Part 2: The Product Manager’s Essential Reading List for 2016

At the end of 2015, I published a list of 26 books that the PM corps at Facebook recommended for other PMs to read — specifically for me to read while I’m on paternity leave.

The response was beyond incredible. Over 28k views and over 1000 recommendations; more tweets and Facebook re-shares than for anything else I’ve ever posted. Seems people are on the hunt for great reading recommendations.

The wisdom of the crowds is to be respected — this second round of suggestions is just as good as the first. So here, in no particular order, are another 14 books to add to the 26 essential-PM-reads from my last post:

  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
    A short book (or long essay) on, amongst other things, the creation and capture of value. Reading this felt like a breath of fresh air. Pacy, punchy and instantly useful in framing how to think about entering markets, building products and motivating people. Makes you question learned wisdom about markets and competition, and how, in a world where technology drives constant change, monopolies might be good for people as well as their founders.
  • The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger by Marc Levinson
    When I’ve tried to explain the appeal of this book, most people look at me like I’m mad, but it’s worth every second of your time. The humble shipping container has quite simply changed the world. It enabled so much of what we take for granted today though cheap, reliable, global trade. It empowered the rise of emerging markets (particularly China and the rest of Asia). It’s the ultimate case-study on how low-level innovation can disrupt entire industries and social hierarchies.
  • The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires by Tim Wu
    This book asks you to zoom out and look at the broader history of communication media and how each came to be dominated by a small numbers of big players. Is the internet headed for the same fate? The agglomeration economics that drive Facebook, Amazon and Google suggests so. A fascinating perspective on the present and future of our industry.
  • High Output Management by Andy Grove
    Andy Grove was CEO and employee #3 at Intel — here he shares his notes on management. This book introduced the concept of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) — a management tool central to how Google runs itself. OKRs at Google are internally public so everyone can see everyone else’s priorities, goals and progress. Transparency and communication are central themes to this guide.
  • How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg
    Google redefined many things companies do: from hiring, to setting goals, building teams to their auction-style IPO. Many of these practices have been picked up by other Valley companies, and indeed by progressive enterprises worldwide. This wasn’t accidental, it was carefully planned. Here, we get the inside track on the thinking which made Google such a watershed in how companies are run.
  • Getting Things Done by David Allen
    The best product managers are effortlessly able to juggle tens of not hundreds of competing things: questions which need to be answered, decisions to be made, promises to keep. This requires discipline in personal management of time and energy. There’s lots of strategies to use, Getting Things Done (“GTD” to Allen’s disciples) is a personal-management toolset a number of my colleagues swear by.
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
    You know that phrase “Minimum Viable Product”? This is where it came from. Many people see this as the modern bible for building and shipping new products — though the concept of the MVP has come under fire as of late.
  • Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug
    You’ve all felt that moment where a product throws up a screen and asks you to do something, or tells you something you don’t understand? These little annoyances are everywhere — but the best products focus on minimising cognitive load and work exactly the way people expect them to. This takes a lot of effort to sweat the details, but the reward is intuitive products which people love to use because they don’t make them think. Usability 101 right here.
  • Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
    An incredible biography in itself, but all the more relevant as is chronicles a seminal figure in our industry, and one of the best product managers of all time.
  • Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A Moore
    Originally published in 1991 and updated in 2014, this classic teaches you how to think about bringing products to market. It introduced the term “early adopter” and dissects how to market to people in different stages of the adoption curve.
  • The Economist Style Guide by The Economist
    If being a PM is about anything, its about communication. Despite the proliferation of new mediums, simply being able to write well is a hugely valuable skill — and one I’m personally trying to actively work on. The Economist is one of the world’s leading newsmagazines and is renowned for its clarity of writing. This guide shows you — in minute detail — how it should be done.
  • The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone
    Amazon, like Google and Facebook, is one of the most successful tech companies of our age. That makes it worthy of study. Bezos’ personality comes through front and center, but also tells the stories of other stars like Jeff Wilkie and how he build one of Amazon’s key competitive advantages: their fulfillment network.
  • 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Dr. Susan Weinschenk
    Ultimately this is a book about what makes people tick, but renders this down into specific insights you can use everyday when making product decision. Everything from fonts to buttons to line length and everything in between.
  • In Pursuit of the Unknown: 17 Equations That Changed the World by Ian Stewart
    Equations are products too — they’re tools to solve problems and achieve things that weren’t possible before. While I admit the direct link to modern software product management is tenuous, this is still the story of 17 problems that needed to be solved, the creation of the solutions, and the massive impact they had on the world. 17 lessons in some exquisite mathematical products.

That’s an additional 14 books to add to the 26 in my first list.

As before, I’ve read only some (6) of these titles—the others have been included because they were recommended by people I trust.

I hope this addendum contains a few more gems you’ll enjoy and will help you become a better PM.

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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