8 Books That Made Me A Better Product-Person

Posted on September 24, 2016 in products, development

When I first began my career, I was interested in writing good code. Now I'm interested in building products that work. Getting there took some work and a lot of reading.

The list below I wouldn't consider a complete list of what I've read, but rather what I've really enjoyed and how it's helped me along the way.

1. Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love

Marty Cagan

Before I joined Shutterstock in 2014, I was told this book would be very helpful to me. Being brand new to how products were really made, I took this advice to heart and read the whole book in an evening. While some thoughts might be obviously stated (such as successful products are valuable, usable, and feasible) it's an essential read for anyone looking to expand their thinking on what makes a great product.

2. Zero to One

Peter Thiel

Inspirational and insightful. Peter Thiel talks about bringing un-imagined ideas into existence, or rather, going from zero to one.

3. Blue Ocean Strategy

W. Chan Kim

Tacking onto the ideas in Zero to One, Blue Ocean Strategy outlines a gameplan on how to bring brand-new creative ideas into market and escape the "bloody red-ocean of competition." The book is a really interesting read and really brought out a new way of thinking on how to build more successful products.

4. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products

Nir Eyal

I really loved this book from a neurological standpoint. This book dives into what makes us drive and how we can build products to tap into that energy. Aside from the obvious evil of building a "freemium" mobile game, the book is really helpful to elevate your thinking on how your products might be better driven.

5. Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel Kahneman

After reading Hooked, I wanted to learn more about how we think and how we act as humans. Every action we do is controlled by a fast-acting brain and a slow-acting brain. Human psychology is fascinating and this book is a deep-dive in our minds and how we physically think at a molecular level. Emotional intelligence is essential to anyone that is product obsessed. When we deeply understand a person's feelings, we can help find more accurate solutions for the problems they might have.

6. Creativity, Inc.

Ed Catmull

I have Jon Oringer to thank for introducing this book to me (and all Shutterstock employees.) Creativity, Inc. covers the beginnings of Pixar and how they were able to run a successful business around embracing the creativity of their employees. A great read to learn about the processes Pixar put in place to ensure success while still allowing employees unlimited creative freedom.

7. Ask

Ryan Levesque

This book dissects the art of asking your customers for feedback. Learn the right questions to ask to existing and non-existing customers and find out what to build next. This book helped solidy the idea that problems are always in need of solving if we know how to find them.

8. The Lean Startup

Eric Reis

Probably the most-read book by project managers and developers alike. An essential read for anyone looking to entire a fast-paced startup (although don't take it as gospel.)


I'm always looking for recommendations whether it's about development, psychology, etc.

If you have a book you think I might enjoy or absolutely should read, leave it in the comments below or get in touch with me on Twitter.


Thomas Lackemann :)


Tom is the founder of Astral TableTop. He's a homebrewer, hiker, and has an about page. Follow @tlackemann on Twitter for more discussions like this.