13 books that developed me as a product manager and startup founder
While I believe most learnings come from doing stuff and not reading about it, there are still many ideas and perspectives in books (and podcasts, and blogs etc) that can speed up the learning curve. I’ve shared this list many times in private so I’d like to share it publicly now. Below are some of the books that helped me develop as a product manager and startup founder.
A short note. Entrepreneurship and PM are different disciplines but share a lot in common, and as I developed simultaneously in both it was hard for me to separate this list in two. You’ll notice that some books are more tailored for PMs and some for founders, but each of them is valuable for both. So here’s the list, in no particular order:
- Inspired by Marty Cagan. This is the most in-depth book on product management I’ve read. It’s quite long but every word is golden. You can feel 30 years of experience from all sorts of product teams. This is pure condensed product wisdom.
- High Output Management. This is hands down the best book on people management I’ve ever read. Written by Intel’s CEO about 30 years ago. From what I heard Ben Horowitz recommends it to every CEO of Andreessen Horowitz’ companies(but don’t quote me on that).
- Angel by Jason Calacanis, who turned $100k into $100m. IMHO this is a must-read for every startup founder and angel investor. This book covers investor mindset and what’s more important — what they look for in founders, product, market, and more.
- Who by Geoff Smart. Alex Neskin from Petcube hooked me on this book by saying: “It’s the only book about hiring I had to read”. I couldn’t agree more.
- Intercom on Product Management. This one’s my favorite book on product management in terms of value per time spent. It’s very short (~1–2 hours total) and very dense with great up-to-date examples. Brief and to the point.
- How to Crack a PM Interview and Decode and Conquer. Perfect for getting a basic idea of what are the expectations from PM role from the employer and to prepare for first PM interviews.
- Hooked by Nir Eyal. It’s a great piece on Product Design, particularly on habit-forming products. It’s quite popular so I believe doesn’t need much intro. I could only confirm that it was as good for me as people say it is.
- Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares. This is a great overview of marketing channels and how to test them. Great for inspiration when you’re considering how to test your hypothesis.
- Everything Is Negotiable. Every good startup founder and PM needs to know how to read people and to negotiate, whether it’s deals, features, salaries etc. It’s extremely important and I absolutely recommend this book as a starting ground for building out your negotiation tactics.
- What Great Salespeople Do. Another important trait for PMs and startup founders is the ability to sell their ideas, their vision, their passion, their everything. This book gives a great approach to selling through the power of stories. It was a great and unusual dive into psychology for me.
- How to Win Friends and Influence People. The ability to influence and inspire people around you is a key trait for executing PM’s or startup founder’s job. This book gives a perspective into a lifestyle of rallying people around you to help you achieve your goals, by doing the same thing for them. This was one of the top recommended books when I was at HAX Growth accelerator in SF. Fun fact: the book was released in 1936, and the examples with Abraham Lincoln and co give a fresh perspective.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things. Ben Horowitz gives the most realistic view of what startup founder life is like. If you’re thinking about starting a startup, definitely check this out before. A good sentence out of the book sums it up the best: “The Struggle is when you wonder why you started the company in the first place. The Struggle is when people ask you why you don’t quit and you don’t know the answer. The Struggle is when your employees think you are lying and you think they may be right. The Struggle is when food loses its taste.” Yeah…True story.
- Lean Startup. It’s an obvious classic on customer development which doesn’t need much introduction. For me, it came at a very right time when I just started to learn about product development. I can only add that it’s as useful for startup founders as it is for product managers. It’s a very easy read and an absolute must to start off.
Meanwhile, I’d love to learn your recommendations on books, blogs, and podcasts on these topics!