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End of Year Book Recommendations
I had the opportunity to interview a number of founders and product leaders in 2022, and one question I always asked is, “what book do you recommend the most and why?”
Welcome to the final edition of One Year Wiser for the year! I had the opportunity to interview a number of founders and product leaders in 2022, and one question I always asked is, “what book do you recommend the most and why?” I have compiled all of their recommendations into a single place so that you might be inspired to read something new to start your 2023.
But first as we close the year, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the growth of One Year Wiser. This newsletter is still small (287 subscribers) and not growing as fast as I’d like. I got a nice bump of new subscribers when Product Hunt announced on Twitter that they had partnered with me to re-share my posts on their blog. Besides that it’s been slow going. That said, I did very little to promote it this year. My wife and I had a cute new baby and I also only interviewed 12 people, versus 19 last year, which I think that may have impacted growth.
A big thanks to everyone who subscribed this past year. I’m setting an ambitious goal for myself to reach 1,000 subscribers by the end of 2023. But first, I want to try and reach 300 subscribers by the end of this month. So with that in mind I’m doing a giveaway. To enter, simply subscribe to the newsletter. If you win, I will send you one of these three things (your pick):
A copy of one of my favorite product books: Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr
A copy of this insightful book about artificial intelligence: Unscaled: How AI and a New Generation of Upstarts Are Creating the Economy of the Future by Hemant Taneja and Kevin Maney
A 30-minute video call with me where you can ask me anything 😃
Now, onto the book recommendations…
Samantha Carow is the co-founder and CTO of DwellWell, a platform that helps first time homebuyers navigate the complex and opaque process of buying a home. She told me that she typically never recommends business related books. Instead, her number one book recommendation of all time is A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A coming-of-age novel that follows a young girl growing up in Brooklyn in the early 20th century, as she navigates poverty, family struggles, and personal growth.
If Samantha had to recommend a business book, then she’d go with the Startup Playbook by Sam Altman because it has been really helpful for her and the team at DwellWell.
Adriane Schwager is the co-founder and CEO of GrowthAssistant, a company that helps startups and direct-to-consumer brands accelerate the growth of their businesses by offering full-time embedded offshore employees to handle the manual tasks of marketing campaign management, design and reporting. Adriane recommended The Great CEO Within: The Tactical Guide to Company Building by Matt Mochary.
“It’s for people thinking about building a team and building a business. The author compiles a bunch of best practices into one book. If you wanted to dive deeper into a specific one, like conscious leadership, you’d need to get another book. But this book gives you a rough overview of many different practices.”
Jesse Pujji, the founder of Gateway X, a venture studio that builds, buys, and invests in Direct to Consumer companies, recommended 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp.
“It’s a paradigm that I’ve used with my coach a lot and I’ve found a ton of value in. At the heart of it, is having self awareness around where you’re coming from at any given moment. Are you coming from fear or are you coming from a sense of play? And the importance of noticing that and knowing when to shift.”
Liya Shuster-Bier, the founder and CEO of Alula, a company that helps people navigate their cancer treatment, recommended Anticancer: A New Way of Life by David Servan-Schreiber. Everyone who joins Alula is asked to read this book because it’s essential to understanding not just prevention of cancer, but all that goes into the care and treatment of people with cancer.
“It’s written by a scientist from the University of Pittsburgh who was diagnosed with brain cancer. He walks through the science of angiogenesis, which is the blood vessel supportive tissue that supports the growth of tumors. It’s one of the first books that changed how I thought about whole-person care and the power of nutritional medicine, sleep medicine, spirituality, relationships, and friendships in facilitating your healing— not just in cancer, but for general wellness.”
Jakob Knutzen, the co-founder and CEO of Butter, an all-in-one tool that helps people plan and run highly engaging virtual workshops, recommend The Culture Map by Erin Mayer. The book helps readers navigate and understand cultural differences in the global business world by providing a framework for decoding how cultural differences impact communication, decision-making, and negotiation. Jacob said it has been incredibly helpful to him as he builds a team across 14 countries with different nationalities and cultures. Essential reading for anyone trying to build a remote team.
The first book is The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky.
“If you ever take a pragmatic marketing course, they’ll cover this book. I like it because most businesses are built on the premise that they’re eventually going to turn a profit, but it’s really shocking to me how many businesses today don’t appear to have any plans to become profitable in the near future. The book outlines a lot of the different paths that you can take to get to profitability in almost every industry. It focuses on helping you chart that course.”
The second book he recommended was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Craig recommended this one because of the importance of learning from history so that we don’t repeat it.
“It’s a personality framework around how you respond to expectations for yourself and others. For example, I’m a rebel and so I don’t respond to inner expectations very well or outer expectations. So it can be hard to get myself to do things. When I read that book it explained so much about myself. I think everyone should take the quiz, know what type they are, and most importantly understand how you best interact with others.”
Alexander Embricios, the co-founder of Remotion, a product that helps teams build culture, recommended Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin.
“It’s a bit of an annoying read, but was critical for me when I was a new Product Manager fresh out of school. It helped me understand my new (very strange) role as someone who led teams and was responsible for outcomes, even when I wasn’t doing the work myself.
I think product management is particularly hard for new grads because a lot of what you learn in school emphasizes individual contributorship over leadership and teamwork. There was this one project I was pitching at my company that I didn’t get resourcing for. So I decided to build it myself and I was super proud when I told my manager we’d shipped—at scale. But instead of congratulations, he gave me a lecture and that book. He said that going off and building the idea by myself wasn’t leadership. It was hard for me to understand at first. I had a very binary point of view on work, and this book helped me understand that leadership was amplifying a team outcome rather than just managing your own work output.”
Esben Friis-Jensen is **a serial entrepreneur who is the co-founder and Chief Growth Officer at Userflow, a product that helps teams build high quality user onboarding experiences for their products, without code. Esben recommended Product-Led Growth by Wes Bush.
“He’s been a huge inspiration for a lot of companies and I hope he can inspire more companies. I highly recommend it if you are at a Saas company, you’ll get a lot of inspiration for how you can approach a product-led mindset in your business.”
“I really like that book because I think many of us know that persistence is the key to success. I believe those who become successful are not the ones who are the smartest or who have the best ideas, but are actually the ones who continue to improve and work every day. That book has really played a big role in my career.”
Courtney Werner is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of KOYA, which helps businesses create stronger connections to their customers by enabling businesses to send thank yous, kudos, and gifts to their customers. She recommended Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets by Al Ramadan, Dave Peterson, Christopher Lochhead, Kevin Maney.
“The reason I suggest it is because it talks about being a category king. So going back to what I just said earlier, perhaps your idea hasn’t come out yet. Maybe other people don’t have the same idea, but if you understand that you’re able to create your own category, that’s really powerful. So I highly suggest that any founder read this along their journey because you can dominate a market when you are the category king in that market.”
Josh Little, the founder and CEO of Volley, an async video messaging platform that helps creators, coaches, and consultants monetize their expertise, recommended The Cold Start Problem: How to Start and Scale Network Effects by Andrew Chen. The book covers the challenges that companies face when launching a new product or service. In particular, it focuses on the difficulties of generating initial demand and gaining traction in the market, particularly for products that rely on network effects.
Josh also recommended Hacking Growth: How Today’s Fastest-Growing Companies Drive Breakout Success by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown. The book explores the principles and practices of growth hacking, a data-driven approach to rapid growth and expansion. It discusses the importance of identifying and targeting the right market, building a strong and flexible growth team, and using a variety of tools and techniques to drive growth. Overall, Hacking Growth is a comprehensive guide on how to drive rapid and sustainable growth.