5 (rather unusual) Product Book Recommendations

The How to Web crew asked me to recommend 5 product books that would help novices step up their product skills. My proposals are captured in the video below:

If you prefer text and links here there are:

1. Inspired By Marty Cagan

I started with a classic product book. Inspired is one of those books that I would expect all product managers to read. Cagan is a one of the most respected product guys, mainly because he was managing products (at companies like HP and ebay) well before product management became a thing. Read this book if you are thinking to get a job in this field and want to start with core concepts, like the difference between product and project management.

2. Value Proposition Design By The Strategyzer Group

This is the sequel to the famous “Business Model Generation”. It is a very colourful book with more pictures than words. But it provides a system that would help a product owner to identify the needs of the customers and to build a product that would satisfy these needs. Pretty basic but some of the topics are quite deep and the book offers a good list of checkboxes for any product manager to follow. Did I mention it has pretty pictures? Yeah … if you consider getting the Kindle version I would advise against it.

3. The Cucumber Book By Matt Wynne

This is development book focused on writing automated tests in Rails. From this point of view, 80% of the book can be ignored by a product focused reader. However, the first part was transformative for me as it forced me to describe product functionality in terms of user behaviour not by its interface. It will not get you to the level of describing the jobs of the product, but it is definitely a step in that direction.

4. Creativity Inc By Ed Catmull

This is not your typical product management book, but Creativity Inc is a remarkable book non-the-less. It deals with the culture that enables a company like Pixar to make hit after hit. If you worked in bringing products to market then you should now how complicated it is to get the number of slam-dunks that Pixar got. This book is giving you the recipe for the secret sauce. It may not work for your company or you may not be in a position to dramatically influence the culture but at least you will know what it takes to get to that level.

5. Masters Of Doom By David Kushner

Now this is a weird recommendation. Before you close the tab give me some time to explain. Yes, this is the book about the making of Doom, that game where you run around with a gun and shoot monsters. But that game revolutionised gaming and it is one of the most successful products in the history of software. The book explores the the dynamic of the team in great detail thus giving you backstage access to the creation of the game. It’s an entertaining book that should get you pumped and ready to go.


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Originally published at vladimirsays.com on January 25, 2017.