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Reading list for product people
There’s a lot of recommended reading for product managers out there. Some of it is incredibly useful, and some of it is a waste of time…
There’s a lot of recommended reading for product managers out there. Some of it is incredibly useful, and some of it is a waste of time. Business books don’t really get me excited, but there are a few books, articles, newsletters, and podcasts authored by folks I look up to in the industry that I find myself coming back to often. When you’re reading about product management, it’s important to take everything with a grain of salt. The industry changes rapidly, and so does the discipline. If you learn something you want to try out from one of these books, go for it! But be careful not to whiplash yourself or your team.
I find new books and articles all the time, so I’m going to start dropping them here. Hope they help and inspire some other Product folks!
Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
Learning about how others have launched successful products and companies is definitely a good way to hone your skills as a product person. “Delivering Happiness,” is about what it took to take Zappos to get over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales in less than ten years. The “what it took” part is key here, and is about how to deliver happiness to everyone that comes into contact with your company — small gestures matter even more than expensive big ones. This book is all about culture and the customer of a company and how focusing on those attributes pays off in the end.
Available on Amazon
Don’t make me think by Steve Krug
This one is a classic. It’s fun, inspiring, and teaches a lot of common sense about web development and design. When you’re just getting started as a PM, it’s important to know how this stuff works. Read this book whether you’re doing it yourself, or you’re working with a team of people from design, engineering, etc.
Available on Amazon
The Influential Product Manager by Ken Sandy
This book is for people who are starting out in Product Management, but there are some gems in here that have been great reminders or resources for me as I’ve grown in my career. Ken packs in solid advice and the chapters build on each other. He also includes worksheets and bonus material that you can download from his website. Full disclosure, Ken was my first manager when I started out in Product and I learned a lot from him. He’s a master at understanding communication and knows how important it is to employ empathy when leading a product. He’s translated a lot of what he’s learned over the decades he’s been a Product leader into this, highly accessible book for aspiring product managers.
Available on Amazon
Lean Customer Development by Cindy Alvarez
Cindy is a User Experience (UX) researcher and has written this book of tools that she’s picked up throughout her career to help others connect with and learn from their customers. This book is packed full of advice on how to plan your approach to research, what to do about sourcing, how to write user interview questions, how to break the ice with a customer, the list goes on.
Available on Amazon
Non-violent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg Ph.D.
This isn’t a product book, but more a communications and life book. Because the role of the product manager is so cross-disciplinary (PMs interact with folks from various parts of the business all the time in order to hit their goals and objectives, often becoming dependant on other’s roadmaps), learning good communication skills is a must. We often find ourselves in conversations that are uncomfortable and require us to have the tongue of a diplomat. There are a lot of books out there that teach how to improve communication skills, and this is just one of the ones that I’ve found useful. It takes about five hours to listen to it, and it’s well worth the time.
Available on Audible
Think Again by Adam Grant
This book came out in early 2021, and I just finished reading it at the time that I’m writing the first rev of this gist. Adam is an organizational psychologist, and, full disclosure, I am a huge fan. One of the things I talk about a lot with my Product team is to always be testing our assumptions and trying to prove ourselves wrong. It’s valuable to walk into a product review or pitch knowing what’s around all the corners. Using the scientific method when you’re figuring out your vision, strategy or roadmap will help you test your assumptions and change your mind before you get in the board room. In Adam’s book, he normalizes changing your mind, challenging your opinions, and working to cultivate a more empathetic, holistic approach to decision making.
Available on in a lot of places
Ken Norton just re-launched his Product newsletter, and I highly recommend signing up. It’s called, “Bring the donuts,” and you can subscribe here.
Articles and podcast episodes
This section might get long over time, it’s the section I would like to keep updating as I find articles that I think are worth sharing. So if you find yourself bookmarking this gist then you know where to go to find the updates. :)
How have you been burned by risky assumptions? by Fearless product leadership podcast.
Listen to product leaders talk about war stories about not recognizing assumptions while they were making important decisions and what they learned from these mistakes.
Customer Centricity by Marty Cagan
The legend, Marty Cagan, talks about how important it is to be customer-centric, not just say you’re customer-centric. He also offers perspective on what customer centricity is, and what it isn’t (i.e. don’t just build what the customer asks for, investigate and find out more about what they actually need).
Opportunity mapping by Teresa Torres
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by customer pain points, especially when you’re starting out and eager to solve a product problem and ship something useful. In this article, Teresa talks about how to parse the feedback and prioritize your opportunities.
An intro to the lean canvas by Steve Mullen
Chances are, you’ve heard of the lean canvas, and if not, this is a great read on what it’s all about and how it can be useful for making product decisions.
How to demonstrate your strategic thinking skills by Nina A. Bowman
Showing your work is one of the most important skills to develop as a professional.
How founders hire a VP of Product an a16z podcast episode
Featuring Vijay Balasubramaniyan, founder/CEO of Pindrop; Shishir Mehrotra, founder and CEO of Coda; Gokul Rajaram, Production Engineering Lead at Square; and Alan Schaaf, founder/CEO of Imgur — and moderated by general partner Martin Casado. There are a lot of demands and ideas for what a VP of Product is and does, and a lot of it depends on what stage the company is when they’re looking. This episode is great for exploring different ideas for what the role is and what to expect from a VP of Product.