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Rarely Recommended Books for Product Managers

Raffy Banks • November 19, 2019

To stand out as a PM you need to focus some portion of your time on learning things your peers are not. The more unique and well balanced your knowledge-stack, the more likely you will be to succeed. This means seeking out knowledge and learning from different and unique sources.

Here’s the list that will help give you a unique perspective:

Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think
By Hans Rosling
Data can be used to tell any story you want. So why not use it to look at the world through a more fact-based and positive lense? This book will help you not only realize the breakthroughs we’ve made but also know where to place your efforts and why. In other words, your instincts may be wrong. Get good at seeing things for the way they are.


The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York
By Robert A. Caro
Robert Moses literally showed up on the doorsteps of robber barons with bulldozers in order to build the world he felt the world deserved. This book will help you realize that anything is possible and that your job is to get the job done. This masterpiece provides insight into how cities are built–and the degree to which political influence plays its role.


Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics
By Richard Thaler
All economics is behavioral economics. We all have biases. Little we do is rational. The better you understand how people make their “calculated” decisions the better you will be at creating products for them.


Letters From a Self-Made Merchant to His Son
By George Horace Lorimer
This book is full of timeless business and work advice. “Understand the job. Master it. Then get lazy and find ways to make yourself obsolete through systems of automation.”


Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are
By Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
What we do and say in person and online are not always true. Getting at the heart of what people are saying is critical to the role of a PM.


Average Is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation
By Tyler Cowen
If you want to succeed–truly succeed–you need to understand the world as it is. You also need to understand how to figure out where things are going. Don’t let this book scare you. Use it as a blueprint.


Spin Selling
By Neil Rackham
A good salesman isn’t in search of a good product they can sell. They first start with the right customer and discover what it is they need. As a PM you’re discovering people’s needs every day. This book will help you get better at that by giving you a base script to work from.


Joel on Software
By Joel Spolsky
Insights on how machines work, from a wonderfully opinionated man.


The Cathedral and the Bazaar
By Eric S. Raymond
There’s enterprise software and there’s free and open software. The better you understand the developer archetypes that live under each of these the better you’ll understand them and their motivations.


The Courage to Be Disliked
By Ichiro Kishimi
As a PM you interact with every personality type on a daily basis. It’s not your duty to compel them into action–nor to feel a certain way about you. Do what’s right–you can’t control how the world reacts. You’ll instantly be able to normalize the emotional ups and downs of being a PM after you read this book.


The One Minute Manager
By Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson
Whether you “manage” people or not, people will always come to you for advice, needs, wants, questions, interruptions, et al. Read this insightful little book to learn how to help others realize their full potential.


Sam Walton: Made in America
By Sam Walton
There’s a reason Jeff Bezos makes this a required reading for his execs. Work is work-don’t forget it. And that’s a beautiful thing. Enjoy every moment of it because it’s where you’ll find the most meaning.


Lord of the Flies
By William Golding
From this, you’ll learn the lure and madness of leadership. The story may not hold up well for an adult. However, seeing the power structure and struggle will help you understand what motivates people.