Chances are good that you’ll need to work on yourself in order to get to a place where you can be effective in your work. You’ll also need strategies for how to cope when you fail (in work and in life) because — let’s face it — at some point, you will fail hard.
Here are a number of books that will help.
The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
This book is about one thing: how to focus. It’s highly aspirational and more philosophical than practical in terms of its advice. But don’t let that fool you. This is the book that will kick your ass into turning your attention to the one big thing that really matters.
The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
This is a book which transcends its purpose. Certainly, it aims to teach Taoism, and in this regard, it is an incredibly well written, concise, and clear lesson on the basic tenets of Taoist philosophy.
But above all, it is a book about simplicity, calm, and acceptance. Many difficult situations can be solved if we look at them from a simple point of view (not basic, but simple) and in a calm and contemplative way.
In Taoism, there is a concept called wu wei, which can be translated as the action of non-action. Achieving wu wei means that your actions are effortless because they are in alignment with the ebb of and flow of the world. When we are struggling, we may feel like we are going against the tide, instead of with it. And often our reaction is to push harder. But if you think of the times in your life when everything seems to be going well, it often feels effortless. And if you examine it I bet you’ll find that you’re not just bobbing helplessly to and fro with the tide, but rather your movements are in perfect synchronization with it.
(As an aside, that is also a perfect description of Pooh, in all his Pooh-ness.)
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
This book is both an introduction to Stoicism as well as a clear and unwavering treatise on how fate rules our lives. Holiday shows us that we can either accept this fact and grow stronger, or be weakened and tortured by it.
There are many phrases designed to remind us of the impermanence of time and the callousness of life. This too shall pass. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. C’est la vie. It is God’s will. And on and on.
These are all useful phrases, and we could do worse than to employ them daily. But these words are used most often in the context of framing our struggles as facts of life or of things to endure. We use them to remind ourselves that it’s not so bad — or that it could be worse.
Holiday’s book, however, reframes struggle as an opportunity, and he teaches us to embrace it. Instead of ‘this is not so bad’ it becomes ‘I can make this good’. Along the way, he solidifies his insights by relating them to inspiring stories of people who faced a wall and either climbed it or went around it. And at the end of the day, he has created a framework which enables us to embrace our own personal obstacles and rise above them.
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The title says it all: art is war, and you must fight, and win (or be destroyed).
While this book is geared toward traditional creative types (writers, artists, etc.), I’d argue that product development is an art, and all the same pains and challenges apply.
In particular, Pressfield talks about facing ‘the resistance’, which amounts to one of the deepest fears facing any artist or entrepreneur: the fear of failure. But as with any war, fear can never be overcome — at best, it can be ignored, and at worst, temporarily shoved aside.
Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink
Jocko is a former Navy SEAL and frankly (at least on paper) one scary dude. But he also has a big heart and cares about you. That’s why he wrote this book.
OK, so maybe he doesn’t care about you personally, but he does care about improving the human condition.
As you mind imagine, his approach is not one that involves nice words and coddling. If he had his druthers, you would probably sleep on a concrete floor in an unheated room and get up at 4AM to work out until you puke.
The big takeaway is that you must have a system, and you must follow through on it every day. Whether it’s sleep, work, exercise, eating, whatever — there are no breaks, no days off, and no opportunities for you to regress. It might be a tough message for those of us who live in a Monday to Friday world, but if we step back and look at it, every day is a chance to work hard and be better. Don’t waste it. Get disciplined.
Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss
This is not a book that you read cover to cover. Rather, it is a collection of amazing people sharing some key learnings and advice, only some of which you will actually appreciate or connect with. As Ferris says in the introduction:
Out of roughly 140 profiles, I expect you to like 70, love 35, and have your life changed by perhaps 17. Amusingly, the 70 you dislike will be precisely the 70 someone else needs.
I would add to that — the advice that changes your life today will probably not be the advice that changes you next year or even next month.
So read through it, but don’t be afraid to skim the responses that don’t resonate with you.
And pick it up again next month, or next year, and see who you connect with then.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This is a beautiful story about dreams, faith, and the journey of life. It is probably no surprise then that Coelho’s masterpiece is one of the most read books in the world.
What I found most touching though was the forward, where Coelho recounts his struggle to publish his book:
I never lost faith in the book or ever wavered in my vision. Why? Because it was me in there, all of me, heart and soul. I was living my own metaphor. A man sets out on a journey, dreaming of a beautiful or magical place, in pursuit of some unknown treasure. At the end of his journey, the man realizes the treasure was with him the entire time. I was following my Personal Legend, and my treasure was my capacity to write. And I wanted to share this treasure with the world.
If you haven’t started your personal journey yet — or you are on your way, but perhaps lost or uncertain — then this book will inspire you and orient you.
Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders
Saunder’s voice is his own: humorous, ironic, inappropriate, and always unique. His stories are fun and engaging and incredibly weird and will give you a new appreciation for what is possible in storytelling. The highlight of this book though is the Author’s Note where he shares his personal journey. It’s a fascinating look into his life and his struggle — both against himself and his circumstances — to realize his potential. (You might be noticing that a theme is emerging here.)
After many failed attempts at writing what he thought the world expected him to write, he discovers instead what he was meant to write:
Suddenly it was as if I’d been getting my ass kicked in an alley somewhere and realized I’d had one arm behind my back. All of my natural abilities, I saw, had been placed, by me, behind a sort of scrim. Among these were: humor, speed, the scatological, irreverence, compression, naughtiness. All I had to do was tear down the scrim and allow those abilities to come to the table.
He also describes how writing managed to get him through the days when he was struggling to support his family and his writing life with a soul-sucking career as a technical writer:
Mostly I was using whatever story I happened to have going at the time to get me through the day and give me some minimal sense of control and mastery. They were a secret source of sustenance. If I got a few good lines in the morning, that made the whole rest of the day better.
And then there is this fascinating exchange about the nature of dreams, and what it means to fulfill them (or not):
When I was in my twenties I had this plan to go to El Salvador and write about the experience. I had no money, didn’t speak Spanish, but this was “my dream.” I stopped by one day to see a friend of mine but found only his father home. I’d never spoken to this man before, not really. He was a truck driver, a father of eight, always went around in a white T-shirt and a pair of Buddy Holly glasses. But this day, we talked. I told him about my El Salvador plan, expecting him to find it indulgent. But instead he said, “You know what? You have to do it.”
“Yes,” I said, with the force of revelation. “I do. I really do.”
“And you know why?” he said. “Because you know who you’re going to blame if you don’t?”
I did know.
“Myself,” I said with a knowing smile.
“Bullshit,” he said. “You’ll blame your wife and kids.”
Clear writing is clear thinking, and neither can exist without the other. You must also be an effective communicator in order to succeed. It just so happens that most of your communication will be in the written word. So get good. Really good. These are the books that will get you there.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White 
This book belongs on any writer’s shelf. It is a clear and concise manual about proper (and concise!) use of the English language and has but one goal: to help you communicate more effectively. It’s also a short (but dense) book, clocking in at only 85 pages.
“Make every word tell”, and read this book.
On Writing Well by William Zinsser
This book is, in a sense, a sequel to The Elements of Style. It is far more detailed than Strunk & White’s book, and in that way, it will be a comfort to those who prefer detail over brevity.
One of the most valuable aspects of this book is that it brings critical elements most closely associated with fiction writing to nonfiction. Just as in fiction, your goal as a nonfiction author is to entertain, educate, and inspire — and Zinsser provides practical and specific advice on how to achieve this.
- The essence of writing is rewriting — and you must revise until your point is crystal clear
- Write with confidence so that the reader trusts you
- Use both surprise and humor to draw the reader in
- Use the first person (“I”) in order to speak directly to the reader
- Recognize that readers engage with and follow an author because they truly like them, not just their work
- You must bring the reader along with you in your journey and make them an ally — and if they remain passive, you have failed
On Writing by Stephen King
If you only read one ‘how to write’ book, this is the one to get. And if you’re a fan of King, but have no interest in writing, then read it anyway for a fascinating peek into his life. (But you want to learn how to be a kick-ass writer, yes? Good answer!)
Don’t expect a writing workshop though. For that matter, don’t expect much in the way of practical tips, save for a section where King takes us through writing and revising a short story. Instead, what I found inspiring was the simplicity and truth of his writing advice.
For example, he says:
The scariest moment is always just before you start.
Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.
Let me say it again: You must not come lightly to the blank page.
Some might read this and say “well, that’s obvious” or “what useless, unspecific advice!” But these are all reminders of the hardest things about writing, which, if you are to be a good writer, you must face down every day. And coming from King — someone who has reached the pinnacle of his craft — this is no small thing.
- Getting started is often the hardest part of a project.
- There is no muse or magic potion — there is just you.
- You must work, and work hard, at both reading and writing.
- When you sit in front of the page or the screen to write your words, take it as seriously as anything else worthy of being taken seriously. Which means: focus, and give it your all.
Writing is so personal and so difficult that we do ourselves a disservice if we seek advice that portends to give us a formula or an ‘easy way’. King reminds us that there are no formulas and no easy way — there is just you, and the page.
How to Lie with Statistics by Darrel Huff
Ah, numbers. So … trustworthy! So … exact! So … misleading! Think of this book as essential to your survival in a data-driven world. (It might surprise you to learn that this book was written in 1954, and is just as relevant today.)
Beautiful Evidence by Edward R. Tufte
This book is focused on the visualization of data rather than the data itself. But knowing how to properly visualize and share data is an important tool in your toolkit, so don’t underestimate it.
Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan
Whereas How to Lie with Statistics takes a very humorous approach to statistics, this is more of a 101 crash course for the layman. It’s a good companion to Huff’s book, although if you just read one, this is probably the more practical read.
Alright, here’s the list you’ve been waiting for. Enjoy.
- Inspired by Marty Cagan
- Product Leadership by Martin Eriksson, Nate Walkingshaw, and Richard Banfield
- The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
- Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank
- Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Business Management and Strategy.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
- High Output Management by Andy Grove
- Accounting for Non-Accountants by Wayne Label
- Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
- Traction by Gino Wickman
- Start with Why by Simon Sinek
- Sprint by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky, and Braden Kowitz
- Running Lean by Ash Maurya
- Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug
User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton
- The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan
- The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
- The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink
- Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferriss
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- The Elements of Style by by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Civilwarland in Bad Decline by George Saunders
- How to Lie with Statistics by Darrel Huff
- Beautiful Evidence by Edward R. Tufte
- Naked Statistics by Charles Wheelan
- Nor is an MBA a prerequisite to be a product manager.
- By all means, read the many excellent posts and articles out there about product management. There are a number of great blogs to choose from including Steve Blank, Ken Norton, Marty Cagan, Ben Horowitz, and others. But if you truly want to learn, a book is the best way. A blog post simply can’t provide the level of thought and completeness available in a book. And in even if you understand the high-level concept, the details are what crystallize it and bring it to life.
- Also, read this article from Noah Weiss for a ridiculously comprehensive list of books and articles on product management.
- To quote Paul Graham: “So what’s the minimum you need to launch? We suggest startups think about what they plan to do, identify a core that’s both (a) useful on its own and (b) something that can be incrementally expanded into the whole project, and then get that done as soon as possible.“
- You should also listen to this Tim Ferris podcast with Jason Fried.
- Sinek’s TEDx talk is also worth watching. But definitely read the book too.
- E.B. White, in case you didn’t notice, was also the author of Charlotte’s Web. Read his fiction after Elements of Style for a new-found appreciation of his ability to communicate with words.
What are some of your favorite books for product managers? Let me know in the comments.
Also published on Medium.