The Books on the Reluctant Product Manager’s Bedside Table

Here are nine books that will make you a forever better (and less reluctant) product manager.

A night table with books
Image generated with AI by DALL-E.

The Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

Book cover of The Art of The Start

An inspiring and entertaining read about entrepreneurship by Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist at Apple and current CEO of Garage Technology Ventures.

Here are my main takeaways:

Getting Real: The Smarter, Faster, Easier Way to Build a Successful Web Application by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Book cover of Getting Real

Looking back, it’s hard to remember how fresh and groundbreaking “Getting Real” felt when I first read it. But even now that the initial surprise is gone, the advice in this book remains spot-on.

In early 2000s, web development was complicated business. It was the time of enterprise software written in J2EE and ASP.NET. The industry was deep into waterfall, wireframes, methodologies like Rational, and the practice of starting web app development with database design.

“Getting Real” turned these norms on their head:

This book is still a great manual on how to start an application from scratch, fund it yourself, and get it to market.

Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Clayton Christensen e/a

Book cover of Competing Against Luck

Competing Against Luck changed my understanding about why customers buy products: they aren’t merely purchasing them; they’re “hiring” them for a specific need.

Here are some takeaways from the book:

Apart from a guide to understanding customer choice, it’s a roadmap for any business aiming to create products and services that genuinely resonate with customers.

Notes on the Synthesis of Form by Christopher Alexander

This classic takes a bit of work to understand. I know of only two other people who have read it: Jim Coplien, Ryan Singer.

This book provides profound insights into structure and architecture that you’ll never be able to see the world in quite the same way.

Book cover of Notes on the Synthesis of Form

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte

A classic on statistical and data graphics and on how they can help make sense of information. You’ll get much better at presenting data, and never create a piechart again after reading this book.

Book cover of The Visual Display of Quantitative Information

How to Measure Anything by Douglas W. Hubbard

You can’t improve anything without knowing how you’re going to measure the result. But how do you measure an improvement in user happiness or system security? As it turns out, anything can be measured, even if you can’t put a number on it. This books demonstrates how.

Book cover of How to Measure Anything

The Principles of Product Development Flow by Don Reinertsen

If there are any handovers in your development process, you’ll get queues, the silent productivity killers in any process. This book helps you identify and deal with them. In addition, it explains how to use Cost of Delay to prioritise business objectives. This book is not for the faint of heart and requires some effort to read. Nonetheless, it’s more than worth it.

Book cover of The Principles of Product Management Flow

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

A ball and a bat together cost $1.10. The bat costs a dollar more than the ball. How much does the bat cost? Compare your intuitive (fast) and your slow (deliberate) answers.

I learned more about human thinking and intuition from Thinking, Fast and Slow than from any other book.

Book cover of Thinking, Fast and Slow

The Mythical Man Month by Frederick Brooks

Who reads a 47-year old book on software engineering? Any product manager I admire, it seems. Ever heard the expression “Adding people to a late project makes it later?” This and other ideas in this book on project management, communication and documentation still apply today.

Book cover of The Mythical Man Month

Stay informed of new posts?

Sign up below and you will receive a weekly digest of new posts.

If you change your mind, you can unsubscribe at any time. You will not be spammed, and we will keep your email address private.

Article index