If you want to become a successful investor, argues Charlie Munger, you should first familiarize yourself with psychology, or advertising, or the history of war. Better yet, study all of them. Want to launch a business? Munger might suggest you first immerse yourself in the study of physics or even philosophy (before diving into specific books for product managers).

So, is Charlie Munger just some nutcase who doesn’t understand how things work? Far from it. He’s one of the most successful investors in history: vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment giant run by Warren Buffett.

Munger’s basic lesson about successful investing, or becoming a superstar in any endeavor, is to understand that many seemingly disparate areas of life are interrelated, and to continually educate yourself in new subjects even if they seem far afield from your profession or business.

Because we believe Munger’s philosophy can make for a more well-rounded and stronger product manager, we are taking his approach to offer you this list of must-read books for product managers. Our thinking is that, while you can easily find a zillion product management books, you might benefit from reading ideas from different (although related) points of view.

We won’t take this approach quite as far as Munger would. You will not find any books here on cooking or city planning, for example. Most of these books will stay relatively close to the fields of business and innovation.

But we also think you should step out of the narrow product management box from time to time and focus on tangential disciplines — presentation, research, productivity, etc. — because insights from these areas will make you a stronger product manager.

Tweet This:
“Check out these 10 must-read books for product managers.”

So here they are: 10 must-read books for product managers.

1. Free

What’s great about Chris Anderson’s Free is that the former WIRED editor-in-chief forces us to take a long, objective look at how we are pricing our products. The book asks us to confront whether, in an era when more and more products and services are becoming free, we can afford to stick to the old paradigm of gating our offerings and making them available only to paying customers.

Free also offers one of the earliest explorations of the freemium model — whereby a company would make much of its offerings available for free on the gamble that 1) it could lure in users and then charge them for additional functionality, and 2) even if only, say, 5% of all users ended up becoming paying customers, the product could still turn a profit.

We’ve offered some suggestions on this blog about making smart decisions when pricing your products, but the book Free presents you with some pretty radical thinking about how to charge for your offerings, and how giving a lot of them away can at times be the most lucrative strategy of all.

2. Do the Work!

Do the Work! by Steven Pressfield is a fun little book, a fast read at under 100 pages, and it is loaded with great advice for staying on track through any creative undertaking — including driving a new product to a successful market release.

But perhaps the most important aspect of the book for our purposes is its section discussing research. Specifically, Pressfield warns that as valuable as research is, it can also turn into a way of stalling — what the book describes as “The Resistance.”

This is a great gut check for product managers. It forces you to ask yourself if you are stuck in research mode, waiting for more data, because you’re actually afraid to move ahead with your product development in earnest — building the roadmap, presenting it to stakeholders, committing to timelines, getting your engineering team going, etc.

We have offered product managers plenty of advice on this blog about how to more strategically set your priorities and how to boost your productivity. And while Do the Work! offers some fantastic strategies for these as well, we believe the book’s real value will be in helping you identify The Resistance in all of its sneaky, slithery disguises, and helping you conquer it so you can keep moving forward on your product’s path.

3. Crossing the Chasm

Here is a more traditional product management book, focusing on how businesses can develop products that make that rare and difficult leap from cool novelties for a small group of early adopters… to full-blown mass-market successes.

We include Crossing the Chasm here partly because its principles have stood the test of time. Because it was originally published more than a quarter-century ago, you won’t have to worry about any of its examples or data not holding up because they are skewed in favor of some temporary trend.

This is simply a great explanation of how a successful product will make its way through a standard bell curve — from early adopters, to the early majority, to the late majority and finally to the laggards — and how to structure your products to follow this successful path.

4. Presentation Zen

Yep, we know this is a list of books for product managers and we know we’ve included a book about presentations. And with good reason.

As a product manager, you will no doubt have to present your plans — particularly your product roadmap — to several different audiences. And no matter how brilliant your product’s strategic vision, how well you’ve thought through the details of the execution, you will have a difficult time earning the buy-in and enthusiasm of these audiences if you present it in a flat, boring or convoluted way.

Presentation Zen offers dozens of great ideas for making your insights and arguments resonate as you present them.

Trust us: You’ll find gems in this book.

5. Analytics at Work

We stated in our Do the Work! recommendation that getting stuck in research and data-analysis mode can be a genuine pitfall for product managers. But we also pointed out that research can be invaluable for compiling both the real-world knowledge you’ll need for your own strategic thinking about your product, and the ammunition you’ll need to convince stakeholders and others that your thinking is on point.

For this reason, we recommend Analytics at Work: Smarter Decisions, Better Results, by Thomas Davenport and Jeanne Harris. This book offers great insights into how to collect the right data, what tools to use for analyzing it properly, and how to learn from the most successful and data-driven companies before setting your own analytics objectives.

One word of caution: Analytics at Work explores metrics-driven learning as it relates to the whole company — in terms of how it applies to expanding, hiring, marketing, etc. — and not merely how to gather and analyze user data on your product. But remember: We’re taking the Charlie Munger approach here, and we believe you can find great insight for product research in learning how the best companies use data in their hiring and advertising decisions.

6. Complete and Utter Failure

Here’s a fun and at times hilarious exploration of the many public failures of individuals, institutions and businesses.

We include it here because we think reading it might remove some of the debilitating fear you have about the possibility your product might fail. It might. In fact, statistically speaking it probably will. But as you’ll read throughout the great little book, many massively successful corporations have failed, and they bounced right back.

Enjoy this one. It’s a fun read.

7. The Art of Product Management

Okay, here is the list’s one true product management book: The Art of Product Management.

Like Crossing the Chasm, we feel comfortable including this one because it has stood the test of time. Even though the book was published way back in technology’s Paleolithic era of 2008, its principles and insights still stand up today.

The book offers valuable lessons for product managers about developing an effective product roadmap, adequately equipping your support teams (which few businesses do, even today), properly implementing agile, etc.

Although this is one of the best books for product managers in the technology industry specifically, we believe its principles are broad enough to offer value to a PM in any field.

8. Read This Before Our Next Meeting

Here’s another valuable little title that, like Do the Work!, came out of the Seth-Godin-produced Domino Project. This short book addresses a single topic, meetings, and offers some new insights about it.

Author Al Pittampalli offers a fresh take on office meetings and introduces some very high-threshold criteria that a manager should have to meet before being able to call a meeting at all.

There are some great ideas here for product managers, in terms of finding other ways to communicate updates or other important information without having to assemble a large group of people in a room (or a Google Hangout session) for an extended period of time.

Read this before you call your next meeting.

9. Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love

Here is another pure product management title, written by one of the most successful product managers in modern times.

Marty Cagan, a longtime product executive for companies like eBay and HP, walks the reader through his hard-won insights about how to identify when you’ve got the right product and when you don’t, how to work with technical teams to get your products built the right way, and the basics of how to be a great product manager.

10. The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail

And guess what? Even after you’ve read all of these books (and a bunch of other must-reads), helped build products with a loyal following, and grown your company into a thriving enterprise, you’re still not out of the woods.

That’s because, as author and Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen explains in The Innovator’s Dilemma, new technologies and processes and approaches are hitting the market all the time — and some entrenched leaders lose to scrappy upstarts because they fail to adapt to these new realities.

Or, just as frustrating, other successful companies employ a culture of remaining nimble and adapting to new technologies to stay competitive — but often make the mistake of adapting the wrong new technologies and losing because of that misstep.

This is one of our must-read books for product managers because it forces you to acknowledge that your product is never finished, your business (no matter how successful) can never slow down and rest on its laurels — and that true product management is really a process of innovating, continually learning, and continually adapting.


Any other great books for product managers we forgot? Please share them in the comments section.

Post Comments

45 Comments

  • Kevin Konishi
    June 6, 2017 at 8:55 am

    The Inmates Are Running the Asylum by Alan Cooper

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 9:30 am

      I haven’t read that one, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks Kevin!

  • Kevin Konishi
    June 6, 2017 at 8:55 am

    The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 9:30 am

      Another great book for PMs!

  • Brian Lawley
    June 6, 2017 at 9:42 am

    Don’t forget Product Management for Dummies – the definitive “How To” guide for Product Managers. https://280group.com/products/books/product-management-for-dummies/

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Good call, Brian. Thanks!

  • Drew
    June 6, 2017 at 9:47 am

    When I began the transition to becoming a Product Manager, I was very blessed to have a great mentor at our company, who gave me a reading list to start (and several others along the way).

    Some of these might be a little dated now, but to start you can’t go wrong with:
    -Blue Ocean Strategy
    -What Customers Want
    -Checklist Manifesto

    Further afield from product management specifically:
    -Team of Rivals (The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln)

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Good additions, Drew. Thanks!

  • Charles
    June 6, 2017 at 10:25 am

    My product bible: Hooked by Nir Eyal.
    Must read, must add to list.

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 10:27 am

      That’s another great suggestion! Thanks, Charles.

  • Anonymous
    June 6, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Frustrating to see 10 books all written by men

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Hi! That’s a good point; do you have any suggestions of great books by female authors for PMs that we could add to our list?

    • Steve Johnson
      June 30, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Good books are good book, no matter which gender wrote them. That said, I strongly recommend Lean Customer Development: Building Products Your Customers Will Buy by Cindy Alvarez who drills down on the specifics of learning what customers really need and thus will buy.

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 30, 2017 at 2:00 pm

      Thanks, Steve! I’ll definitely have to check that one out.

  • Tusingwire Julius
    June 6, 2017 at 12:55 pm

    Truely very good,thanks for the better work.

  • Jefry van den Hoeven
    June 6, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    Hi Shaun, Thanks for sharing. It’s nice to see some unusual books in your list! As Charles said, Hooked is definitely a must read! And if you haven read the Blue Ocean Strategy you are not allowed to call yourself a product manager 😉

    My top 5 would be:

    1. Delivering Happiness – Tony Hsieh
    2. The Lean Startup – Eric Ries
    3. Start With Why – Simon Sinek (everybody read that, right?)
    4. Hooked – Nir Eyal
    5. Sprint – Jake Knapp

    And if you are looking for business expansion, don’t forget to read:

    Exponential Organizations -Yuri van Geest & Michael S Malone
    B4B – Todd Hewlin, J.B. Wood , Thomas Lah

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 1:42 pm

      Hi Jefry,

      Thanks for the additional suggestions! I definitely leaned on some of my PM colleagues for recommendations. Blue Ocean Strategy is a great one; I’m a big fan of W. Chan Kim!

  • Joshua Herzig-Marx
    June 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm

    Great list! I’m particularly partial to _Analytics at Work_ as Tom Davenport was my fellowship sponsor at Babson and I even have a quote in the book!

    I just received _Product Leadership_ (http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920051732.do) and it’s outstanding.

    And, I’ll be adding the unread books from above to my list of PM books: http://a.co/chSbNsP

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 6, 2017 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks, Joshua! I’ll have to look for your quote in Analytics at Work. Love the Amazon wishlist, btw 🙂

  • Juan Camilo Ruiz
    June 15, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    – Cracking the PM interview – Gayle Laakmann McDowell and Jackie Bravo

    – The Four Steps to the Epiphany – Steven Gary Blank

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 15, 2017 at 2:30 pm

      Great additions, Juan. Thanks!

    • Steve Johnson
      June 30, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      Steve Blank’s “Four Steps to the Epiphany” has largely been supplanted by Eric Reis in “Lean Startup.” Same concepts; much better execution. Lean Startup is much more readable than Four Steps.

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 30, 2017 at 2:01 pm

      Steve- I agree; for me, Lean Startup is more readable than Four Steps. A matter of preference, I suppose.

  • David Fradin
    June 26, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Consider: “Building Insanely Great Products: Some Products Fail, Many Succeed” This is their Story”. Lessons from 47 years of experience, including Hewlett-Packard, Apple, 75 products, and 11 startups later. http://amzn.to/2ma3jaE

    and coming soon

    “Foundations in the Successful Management of Products” from Wiley. https://wp.me/P39FDx-25S

    • Shaun Juncal
      June 26, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Thanks Dave, I will check those two out!

  • Anonymous
    July 5, 2017 at 10:12 am

    – Getting Real by Basecamp folks – one of the best reads for PMs, developers and designers – all alike 😀
    – The Effective Engineer

    • Shaun Juncal
      July 5, 2017 at 10:21 am

      Thanks for the suggestions!

  • Tiffany Wong
    July 15, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want by Alexander Osterwalder

    • Shaun Juncal
      July 18, 2017 at 10:50 am

      That’s a great one, Tiffany. Thanks!

  • Adam Bailin
    July 18, 2017 at 10:01 am

    “Well Designed: How to use empathy to create products people love” by Jon Kolko

    • Shaun Juncal
      July 18, 2017 at 10:52 am

      I’m a big Jon Kolko fan; this one definitely belongs on the list. Thanks for reminding me of it! 🙂

  • Lucy Burns
    December 18, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    I notice you posted ten books by men. Surely, there’s at least one good book about product management by a woman.

    • Shaun Juncal
      December 18, 2017 at 12:24 pm

      Hi Lucy,

      Thanks for your comment! You make a good point; I’ll definitely take that into consideration in future recommendations.

      Do you have any recommendations of good PM resources written by women?

  • Lucy Burns
    December 18, 2017 at 2:30 pm

    Shaun, thanks for your response. Here are a couple to start:

    1. The User’s Journey: Storymapping Products That People Love by Donna Lichaw
    2. Build Better Products: A Modern Approach to Building Successful User-Centered Products by Laura Klein

    • Shaun Juncal
      December 18, 2017 at 3:47 pm

      Awesome, thanks!

  • Srivats
    March 4, 2018 at 11:34 am

    #ProMa: Product Management Tools, Methods and Some Off-the-wall Ideas by @ddiinnxx

  • Heiko
    April 9, 2018 at 6:37 am

    Running Lean by Ash Maurya

  • Vivek
    August 30, 2018 at 12:51 am

    Don’t Make Me Thing by Steve Krugg – especially for those in the internet services!

  • Shaun Juncal
    August 30, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Great, thanks for sharing!

  • Maxime
    October 17, 2018 at 8:18 am

    Hi Shaun, thanks for this post.
    What would your recommendation be for a book focusing on *industrial* product management?
    Thanks!

  • Shaun Juncal
    October 17, 2018 at 9:19 am

    Hi Maxime! I don’t know of any books specifically focused on industrial product management, but many of the principles in the books above apply to a wide range of product people.

    One series of blogs that you might find helpful is Brian Sandberg’s 3-part series of product management for physical products: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/keys-successful-product-management-physical-products-brian-sandberg/

    Best of luck!

  • Maxime
    October 19, 2018 at 4:24 am

    Thanks for the tip Shaun!

  • Kevin Decker
    January 20, 2019 at 6:33 am

    A few suggestions. Sorry if any of them are dups…
    Made to Stick by Chip Heath
    Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
    The Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen
    Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences by Nancy Duarte
    Product Roadmaps Relaunched by C. Todd Lombardo, et al.

  • Shaun Juncal
    January 21, 2019 at 9:20 am

    Thanks, Kevin! Great suggestions

  • Momcilo Dakic
    March 13, 2019 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for the list! I really liked Crossing the Chasm. I would like to add another title to the list: Treasure Roadmap: How to turn your idea into a successful business

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