2018 Reading List: 5 Must-Read Books for Product Managers

What do people like Bill Gates, Mark Cuban, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Oprah Winfrey have in common? They read books. In fact, they read lots of books and make it an essential part of their day as working out or eating right. Reading is a favorite pastime of the most successful people in the world, and it is a habit worth mimicking if you want to be a product manager who can take your innovation team to the next level. If you are wondering what to read, here is the list of my top 5 books that have had the most significant impact on how I think about product management. I believe that you will enjoy them too.

5. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

One of the most significant challenges that product managers face is how to get customers to engage with the product right out of the box. In Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Eyal explains a four-step process, which he terms a “hook” cycle. The purpose of a hook cycle is to keep users coming back time after time without the need for excessive advertising or aggressive sales messages. The book is based on the author’s years of experience in consulting and research. It explains how products influence our behavior and provide actionable steps for product managers. This book takes the mystery out of which products are bound for success and which ones are destined for failure.

4. Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan

This is an excellent follow-up book to Hooked on your reading list. In this book, Marty Cagan gives his opinion on how to create products that customers need. This is essential for your product management library. In this book, the author provides an excellent explanation of how to choose which product opportunities will be the most likely to be successful. He also examines how to identify the minimal product that will be successful. This minimalist approach to product design and development represents the fast track to product success without excessive expenditures in time and money. Perhaps the most valuable chapter in the book involves how to manage conflicting demands of customers, sales, marketing, design, engineering, and executives. This is something every product manager can relate to.

3. Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling Disruptive Products to Mainstream Customers by Geoffrey A. Moore

This book was written for those who need to introduce innovation in high-tech markets, but it also applies to anyone who is involved in introducing cutting-edge products to the general market. Moore explores the gap between early adopters and the early majority. The early majority is cautious and will wait to see if the technology will result in improvements in their life. The challenge that product managers face is how to narrow the gap and accelerate the adoption of innovation across all segments of new product adopters. This is a groundbreaking work that provides valuable insight into how to reach adoption goals faster, and to navigate the waters of how to establish new technology and make it mainstream. This is essential reading when it comes to the highly competitive marketplace where innovation is king.

2. The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

Don Norman digs deep into what should be the first concern of every part product manager. He tackles the topic of usable consumer design. He addresses the psychology of product design and examines the pitfalls of ignoring the needs of the users through reviewing some basic principles of cognitive psychology. The book explores how to take advantage of the natural relationship between function and control to make products that are intuitive and easy to use for the consumer. This is an essential book if you want to create products that users enjoy, rather than becoming frustrated with them. This book gets back to the basics of designing products that meet the customer’s needs. Many times it is easy to get wrapped up in the bells and whistles of product design, ending up with a product that is too intimidating for the non-technical user. This book helps you avoid this pitfall.

1. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink

This book does not only apply to product managers, but it also applies to anyone who wants to lead a successful team. Who better to learn from than two U.S. Navy SEAL officers who led one of the most successful special forces teams during the Iraq War. The principles that guide this team to success can also be applied to businesses from startups to Fortune 500 companies. This book details the mindset and fundamental principles that allow SEAL units to achieve the impossible. This is a well-organized book that gives practical examples of how to apply this leadership in any organizational environment.

Many other good books are out there, but these are the essentials to get your juices flowing and are a great start to your library. Self-improvement is a way of life and one of the most important habits of top achievers. If you don’t feel that you can fit it into your busy schedule, reading for only 15 minutes a day will make a big difference. It is the habit that counts, not how quickly you win the race. This collection will give you everything that you need to up your game and take your product development team to the next level.