16 Books That Will Change How You Build Products
What do penguins and product builders have in common? The answer is adaptability. Due to the unique shapes of their lenses and corneas, penguins have the uncanny ability to see clearly whether they are on land or underwater. This ability to adjust and shift perspectives is a key trait daring product builders also possess. The good news? It is a skill you can strengthen simply by reading widely — no need to get wet.
We recently asked our team and the Aha! community to share the titles that have transformed the way you think about product building or career growth.
At Aha! we are big readers, too. Every six months, the entire company reads and reflects on a book together before our onsites. Over the past decade, we have read about everything from building sustainable companies to basketball, pumpkins, and champagne. Whether the books are explicitly about product building or not, they always spark thought-provoking discussions. On a more regular basis, folks also share book recommendations in a dedicated Slack channel — and every new hire reads Lovability as part of onboarding.
Sometimes the demands of work and life can make it hard to carve out reading time. But making space for new perspectives deepens empathy and can give you a renewed sense of responsibility and excitement for the journey ahead. Whether you are looking for the next title for your nightstand or trying to shake out of a reading rut, we hope you enjoy this list — grouped by theme with a brief recommendation from the submitter:
I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times by Mónica Guzmán "A practical guide for leading with curiosity and developing empathy for people we might not agree with — which you can apply to working cross-functionally and better internalizing customer pain points."
Loved: How to Rethink Marketing for Tech Products by Martina Lauchengco "This book not only reinforces the basics of product marketing — it also covers how product marketing can partner with product to ensure market fit, create positive customer experiences, and build for long-term product success."
Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager by Michael Lopp "Great for changing your perspective on how to work with engineers successfully. It is perennial — as long as building products requires collaboration with engineers, you will find the advice in here incredibly useful."
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't by Jim Collins "An insightful and practical guide for achieving sustained success in both business and life. It is just as relevant today as when it came out in the early aughts. I've applied the concept of the 'flywheel' in my own career to achieve continuous improvement."
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho "The classic tale of Santiago and his journey to find treasure. The allegory might not seem related to product building, but it made me reimagine the big objectives our team is pursuing and why we should listen to our intuition."
The Leader's Guide to Unconscious Bias: How To Reframe Bias, Cultivate Connection, and Create High-Performing Teams by Pamela Fuller, Mark Murphy, and Anne Chow "Managing the product team and navigating complex interpersonal dynamics requires a nuanced skill set. This helped me recognize the preconceived assumptions I was inadvertently making — so I can become a more empathic leader and teammate."
Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days by Jake Knapp "This taught me that product development has a lot in common with driving a race car. The key to success is speed, focus, and a well-designed track."
The Innovator's Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail by Clayton Christensen "Delivering a successful product is similar to playing a game of chess. You need to anticipate your competitors' moves and be willing to sacrifice some of your own pieces to win the game."
The Unicorn Project by Gene Kim "Whether or not you are a developer, you might be able to relate to the feeling of drowning in a bureaucratic system. The best part of the book is when the characters come together to overthrow old ways of working — and make the process of building products joyful again."
Authentic Leadership: How to Lead with Nothing to Hide, Nothing to Prove & Nothing to Lose by Dan Owolabi "A research-backed view into squashing down insecurity and becoming a more genuine and confident leader. An essential read for any product builder looking to expand their influence and authenticity."
The Making of a Manager: What to Do When Everyone Looks to You by Julie Zhuo "I highly recommend this to anyone stepping into a leadership role for the first time (in practice or in title). It's filled with ideas for building trust, interviewing and hiring, and being the most impactful manager you can be."
The Service Organization: How to Deliver and Lead Successful Services, Sustainably by Kate Tarling "I wish I had read this book a year ago when I was trying to figure out how to be an effective Head of Product. Though targeted at service designers, it's re-energized me and helped me reframe product leadership the way I want to do it."
Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love by Marty Cagan "This book taught me that building great products is like cooking a meal — you need the right ingredients, techniques, and seasoning to create something people will love."
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman "A great study on human behavior. It provides insights into cognitive biases that might affect user research and your understanding of what customers need."
Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity by Charles Duhigg "This book explores the science of productivity and provides practical tips and strategies for achieving better results in less time. I found the section on goal-setting and motivation particularly helpful."
The Little Book of Being: Practices and Guidance for Uncovering Your Natural Awareness by Diana Winston "Perfect mindfulness tips for busy product builders. I try to do one of the awareness exercises each morning and before big presentations — this helps me get more done faster and feel greater clarity about the 'why' behind my work."
Reading great new books (and revisiting old ones) is exhilarating — you are making a lifelong commitment to learning and growing.
We hope you find some inspiration from the books listed above. While absorbing wisdom from others is vital, remember to devote some regular time to listen to your own wisdom and intuition, too. Journal, record voice memos, or sketch your thoughts about anything you have noticed or learned recently. Then be bold and share your insights with the people around you — you never know which new idea or way of thinking will spark a great solution for someone else.
Rise to your next product challenge. Try Aha! software today.