5 non-product books for product managers

There are many excellent product management books, and there are many fine lists ranking those books. There is even a visual chart! Although if you are a product manager who likes reading, sooner or later you will face two problems:

  • You genuinely want to learn everything there is to learn about product management, but reading similar books over and over gets boring and you feel you are reaching diminishing returns.
  • You are occasionally wondering if you might be missing something else beyond the product management bubble of ideas and stories.

I am here to tell you that you can (and should) read other books to become a better product manager! Here’s my list.

Appropriately, we start with a book that validates the very premise that you can learn something useful from an unrelated book. Epstein says that combining knowledge from multiple domains is a true asset. This is certainly good news not just for our list, but also for product managers in general, as many of us are growing into the role from very different backgrounds. How might we put that baggage to work? In Range, we learn how outsiders create real innovation, and how Nintendo rose to fame via “lateral thinking with withered technology.” Turns out, even the most obscure ideas and skills can come in handy! (Even woodworking.)

https://carolinecriadoperez.com/book/invisible-women/

I am not claiming any of the books on this list are “must-reads”… except for this one! Voice recognition, mobile phones and pianos are just some examples of products that are generally less usable for women — how can we be sure we are not working on yet another one? While just reading Invisible Women will not guarantee that, the book is so packed with blood-boiling facts that it will make it very hard to ignore hidden biases around product development — yours or your colleagues’.

Magical and profound, this book delivers on its title. It will indeed tell you how to measure anything (worth measuring), although more likely it will convince you that you’ve got it all wrong. You have more data than you think, and you need less data than you think. Very much in the spirit of being decision-driven, not data-driven, How to Measure Anything shows you which questions to ask, how to ask them, how to use statistical trickery to your advantage, and even how to “calibrate” human experts. (I bet you did not know you needed to be “calibrated”!)

Wouldn’t it be great if you could turn any idea into an earworm? If people could remember your product vision after leaving the room? If engineers woke up in the middle of the night thinking about the poor customers’ problems you told them about? (OK, maybe that’s a bit excessive…) Made to Stick is a step by step guide to making any idea sticky. A true testament to Heath brothers’ framework is that 3 years on I still remember and apply it regularly — can you say that about many books?

What does the art of hostage negotiation have to do with product management? This might or might not be a niche use case, but I find many of the tools in the book, in particular “labeling” and “tactical empathy”, perfect for talking to unhappy customers. Add them to your arsenal, and you’ll be able to build more productive and rewarding relationships even when they have not started out that way.

This is the book I wish I read the first day I started working. It covers an insane number of essentials, including how to plan your time, how to get things done, how to talk to other people, and how to deal with stress. Yes, there are Deep Work, Getting Things Done, How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Consolations of Philosophy, and various business classics. But How to Have a Good Day is a great, concise, science-backed starting point with everything in one place.

And what are your non-product favorites?

Group Product Manager @ Feedzai. I share what I learned about product from dabbling in data visualization, filmmaking and woodworking.