Top 20 Must-Read Books for Every Product Manager in 2024

Top 20 Must-Read Books for Every Product Manager in 2024

Author
Andrew Clark

Whilst working in Product at Google and DeepMind I collected book recommendations from the best product managers and compiled the ultimate reading list.

Whether you’re a seasoned PM or just starting out, these 20 books are your roadmap to becoming a better product leader. Each one carefully chosen for both insight density and clarity. I’ve personally read and summarised more than 100 Product Management books, and I believe these to be the best. Enjoy…

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Title
Summary
Amazon
Escaping the Build Trap
Continuous Discovery Habits
Hacking Growth
The Lean Startup
The Cold Start Problem
Sprint
Strategize
Outcomes Over Output
Lean UX
The Right It
Forget the Funnel
Product Direction
Product-Led Growth
Designing for Behaviour Change
The Mom Test
How to Lead in Product Management
The Crux
The Design of Everyday Things
Inspired
Product Operations
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Escaping the Build Trap Summary Amazon

Escaping the Build Trap is a top 10 product book — there aren’t many better. It gets to the heart of what’s important about product management and how you can practically do it inside a large company.

The ‘Build Trap’ is when product teams forget what drives value and they focus on (and celebrate) shipping features instead. They measure success based on outputs — not outcomes.

Project management culture infiltrating into product teams is a common mistake. Productivity metrics become more important than product metrics. Shipping becomes more important than solving problems.

To escape the build trap you need to understand and apply problem-solving and experimentation techniques throughout your product teams. You need to understand your goal and everything you do needs to be in service of it. You need to identify metrics that enable you to measure progress — and build a culture centred around learning.

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Continuous Discovery Habits Summary Amazon

Teressa Torress is a household name in the Product community, and this might be the most influential product book written for a decade. It became an instant classic with Product Managers for good reason.

I suspect it resonated with PMs because so many product teams struggle to do product discovery well. Teressa made it seem easy.

Once you’ve mapped your opportunity space as a tree, prioritisation and research become easier. You’ll be able to systematically identify the most important thing to do next (research, experiment or build).

Meeting customers regularly increases your both the quality and quantity of insight, and helps you navigate your opportunity space.

There’s a ton of value in this book, so I recommend reading it in full.

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Hacking Growth Summary Amazon

This book is much more professional and methodical than the name would have you believe — don’t judge this book by its cover. Perhaps the best explanation of the importance of Acquisition, Activation and Retention I’ve come across. It balances exciting anecdotes with more practical advice on how to influence your metrics. It’s a complete playbook for establishing and operating a growth team. It’s emphasis on the importance of rapid experimentation in Product is spot on. Surprisingly practical, insightful and actionable.

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The Lean StartupSummary Amazon

This is a hugely influential book in the Product Management community. The Lean Startup codified how to take a scientific approach to create and manage startups. The author also explains why traditional firms have such trouble navigating uncertainty. The Lean Startup emphasises the importance of learning, and validating assumptions. This book popularised a number of concepts that are now considered foundational in Product Management (e.g. build-measure-learn, pivot, minimum-viable-product). It’s a must-read for anyone building digital products.

The Cold Start Problem Summary Amazon

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This is could be the best product book ever written. The author shares a unified theory of Network Effects; in doing so he gives us a common language to discuss them. Many Product books make the mistake of going too broad, but this is a glorious deep dive into the mechanics of networked products.

This isn’t an empirical theory, instead it’s grounded in story telling. The author uses a lens of Network Effects to explain the strategies behind the valley’s most famous products and companies.

Despite having a narrow focus, this book taught me more about strategy, competition and product metrics than any other.

Please pass go and buy the book.

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Sprint Summary Amazon

I have a real soft spot for this book. I read it soon after it was published, just in time for it to inform some discovery work I was doing. It is refreshingly practical and amazing for those doing discovery work for the first time. While more experienced individuals may find the Sprint format a little rigid, each time I re-read this book, I discover something new.

Learning facilitation skills can be challenging, as failures can be both painful and subtle. This book provides many small facilitation tips that when combined are incredibly powerful. It would take you a few years to learn these tips on your own.

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Strategize Summary Amazon

Read once. Keep on your desk forever. Strategize is a must read for new Product Managers. It covers how to form and validate a product strategy — and how to translate that strategy into a roadmap. This isn’t a single idea book. It’s packed full of actionable insights and structured in a way that allows for ‘just in time learning’. It’s easy to follow and doesn’t rely on long examples to make a point. Two things that stand out…

  • The book brings clarity to a messy area of product. It defines three levels of product strategy: vision, strategy and tactics — and explains how they map to product artefacts. It doesn’t shy away from the things that make strategy difficult (like the relationship between company strategy and product strategy).
  • It’s hard to select the right roadmap for the right job. Strategize helps you navigate that choice. Should you align to goals or features? How much detail should you show? What if your environment is volatile? What if you are part of a portfolio?

Even the most experienced PMs get stuck in execution and delivery mode from time to time. This book is a welcome reminder of your strategic responsibilities.

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Outcomes Over Output Summary Amazon

I have heard many product managers say “outcomes over output,” but few have a clear definition of an outcome. Defining an outcome as a change in behaviour that drives business results is key to linking this principle to product practice. It anchors to the core of product management, which is all about the value exchange between customers and the business. The author does an excellent job of taking a great product management principle and almost creating a full-stack product management model based on it. Changes in behaviour are observable and measurable. Customer behaviour can be visualised on a customer journey map. Executives can hold teams accountable for hitting outcomes. Businesses can be transformed by using the same techniques.

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Lean UX Summary Amazon

Even though it seems positioned more toward designers, this is an incredibly important book for Product Manager. It does a great job of integrating the concepts from Lean Startup with existing methodologies (Design Thinking, Agile, UX design). It’s packed full of principles and practical implementation advice for teams. There’s little in this book I disagree with.

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The Right It Summary Amazon

Marty Cagan acknowledges in “Inspired” that most of our products and features won’t meet expectations, and the ones that do require a lot of iteration to reach that point. I believe this is THE most important observation about product development. This book does a great job of articulating that phenomenon and proposes a robust way to navigate it. This is the best book on validating product ideas that I’ve read. I will forever be sharing this book.

Product management theory is cleaner when you assume you’re pre-product (e.g. going from zero to one). I’d love to see another book from the author about product validation in more established companies for more incremental work.

I found the authors obsession to ‘coin a phrase’ a little frustrating, its an emerging trend in Product Management writing.

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Forget the Funnel Summary Amazon

I can’t wait to try the approach outlined in this book. Having a customer-led growth framework makes a lot of sense. A company is a value exchange mechanism, it must provide customer value and capture some of it. The authors did a great job of showing how this framework is complementary and intersects nicely with customer research and JTBD theory. The way it promotes a radical focus is helpful, in my experience it’s often a lack of focus that stops product teams making rapid progress.

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Product Direction Summary Amazon

The process of product execution is easy to explain. There’s a plethora of off-the-shelf activities, processes and frameworks new product managers can apply. Product strategy though is more elusive. Although it’s easy to frame it’s hard to do, as each situation is different. As a result product strategy books can leave you feeling a little lost. Product Direction does a commendable job of defining a step by step guide to creating a product strategy, defining a strategic roadmap and setting OKRs.

This book borrowed many of Richard Rumelt’s ideas outlined in Good Strategy / Bad Strategy and made them more practical. However, after this book was published Rumelt released ‘The Crux’ which attempted to do something similar.

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Product-Led Growth Summary Amazon

Product-Led Growth is a go-to-market strategy that relies on using your product as the main vehicle to acquire, activate and retain customers. It’s an alternative to using a sales team.

It requires an easy to use product that can quickly deliver value to new users. There’s a number of advantages to the product-led model, and there aren’t many shortcuts to pulling it off, you need to build a great product to make it work.

This book is an effective introduction to the decision frameworks, concepts and considerations of going product-led. It’s full of practical tips to get started. A must read for product managers.

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Designing for Behaviour Change Summary Amazon

I made product management my profession, I’ve long been a fan of Behavioural Economics; Atomic Habits is one of my favourite books; so I was always going to enjoy this one . It builds on prior theory, but the authors contribution is to present a few easy to follow frameworks to apply behaviour change principles to product management. Given most product outcomes are reliant on changing people’s behaviour, this is a worthwhile read for anyone building products.

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The Mom Test SummaryAmazon

The Mom Test is great if you’re new to conducting user interviews. It explains the hazards of user interviews, and will help you get the most out of yours. There’s an art to asking questions and this is the playbook. There’s enough examples and sample questions to give you confidence. I first read this book in 2015 and I keep coming back to it!

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How to Lead in Product Management Summary Amazon

Roman is one of my favourite product management authors. His concise, to-the-point writing style is incredibly respectful of your time. He delivers wall-to-wall concepts without any storytelling fluff, providing just enough prose to get the point across.

This book focuses on the practical challenges of the product management role. To be a successful product manager, you need to work closely with your team and with stakeholders. Roman does a great job of identifying the challenges of working with others, and provides actionable advice on how to overcome them.

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The Crux Summary Amazon

I’m predicting this book will become a business classic. It is one of the best books on business strategy that I’ve come across. Good Strategy/Bad Strategy (it’s predecessor) had me agreeing with the theory, but I was left wondering how to put it into action. This book addresses that and gives you a framework to follow to create your strategy. This book can stand alone, so I’ll be recommending this ahead of Good Strategy/Bad Strategy from now on.

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The Design of Everyday Things Summary Amazon

This book has changed how I see the world. I’ve always been interested, amused and sometimes annoyed by bad design. Now I see it everywhere.

By focusing on the very fundamentals of design — I’ve found this book to be consistently and endlessly applicable to work and life.

The concept of affordances progressed my understanding of accessibility. Thinking about conceptual models helps me grapple with product messaging. Learning about feedback has left me dumfounded that the button to call my elevator proudly sounds before the press has actually been registered. You have to push a little harder to actually call the lift 🤯

Developing a shared vocabulary — to talk about these concepts with my colleagues in design has helped accelerate day to day product conversations.

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Inspired Summary Amazon

Inspired is the Product Management bible. It covers the breadth of Product Management. Marty details the role, lists the common techniques and articulates the importance of product culture in organisations. Marty’s style is to contrast good with bad, which is helpful but can come across as a little pessimistic. 2008 is early for a Product Management book, but it still feels modern and on point today. It’s surprising to see how many companies still struggle with some of the problems outlined in this book.

A caution for PMs — Don’t read this book and feel like your learning journey is finished. You will need a deeper understanding of the subject matter (and a chunk of practice) before you’re a skilled practitioner (e.g. get stuck into product discovery techniques).

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Product Operations Summary Amazon

Prior to this book, there wasn’t a definitive Product Operations text. Product Operations was only loosely defined in a few blog posts and job descriptions. Finally, we have a stake in the ground. Something to reference or disagree with.

This wasn’t a riveting read, nor is it a Product Management classic, but it’s a book the community needed. I’m grateful Melissa and Denise have given us a thoughtful and thorough account of Product Operations.

And there you have it , 20 stepping stones to help you toward Product mastery.

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Until next time, keep turning pages and turning heads in your product management career.

Andrew