Some time ago, an aspiring product manager asked me what books she should read. I gave a couple of recommendations for books that helped me massively to get into product management craft. I've read dozens of PM-related books, but the following five are probably the most essential read list for anyone who would like to get into product management or just understand what PMs do.
1. Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan.
Like ten years ago, like today, this book remains to be a great introduction to product management. It's well structured, easy to digest and practical enough to apply the theory it provides. Recently, Marty published a new edition of "Inspired". Read it first to get a feel for what PMs do and if that's for you.
2. The Mom Test: How to talk to customers & learn if your business is a good idea when everyone is lying to you by Rob Fitzpatrick.
A huge part of a PM's job is talking to people. We call them stakeholders, but really they are just people in one way or another affected by (or affecting) our product. Our primary job is to understand their problems. Real, urgent and pervasive problems. To learn how to do that effectively - read "The Mom Test". It provides highly practical information on how to conduct interviews and get the information you need.
3. Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra
One truth any PM should always remember: "it's about users and their context - not about your product". This piece of wisdom comes from Kathy Sierra. She rightly points out that our products are just tools for our users to make progress in their lives. And for any product to be successful it needs to help users' to become better in one way or another. How to build such products? Read this book.
4. Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want by Alexander Osterwalder
Product management is not only about solving problems. It's also about solving problems in a viable way. That means getting rewarded for your product or service. At least at a level that allows you to keep going. A good product manager should be familiar with business and economics. Alexander Osterwalder explains those topics using a popular tool called Business Model Canvas. Created for startups, it could be adapted for products and provides a great talking point for everyone involved in product management.
5. Agile Product Management with Scrum: Creating Products That Customers Love by Roman Pichler
Agile became de-facto the default method for developing modern digital products. Even if you're not strictly following any Agile methodology - still agile principals are way too important to ignore if you want to develop a successful product. Roman's book is thin, highly practical cribsheet for anyone who wants to start developing a product tomorrow. Yes, it's oversimplified, yes it focuses on Scrum only. Yet, it's a highly valuable book if you approach it with an open mind. And you need one to be a successful PM.
Of course, this is not a complete list. You will not get a comprehensive understanding of product management by just reading these five books. But you'll get a feel for a PM craft and will be able to decide whether it worth to dig deeper. There are many more books worth reading to get a better understanding of product management. I am planning to add more books like above to the list of books that will help you get into product management.
I will also do another list of books that will get you closer to product management mastery.