15 books for entrepreneurs and product managers


As a bootstrapper and a product manager, I have read quite a few books over the last 4-5 years. I think that of all the books I have read on the subject the following 15 books are worth a look. These books are mainly the startup books but they can also be used to learn various product management concepts thus qualifying as product management books.

General / Insights

Blitzscaling – The Lightning-fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Businesses by Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman gives some good insights into how startups in the Silicon Valley thrive.

Strategy / Positioning

Competing Against Luck – The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice by Christensen, Clayton M.

By using the “Job to be done” as a concept and Milkshake as an example, Clayton Christensen emphasizes on thinking about the value proposition / utility of your product to the end customers. The reason? Because they are hiring your product/service to solve a problem and progress.

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries , Jack Trout

This is a classic book on positioning your product or service. I am sure some of you have read it in the business school.

Building A Storybrand – Clarify your Message So Customers Will Listen by Miller, Donald

Another good read on product positioning.

Monetizing Innovation – How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price by Ramanujam, Madhavan

A great book on how to price your product. Most of us tend to under price products and services with the hope that we can beat the competition with price.

Customer Development / Product Planning

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Customer Development: A cheat sheet to The Four Steps to the Epiphany – Brant Cooper, Patrick Vlaskovits, Steven Blank

This book is rumored to be used for teaching product market fit at several top business schools including Booth and Stanford GSB. It is a good overview of customer development. In all honesty I think that the one below is better.

Lean Customer Development – Building Products your Customers Will Buy by Cindy Alvarez

I love this book. Of all the books on Customer Development I have read I think this one is the best, especially if you are an engineer or an introvert. The book actually coaches you on how to go about interviewing customers during the discovery phase of your idea. You will get some helpful templates and tips.

The Lean Product Playbook – How to Innovate With Minimum Viable Products and Rapid Customer Feedback by Dan Olsen

A good book by a former Intuit exec on building customer feedback driven products.

Sprint – How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Knapp, Jake

An overview of rapid prototyping and testing to test an idea in five days. I think that this book is more appropriate for the product managers in the large corporations.

The Right It – Why So Many Ideas Fail and How to Make Sure Yours Succeedby Savoia, Alberto

The former Google Director talks about Pretotyping (“Make sure you are building the right ‘it’ before you build ‘it’ right”) not Prototyping. Another useful concept he introduces is not to use OPD (“Other People’s Data”) that includes market research reports. These concepts are very much in line with Clayton Christensen’s thoughts in Competing Against Luck.

Growth Hacking / Traction

Hacking Growth – How Today’s Fastest-growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Ellis, Sean

A great read for those who are interested in launching a B2B venture.

Traction – How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Weinberg, Gabriel

An awesome book that discusses 19 growth techniques irrespective of your business model (B2B, B2C or whatever else your B is). You may be familiar with some of them but still worth a read.

Lean Analytics – Use Data to Build A Better Startup Faster Croll, Alistair

I was kind of having hard time determining if this book belongs to the Customer Development section or Traction. Regardless, your need to rely on data and iterate.


Early Exits: Exit Strategies for Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors (But Maybe Not Venture Capitalists) – Basil Peters

I came to know about this book when I started attending training sessions of a local angel investor forum in Seattle. Basil Peters provides some interesting insights into why you should be exiting your venture early instead of trying to turn it into a unicorn. And quite frankly most of the startups end up doing so. Therefore, it is always good to have an exit plan before incumbents can even think about competing with you.

Closure / General / Life

The Formula – The Universal Laws of Success by Barabási, Albert-László

Neither our careers nor our ventures always go the way we want them to go. Lets’ just put it this way that Barabasi is really right on the spot for all the things we don’t like to see. And it is data driven.

Disclaimer: I am not claiming that these books guarantee a successful product launch or a venture. Read them at your own discretion 🙂

PS: I am intentionally not giving a link to an online bookstore even though I know where most of you will end up. But before you click on that Buy button you may want to consider checking with your local library first.

Originally published on LinkedIn