Regardless of how qualified they are, almost every modern product manager can afford to learn a thing or two about successful product development and management, as well as real-world product strategy. Luckily, we have some high-level industry knowledge in the form of product management books for just that purpose.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the best product management books that you can find in 2021.
Let’s dive right in.
Top 11 Product Management Books to Read in 2021
While all practical guides to building products hold some value to the product owner or manager of today, some are better than others in terms of the expert knowledge they deliver.
To that end, here are the 11 best product management books for product professionals in 2021.
1. The Product Book
The Product Book by Josh Anon and Carlos Gonzalez De Villaumbrosia is a practical guide for product managers who wish to upskill themselves, create effective product teams, and build better products as a result.
An Amazon bestseller, it’s a masterclass in what is a product manager and how to become a successful PM in 2021, considering all the responsibilities that come along with the job.
Josh Anon and Carlos Gonzalez are experts in PM education and training. They have produced some great courses for PMs on building, launching, and scaling great products, as well as cultivating healthy relationships with operations and dev teams.
The Product Book serves as an extension of their knowledge, helping hopefuls nail PM job interviews and creating groundbreaking new products.
Overall, The Product Book is a must-read for anyone looking to work and succeed as a product manager in 2021 and beyond.
To purchase, check out The Product Book.
2. The Lean Product Playbook
The Lean Product Playbook by Dan Olsen is the ultimate practical guide in building products that customers truly appreciate.
Another top seller among PM guides, The Lean Product Playbook goes into detail about why most products fail to connect with end-users due to not being a ‘product-market fit’.
Dan Olsen then explains about how to achieve a product-market fit on both the customer (target market) side, and the product (user experience, features, product design) side. The emphasis is on customer needs that go underserved due to a combination of poor design and execution.
Whether you’re a manager at a startup or product head at a bigger company, the book has techniques and roadmap examples to benefit you.
The Lean Product Playbook is ideal for PMs who want to build, iterate, and reach the product-market fit faster, all while developing a product that’s sure to resonate with audiences.
To purchase, check out The Lean Product Playbook.
3. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love
Inspired by Marty Cagan of the Silicon Valley Product Group is a tech-specific product management and development guide that addresses some key concerns that tech product companies have today.
The book delves deep into product strategy for technology companies, using Tesla, Netflix, and Google as case studies to illustrate how a tech company should develop winning products.
Expanding on the real-world examples, Cagan scrutinizes how product development works at those companies and how they manage the entire product lifecycle, from the development to the launching stage.
As a guide, Inspired is chock full of value for any product manager, no matter what their company size and product scope. It even provides the ideal product journey that enables you to take your product management game to the next level.
Since it focuses on managing tech products, Inspired is the ideal read for PMs looking to instill real value into their products and address a variety of customer problems via singular products.
To purchase, check out Inspired.
4. Crossing The Chasm
Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore is an in-depth explanation of how some products manage to disrupt their target markets to a high degree, while others fail to make any mark whatsoever.
The book takes the point about disruptive products and expands upon how the companies behind them manage to consistently (and even progressively) disrupt the market with each new iteration.
Written in the 90’s, before the digital revolution, Crossing the Chasm tells how the ability to launch successful products, one after the other, lies in crossing the problem-area between the Early Adopters and Innovators, and early technology adoption majority.
Despite being written before the digital revolution, Crossing The Chasm still holds a ton of value for product managers looking for tried and tested PM techniques that have been the backbone of many a successful company.
To purchase, check out Crossing The Chasm.
5. The Lean Startup
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries a modern guide to planning, building, sustaining, and scaling a startup with effective product management at the center of it all.
Written specifically with the startup founder and/or CEO in mind, the book takes a look at how some of the most famous modern entrepreneurs got their businesses up and running.
Additionally, Ries defines how you can follow in the footsteps of those successful people by making the customer the center of your product goals, providing actual, tangible value to them, as well as adapting and iterating quickly.
While it’s primarily meant to be a startup guide, it’s equally beneficial for product managers in larger corporations, since even they struggle with generating product success.
To purchase, check out The Lean Startup.
6. Shape Up
Shape Up by Ryan Singer is a set of technical roadmaps and workflows that the author has developed in the decade and a half they have spent at BaseCamp.
The book makes the argument that managers need to ‘shape’ the product and ‘bet’ that it can be completed within a 6-week period by a product team that’s smaller than conventional teams.
Based on the Agile methodology, Shape Up explores PM areas beyond Scrum and other structures, and teaches how to implement well-delegated and effectively-planned product development strategies. Additionally, it defines what an Agile strategy would look like outside of the established SCRUM norms.
Shape UP is for product managers and other senior product team members looking for an effective guide on product management with smaller teams.
For more information and to purchase, check out Shape Up.
7. Escaping the Build Trap
Escaping the Build Trap by Melissa Perri is a course on planning based on outcomes instead of output intentions, wrapped up in a single book.
Perri focuses on what she calls the ‘Build Trap’, which is an area that companies relying too much on outputs tend to get stuck in. She describes how these companies waste time, energy, resources, and ideas shipping features that offer little-to-no actual value to the customer.
The book then goes on to explain how taking a customer-centric route to product planning, development, and management, allows companies to avoid the trap by optimizing their collaboration, communication, and mental commerce within themselves.
Shape Up is ideal for the product manager looking to make the customer the center of their PM efforts, while laying the emphasis on specific, well-defined outcomes within their work environments.
To purchase, check out Escaping the Build Trap.
8. The Hard Thing About Hard Things
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz is a collection of essential, effective advice on how to build and run a product-based startup.
Written by one of the most experienced and respected entrepreneurs ever to come out of Silicon Valley, the book is full of practical wisdom regarding subjects that managers would rarely learn in business school.
From daily management to advanced product planning, to even making effective management the basis of product and startup success, Horowitz defines what it takes to be successful in a sea of new, similar businesses.
The book makes for a great read partly because of the value it delivers, and partly because of the humorous yet hard-hitting narrative. It really encompasses the spirit of the modern entrepreneur in a product-focused world.
The Hard Thing About Hard Things is ideal for any budding product manager or entrepreneur who wants to take their venture off in a way that ensures success in the long and short term.
To purchase, check out The Hard thing About Hard Things.
9. The Making of a Manager
The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo talks about how product managers can achieve greater product goals, as well as repeat and even expand their success with each iteration.
In her book, Zhou expresses the concern that managers inevitably lean too far towards the product side, while the actual management side takes a back seat. This leads to poor coordination, ineffective collaboration, and a product that fails to deliver what the customer needs from it.
The Making of a Manager goes into detail how you can become the best product manager for your company and product, and create a product that the company can depend on to succeed each time.
The perfect read for managers struggling with putting the ideal product team together, The Making of a Manager highlights the leadership and inspirational qualities that you can display within your specific product sphere.
To purchase, check out The Making of a Manager.
10. The Influential Product Manager
The Influential Product Manager by Ken Sandy is a comprehensive guide to becoming the best version of a product management professional for your company and product.
The book is one of the foremost texts on practical product management, and how current as well as potential managers can master the role.
Delving deep into what a typical product manager does during the product lifecycle, Sandy defines what it takes to stand out as a PM during each lifecycle stage, all while adopting the customer and their needs as the guiding principle for all PM efforts.
Moving on from that, the book goes over how to influence team members and bring them, as well as other key stakeholders on one page for the betterment of the product.
Overall, the book is an ideal guide for current and future PMs looking to become better at their job and connect better with customers.
To purchase, check out The Influential Product Manager.
11. Product Management's Sacred Seven
Product Management’s Sacred Seven by Neel Mehta, Parth Detroja, and Aditya Agashe is a high-level resource on how to become a top-performing PM and how to acquire the skills necessary to influence others along the same lines.
The book is considered one of the top guides for both new and experienced product managers. It consists of interviews from 67 leading tech and service firms, as well as detailed analyses of how they function, and how they worked on the products that are so successful today.
The authors offer unique insights into how companies differ from each other when it comes to the PM process. Towards the latter portion of the book, we learn about the common theme among all opinions.
Product Management’s Sacred Seven is ideal for anyone looking to taking their product management skills to another level.
To purchase, check out Product Management’s Sacred Seven.
While all the books on this list are of tremendous value to PMs today, they all deliver a unique take on how product management can be done better.
Some present case studies and explain how those companies managed to bridge the gap between product and customer, while others answer the question of what is a product manager, in the context of 2021.
Nevertheless, any up and coming product manager should have a go at one or more of these books to really learn how the experts have defined the field, and how they can take the path of so many successful examples before them.
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