Best Books for Product Managers

Essential product management reading

I’m regularly asked for product manager book recommendations. There are lots of excellent books about product management, but these are the ones I'd consider essential to any PM’s bookshelf.

Getting Things Done

By David Allen

Soon after this book was published Allen attracted an almost cult-like following. Product managers juggle hundreds of priorities, and this book will help you balance your time.

Amazon

Predictably Irrational

By Dan Ariely

One of the best books on human nature, Ariely’s enjoyable book helps us understand why people behave irrationally.

Amazon
TOP PICK

Product Leadership: How Top Product Managers Launch Awesome Products and Build Successful Teams

By Richard Banfield, Martin Eriksson and Nate Walkingshaw

From my foreword: “Your guide to navigating product leadership, the one I never had. Within these pages you’ll hear a diversity of opinions from the industry’s most successful and respected product leaders, insights that will help you lead your team and deliver exceptional products.”

Amazon

Yes to the Mess: Surprising Leadership Lessons from Jazz

By Frank Barrett

Jazz is messy, and musicians seem to court disaster night after night. What can product leaders learn from how these artists approach their art? Barrett’s entertaining book formed the backbone for my essay on jazz and product management.

Amazon

Work Rules!

By Laszlo Bock

Laszlo and his team at Google have reinvented the role of human resources. This book is a terrific overview of what makes Google Google, from culture, to hiring, to making decisions.

Amazon
TOP PICK

The Mythical Man-Month

By Frederick Brooks

If you could only read one computer science book, this would be it. More than forty years old, it’s as relevant as ever. I promise you’ll nod your head as Brooks skewers mistakes that engineering leaders continue to make to this day.

Amazon
TOP PICK

Empowered

By Marty Cagan and Chris Jones

The sequel to Inspired, this book explores what the best product companies have in common. “Most people think it’s because these companies are somehow able to find and attract a level of talent that makes this innovation possible. But the real advantage these companies have is not so much who they hire, but rather how they enable their people to work together to solve hard problems and create extraordinary products.”

Amazon
TOP PICK

Inspired

By Marty Cagan

If you could only read one book on product management, this would be it. Marty has had a long and storied product management career, and is the founder of Silicon Valley Product Group.

Amazon

Quiet: The Power of Introverts

By Susan Cain

I’m an introvert and I spent years treating it as a weakness. Susan’s book opened my eyes to the unique contributions introverts make. Even if you’re not an introvert yourself, I guarantee you work with lots of them.

Amazon

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

By John Carreyrou

The chilling story of Theranos. Many lessons in here about what can happen when you don’t act ethically and don’t trust your people.

Amazon

Creativity, Inc

By Ed Catmull

If you appreciated my essay 10x Not 10%, you’ll enjoy Catmull’s book about putting 10x into practice. He draws from the success – and failures – of Pixar to teach us how to lead creative teams.

Amazon

Competing Against Luck

By Clayton Christensen

Christensen is back with a new book which explores one of his approaches to combating the Innovator’s Dilemma: Jobs-To-Be-Done.

Amazon
TOP PICK

The Innovator's Dilemma

By Clayton Christensen

The most important business and product management book of the past fifty years. If you’re a technology PM and you haven’t read Christensen, do so right now.

Amazon

The Innovator's Solution

By Clayton Christensen

The Innovator’s Dilemma’s equally essential follow-up. How product managers can fight the innovator’s dilemma.

Amazon

Brave New Work

By Aaron Dignan

A good general overview of several of the concepts on the future of work that I’ve covered in my essays and talks.

Amazon

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

By Nir Eyal

Why do some products take hold while others quietly fail? Highly recommended for any PM building consumer products.

Amazon

Getting To Yes

By Roger Fisher and William Ury

Product managers need to be master negotiators and there’s no better guide to negotiation than this classic.

Amazon

Team of Rivals

By Doris Kearns Goodwin

Abraham Lincoln surrounded himself with his opponents, gradually turning them into admirers and influential advisors. Lincoln’s approach to leadership offers lessons for anyone looking to tap into the wisdom of others, with or without formal authority.

Amazon
TOP PICK

High Output Management

By Andy Grove

This one only gets better with age. Although it’s only mentioned briefly, this is where Andy Grove first introduced OKRs to the world. His practical advice about meetings, especially the importance of 1-on-1s, inspired my own writing.

Amazon

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

By Chip Heath and Dan Heath

The instant classic about why some ideas thrive, why others die, and how to improve your idea’s chances.

Amazon

The Hard Thing About Hard Things

By Ben Horowitz

The most truly practical startup management book. Ben cuts through the B.S. and addresses the messy ambiguity of the real world in entertaining fashion.

Amazon

How to Lie with Statistics

By Darrell Huff

Product managers need a solid foundation in statistics to be metrics-driven. This classic book is a lively and fun book will leave you smarter and more skeptical.

Amazon

Steve Jobs

By Walter Isaacson

One of the best biographies of all time, of the greatest product manager of all time.

Amazon

Meaningful: the Story of Ideas that Fly

By Bernadette Jiwa

A new addition to this list, marketing as storytelling.

Amazon

Thinking, Fast and Slow

By Daniel Kahneman

When does our animal brain make decisions for us before our more analytical brain has a chance to think through the consequences? From Nobel laureate Kahneman, this is one of the most important psychology books ever written.

Amazon

On Writing

By Stephen King

Product managers need to be good writers, and this is how you learn from one of the masters of the craft.

Amazon

Sprint

By Jake Knapp

From my former partners in GV Design—how to cut through the crap, identify a problem, and test it in only one week.

Amazon

Don't Make Me Think

By Steve Krug

This lighthearted book about user interface design is fun to read, and chock full of lessons for PMs.

Amazon

Product Management in Practice

By Matt LeMay

Real-world, practical advice for PMs. Focused on communication, organization, research, and execution.

Amazon

In The Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives

By Steven Levy

Levy was given unprecedented access to Google, and the result is what I consider to be an accurate depiction of how the company operates. A good overview of how Google product managers work.

Amazon

Crossing the Chasm

By Geoffrey Moore

The classic technology marketing book. Moore was the first to evaluate the role of early adopters.

Amazon

Inside the Tornado

By Geoffrey Moore

Moore’s follow-up tells you what to do after you’ve crossed the chasm, when it’s make-or-break around your ability to reach mainstream customers.

Amazon

The Design of Everyday Things

By Donald Norman

After you read Norman’s book you’ll notice design everywhere, both good and bad. A classic in the field of design.

Amazon

The Lean Product Playbook

By Dan Olsen

Dan’s book is a perfect companion to Lean Startup, with lots of tactical advice and techniques for putting lean methodologies into practice.

Amazon

Escaping the Build Trap

By Melissa Perri

Melissa Perri explains how laying the foundation for great product management can help companies solve real customer problems while achieving business goals. By understanding how to communicate and collaborate within a company structure, you can create a product culture that benefits both the business and the customer.

Amazon

Positioning

By Al Ries and Jack Trout

The classic marketing book, one of the first to specifically address positioning your product in a consumer’s mind.

Amazon
TOP PICK

The Lean Startup

By Eric Ries

This book started a revolution in product development, and introduced us to the now-ubiquitous concepts of the MVP and the pivot. Essential book for startup product managers.

Amazon
TOP PICK

The Halo Effect

By Phil Rosenzweig

A blistering takedown of pop management books. It will sharpen your skepticism about the management advice anyone gives you (including me).

Amazon

Radical Candor

By Kim Scott

Kim built Google’s AdSense business and then went on to to create Apple’s highly regarded manager training program. Her book shows you how to be forthright and honest, without being a jerk.

Amazon

Nudge

By Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein

In product development, defaults matter. Thaler’s is the best book on why that is, and how to steer your users in the right direction.

Amazon

Listen Like You Mean It: Reclaiming the Lost Art of True Connection

By Ximena Vengoechea

Listening is one of the most important product management skills. Learn how to connect to customers, co-workers, and team members with this beautifully illustrated and accessible book.

Amazon
The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams by Sam Walker cover image

The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World's Greatest Teams

By Sam Walker

The founding editor of The Wall Street Journal’s sports section looks at the leadership qualities of the most successful sports leaders in history. And they’re not what you think.

Amazon

Can't find the time to read? Learn how I am able to read more than a book a week. It's easier than you think.

The titles of these product manager books link to Amazon.com through their affiliate program. I donate all proceeds to charity and also match the donation on a two-for-one basis.

Photo of Ken Norton's product management bookshelf

Product Management Coach

If you're interested in growing as a product manager or product leader, I offer product leadership coaching. I've worked with everyone from new grads just starting their PM careers to experienced executive-level product leaders. Visit my product management coaching page if you'd like to more and to schedule a free discovery session.


Ken Norton spent more than fourteen years at Google where he led product initiatives for Docs, Calendar, Google Mobile Maps, and GV (formerly Google Ventures).