8 Books Every Product Manager Should Read

Too many books and not enough time. This is how I feel every time I look at my long list of books to read. And while most of us dream of spending hours reading at the end of a busy day — the reality is that we often fall asleep before the end of chapter one.

So if you are going to make time to read, the books better not be just good — but great. 

Our team at Aha! completes a group reading assignment twice a year — to support us not just in our careers, but in our lives as well. Recent selections include books such as Grit by Angela Duckworth and Drive by Daniel H. Pink.  

So I asked our Customer Success team (all accomplished former product managers in their own right) to recommend a few more books that stood out as meaningful in their careers. The answers are as unique as the people on our team.

Read on for our curated list of books for product managers:

1. Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, and Ron McMillan
“It is the rare product manager who has carte blanche access to direct the product roadmap. So knowing how to effectively communicate with stakeholders and steer conversations is a critical skill.

The book shares a story of when a founder is telling a room of executives about a business decision none of them agree with — one particularly skilled executive is able to do what none of the others could and find a middle ground with the rest that makes everyone happy and comfortable with the decision. Successful product managers have to do that daily.” — Danny Archer

Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, Kerry Patterson, Al Switzler, and Ron McMillan

2. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter
Because product management really comes down to leading by influencing, one of my favorite books was about how to become a better leader. I was able to attend an executive leadership class led by Marshall and he is so inspiring. His advice is sound and proven.

The book offers techniques to assess your current leadership habits and then help you make the necessary changes to become even better. It is enlightening and then rewarding to see the changes you make work.” — Deirdre Clarke

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter

3. How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon
“I have read a variety of business and self-help books and often times come away disappointed as far as practical application and impact. However, I was not disappointed with this book.

It leads to serious introspection related to your career, relationships, and how you are going about living your life. I know it was eye-opening for me and resulted in some changes as to where I wanted to focus my career time and energy.” — Matt Case

How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton Christensen, James Allworth, and Karen Dillon

4. Getting Things Done by David Allen
“In our increasingly connected lives, information, requests, and questions can come from every direction and multiple channels. This book is based on the concept that our minds are for having ideas, not holding them.

This frees up focus and clarity for executing the most important and meaningful work at that moment in time — an approach that harmonizes with many of the principles found in The Responsive Method.” — Justin Woods

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

5. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation by Idris Mootee
“Design thinking builds empathy and a cross-functional view to solving a problem. The essence of design thinking is to target the right problem to solve, then to frame the problem in a way that invites creative solutions, rather than considering a solution within current process, workflow, or usability. It completely blows the walls off the box we have a tendency to safely think within.” — Tahlia Sutton

Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation by Idris Mootee

6. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute  
“Product managers often work closely with project managers. This book helped me understand the factors that affect a project manager’s work — both negative and positive. That last point is crucial to understanding how you will work together and communicate.

Most importantly, however, it helped me fully understand the difference between delivering individual projects and managing the complete lifecycle of a product, so I could better help the project managers supporting my product.” — Donna Sawyer

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge by the Project Management Institute

7. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
“Despite its focus on designing websites, this book changed the way that I thought about many things product-related as I was starting my career. It helped reinforce the thought that great products focus on the user’s needs and what those users are actually trying to accomplish. The application of this mindset has far-reaching implications not just for designers and UX professionals.” — Scott Goldblatt

Don't Make Me Think by Steve Krug

8. Lovability by Brian de Haaff
I would be remiss not to include a book that has changed the way I think about product management and leadership. Productivity is driven by morale. Most people are employees for considerably longer than they are managers — if they ever do attain a position of leadership.

So it is pivotal to have business practices that demonstrate care for how employees experience their working life. If a business wants to succeed, you need motivated, enthusiastic, passionate employees. This is a great book for product managers looking to advance.” — Melissa Hopkins

Lovability by Brian de Haaff

One thing is certain — product managers must stay inquisitive and strive for growth to be successful in the field.

And even though we are all incredibly busy, it is worth your time to pick up a good book once in a while — to feed your curiosity and expand your own possibilities. I hope you will treat yourself to one of these titles!

Please share — what books would you recommend to other product managers?

About Melissa and Aha!

Melissa loves using technology to help people solve their problems. She is the Director of Customer Success at Aha! - the world’s #1 product roadmap software. Melissa has more than 15 years of business and software experience. Previously, she managed teams at Citrix [CTXS] across consulting, education, supply chain operations, and IT.

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Comments

  1. Travis G.

    You should also add Edward’s Forest and Who Moved My Cheese to the list. Shorter reads but filled with important notions on focus, leveraging skillsets and being flexible when approaching a goal. Product and project management requires multiple cross disciplinary approaches – https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B01N4P5TNG/ref=mp_s_a_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1500130017&sr=8-4&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=edwards+forest&dpPl=1&dpID=51lkrBscqOL&ref=plSrch . Prod

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