The 11 Best Books for Product Managers to Grow in Their Careers

Feeling stuck in your product management career or just hungry to learn more? Get inspired thanks to these must-read books from some of the world’s top product leader

The best way to grow in your career as a product manager is to get advice from mentors whom you admire. As the saying goes: “Fools learn from their own mistakes, while wise men learn from the mistakes of others.”

Learning about the experiences of other successful product managers through books is one of the best ways to grow. You’ll get to learn about their mistakes, what enabled them to achieve success, and new ideas on how to guide your product strategy. Here are the best books for product managers that you can get started reading today:

1. The Product Book

by Carlos González de Villaumbrosia and Josh Anon

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If you’re a product manager just starting in your role, this book is for you. This work from González de Villaumbrosia, CEO at Product School, and Josh Anon, former PM at Pixar, is full of practical advice and expert tips to help you succeed in your career.

This book is filled with examples, and you’ll learn how to strategically understand a company, work with the engineering team, bring your product to market, and much more. Even experienced product managers can use the book as a refresher course on the fundamentals.

Top Quotes from the Authors:

“Product managers are like the conductor in an orchestra. The conductor never makes a sound but is responsible for making the orchestra as a whole sound awesome to deliver a great performance to the audience.”

“As much as we’d like to believe that if we built the perfect product it will sell itself, the harsh truth is that it won’t.”
“PMs manage products, not people, so they must achieve everything using soft influence, effective communication, leadership, and trust—not orders.”

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2. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products That Customers Love

By Marty Cagan

Marty Cagan is the founder of Silicon Valley Product Group, which strives to help product managers advance in their careers. In this book, which is full of expert advice, he covers all the successes, failures, and lessons he’s accumulated over the years working with top companies worldwide.

The main idea behind the book is the inconvenient truth that half of your ideas won’t work, and what does work will require frequent testing and updates before you get it right. Besides product managers, designers and engineers can also benefit from reading this book to collect new insights on product development.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“Product management is about insights and judgment, both of which require a sharp mind. Hard work is also necessary, but for this job, it is not sufficient.”

“Winning products come from the deep understanding of the user’s needs combined with an equally deep understanding of what’s just now possible.”

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3. Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights

By Steve Portigal

Part of a product manager’s role is to research the needs and expectations of their target audience. You can then leverage these insights to prioritize features, better lead product development, and improve user satisfaction.

This book from user research expert Steve Portigal goes through the best tactics for interviewing users, with relevant examples of what that looks like in action. He goes over how to understand the point of your target user, improve your active listening skills, and build rapport for better interactions with users. After reading this book, you’ll be able to take your product discovery and research skills to the next level.

Top Quote from the Author:

“Stories are where the richest insights lie, and your objective is to get to this point in every interview.”

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4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

By Nir Eyal

The top product companies succeed because they know how to get their users to keep on coming back. In this book, lecturer and investor Nir Eyal provides product managers with a clear structure called the Hook Model to build a product that engages and retains users, along with actionable steps you can take to put it into practice.

A key idea from the book is that advertising can get expensive and that businesses are better off focusing on the customer experience to boost retention. You achieve this through “hook cycles” that bring users back to your product without constantly retargeting them. The book uses interesting examples to showcase the Hook Model, such as Pinterest and the Bible app.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“To change behavior, products must ensure the user feels in control. People must want to use the service, not feel they have to.”

“Products that require a high degree of behavior change are doomed to fail.”

“Many innovations fail because consumers irrationally overvalue the old while companies irrationally overvalue the new.”

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5. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days

By Jake Knapp

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In this book, former Google designer Jake Knapp reveals his “design sprint” method, a five-day process that helps companies answer vital questions on how to go from prototype to decision. It’s the very same method that Google used to build Chrome, Google Search, and Google X.

Applying the advice will help product teams fast-track product development, test new ideas, and find solutions to challenges more efficiently. The book also includes various resources, such as apps and community groups, to help product managers learn more about sprint.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“It’s what work should be about—not wasting time in endless meetings, then seeking camaraderie in a team-building event at a bowling alley—but working together to build something that matters to real people. This is the best use of your time. This is a sprint.”

“Good ideas are hard to find. And even the best ideas face an uncertain path to real-world success. That’s true whether you’re running a startup, teaching a class, or working inside a large organization. Execution.”

“Longer hours don't equal better results. By getting the right people together, structuring the activities, and eliminating distraction, we've found that it's possible to make rapid progress while working a reasonable schedule.”

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6. Cracking the PM Interview

By Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bavaro

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This book focuses on mastering the complex questions that can arise in a product manager interview, so you can land your dream job at a startup or big tech company. It’s by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, CEO at CareerUp.com, and Jackie Bavaro, product manager at Asana.

The book describes how the product manager role differs from company to company, what type of experience startups expect, how to write the perfect resume, and the best way to answer questions headed your way. By reading this book, you’ll learn everything you need to prepare for the big day.

Top Quotes from the Authors:

“One reason product management is such an appealing career is you get to sit at the intersection of technology, business, and design.”

“If you’re interviewing to be a PM, it’s good to look at every problem starting with “Who is the customer?” and “What is success?”

“Credibility is the currency of a PM.”

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7. Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data

By Charles Wheelan

This book is for any product manager looking to improve their data analysis skills but not knowing where to start. It does an excellent job of combining both concrete examples and humor to show you what it takes to make better data-driven decisions for your business, which you can apply to product development.

The professor Charles Wheelan provides the reader with countless examples of how professional statisticians work with numbers and analyze the data. He covers essential concepts such as regression analysis, correlation, and the biases leaders must avoid to misinterpret data.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“It’s easy to lie with statistics, but it’s hard to tell the truth without them.”

“Probability doesn’t make mistakes; people using probability make mistakes.”

“Statistics is like a high-caliber weapon: helpful when used correctly and potentially disastrous in the wrong hands.”

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8. Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love

By Jon Kolko

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Adding a bunch of new features to your product isn’t what will boost user retention and engagement; it’s focusing on the right features.

In his book, Jon Kolko, Chief Operating Officer at Modernist Studio, discusses the importance of empathy to design and build a product that will hook users. Throughout the piece, he maps out the process of creating a product that builds an emotional connection with its users and drives engagement in four steps: product-market fit, identifying behavioral insights, writing a product strategy, and polishing the details.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“Product management, both in the context of a physical consumable and in the context of a digital product, is the process by which a product comes to life and the process by which it achieves and maintains success. It’s not project management.”

“Great ideas can’t be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.”

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9. Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results

By Christina Wodtke

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A good product manager must be able to motivate and lead their team by outlining specific goals. This book goes over the Objectives and Key Results strategy, a framework product managers can use for prioritizing goals and achieving them with their team.

The goal-setting method starts by defining your company’s objective, which relates back to your product vision. From there, you “cascade” your goals down by writing key results to achieve in order to make the objective possible.

Christina Wodtke is a former executive at top companies, including LinkedIn and Zynga, and she leveraged her experience to write this book on product leadership. By adopting the OKRs framework, you’ll boost alignment within your team and better prioritize your goals.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what you need done and let them surprise you.”

“One: set inspiring and measurable goals. Two: make sure you and your team are always making progress toward that desired end state. No matter how many other things are on your plate. And three: set a cadence that makes sure the group both remembers what they are trying to accomplish and holds each other accountable.”

“Solve the problems you have, not the ones you imagine.”

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10. Badass: Making Users Awesome

By Kathy Sierra

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Building a fantastic product starts by putting your users first. This book covers how to create exceptional user experiences for your customers in a way that solves their challenges and improves their lives.

Game developer Kathy Sierra covers a strategy that product managers can use to optimize the product experience without an extensive marketing or development budget. It consists of focusing on helping users get better at a skill during the product experience: for example, users don’t want just a grammar-checking tool; they want to become better writers.

The piece reads more like a slideshow than a book, with flowcharts, diagrams, and stock photos to showcase Sierra’s points. After reading, you’ll have a game plan to make your product shine from the competition and increase user retention.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“Give users what they actually want, not what they say they want. And whatever you do, don't give them new features just because your competitors have them!”

“Upgrade your user, not your product. Value is less about the stuff and more about the stuff the stuff enables. Don't build better cameras - build better photographers."

“The secret to building great products is not creating awesome features, it's to make your users awesome.”

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11. Product Roadmaps Relaunched: How to Set Direction While Embracing Uncertainty

By C. Todd Lombardo

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A product roadmap allows product teams to outline development, prioritize features, create milestones, and align departments. Todd Lombardo, VP of product at Openly, provides excellent insights into what a compelling product roadmap should include and how to use the roadmap to align with stakeholders. You’ll learn how to define your product vision, prioritize features in the roadmap, improve stakeholder communication, work with sales, and more.

Top Quotes from the Author:

“The roadmap is a critical — and frequently missed — opportunity to articulate why you are doing this product, why it’s important, and why the things on it are absolutely vital to success.”

“Your product roadmap should slot right in between your company vision and your more detailed development, release, and operational plans.”

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Get Inspired by Learning from the Best

Whenever you’re feeling stuck in your career or experiencing a challenge that’s hard to overcome, you can always come back to one of these books and learn how someone who was in the same situation was able to rise above it. You’ll gain the insights and inspiration you need to push forward and get to the next level.