Here are the books that I’ve found most helpful in my career as a product manager. Most of them were recommended to me by other PMs.
The Design of Everyday Things, by Don Norman
Product Design: I consider this the canonical product design book, and it’s a great place for anyone to start, especially if you don’t already have a background in design. It will show you how to look at the world in terms of design. After reading this book you’ll start to notice good and bad designs all around you.
Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things, by Don Norman
Product Design: After writing The Design of Everyday Things, Norman realized that his clarity & utility based view of the world wasn’t complete — there’s something more. In this book, he talks about how to create an emotional connection to products.
What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, by Malcolm Gladwell
Marketing: There’s a lot of great articles in this book, but the one that’s really inspirational for PMs is “The Pitchman”. It profiles Ron Popeil, an infomercial salesman, and how he would build marketing into his products so that they would sell themselves.
The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick P. Brooks Jr
Software Engineering: This is a classic book on how teams come together to build software. The book explains how each additional person you add to the team adds complexity — so a project that one person could do in a month would not go 4 times faster if you put 4 people on it.
Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey A. Moore, Regis McKenna
Startups: Learn about the gap between early adopters and the mainstream, along with techniques to bridge the gap.
The Lean Startup, by Eric Ries
Startups: One of the worst things a PM can do is build a product that nobody wants. This book shows you how to avoid that by building a minimum viable product and paying attention to the metrics that matter.
Talking from 9 to 5, by Deborah Tannen
Communication: As a PM, communicating with many different people is critical. This book talks about different communication styles and the misunderstandings that can happen when people with different styles talk. By learning about these differences you can handle them easily.
Getting Things Done, by David Allen
Productivity: As a PM you need to be organized and responsive. This book teaches a system that will make you feel like you just found more hours in the day. You’ll learn that if you write everything down in a reliable system you don’t need to have a good memory. By thinking about “Next Actions” you can make progress on tasks that would otherwise be lost to procrastination.
Decisive, by Chip Heath, Dan Heath
Decision Making: Making decisions is a core part of a PM’s job, but most of us were never taught how. This book takes some of the great information from Predictably Irrational and Thinking, Fast and Slow and makes it actionable. (Thanks Teresa Torres for the recommendation).
Cracking the PM Interview, by Gayle Laakmann McDowell, Jackie Bavaro
Product Management: Alright, maybe it’s not fair to put my own book on here, but I wanted to share that this book isn’t just about interviewing for the PM role. It has lots of information on what PMs do and how the role varies from company to company and across product types. In addition, it has lots of career advice and interviews with successful PMs on how they got to where they are.