Audiobooks had a great 2019.

Actually, they’ve had a great decade, recording double-digit revenue growth each year over the last 7 years (Audio Publishers Association) and reaching nearly $1B in revenue in 2018.

One in five U.S. adults listened to an audiobook in 2019, up from only 11% in 2011 (Pew Research). For these reasons and my own personal passion for audiobooks, I’m excited to bring you my 2020 list of Top 10 Audiobooks for Product Managers (and, truly, anyone interested in technology).

P.S. If you’re hungry for even more great books, podcasts, and audiobooks for Product Managers, check those out here:

Top Books for Product Managers

Top Podcasts for Product Managers

Top Audiobooks for Product Managers (2019)

Similar to last year’s list, I’ve divided these audiobooks by the stage of Product Manager that I believe will benefit most from listening.

New or Aspiring Product Managers are simply trying to learn how to break into the career, what exactly a Product Manager does, and how to position themselves for a strong start.

“Leveling Up” Product Managers are trying to find their next step, whether that is a Senior PM, a Director of Product, or something similar. They need to learn how to lean into their Product strengths and how to think more strategically.

Advanced Product Managers have leveled up (maybe even a few times), but are still looking for ways to stay fresh and at the top of their game. They want to stay ahead of the latest trends, recruit top Product talent, and build winning Product organizations.

Top Audiobooks for New Product Managers (0–2 years experience)

  1. Inspired: How to Create Tech Products Customers Love
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Why It’s Great For New PM’s:

Marty Cagan is simply a legend in the Product Management community. With Inspired, new Product Managers will benefit from Cagan’s perspective on what makes successful products successful and how today’s most prolific technology companies built organizations with such strong product cultures.

By listening to Inspired, you’ll learn how to discover the right product to build, how to embrace lightweight and effective processes to build that product, and the best ways to engage with customers. These are many of the important basics that any new or aspiring Product Manager needs to learn early in their career.

2. Building Digital Products

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Self Promotion Alert! The author of this blog post also wrote Building Digital Products. However, I strongly believe it is a must-listen for aspiring and new Product Managers. It’s the audiobook I wish I had when I started in Product.

P.S. If you want the Building Digital Products Audiobook for free, sign up for a free Audible 1 month trial here: Building Digital Products for Free

Why It’s Great For New PM’s:

Building Digital Products shares real-world lessons through stories, successes, and mistakes made by the author Alex Mitchell. Additionally, the book includes content on how to build a healthy team (even if you only can influence those decisions early in your career) and how to better communicate and work with your engineers and designers.

Bonus content in Building Digital Products also includes an urban dictionary (ex. What does a “retro” really mean?) for Product Managers, development checklists, and several powerful case studies.

Top Audiobooks for Leveling Up Product Managers (2–5 years)

3. The Unicorn Project: Developers, Digital Disruption, and Thriving in the Age of Data

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Why It’s Great For Leveling Up PM’s:

The Unicorn Project is a perfect example that not every book for Product Managers or Technologists needs to be a “Here’s what I did, here’s what I learned, here’s what you should do…” style handbook.

This novel is written from the perspective of Maxine, a senior architect who is exiled to a bureaucratic project fraught with endless committees, paperwork, and delays.

Over the course of the novel, Maxine bands together with other developers to rebel and overthrow the existing order. While The Unicorn Project won’t provide you the hyper-tactical Product Management knowledge of Building Digital Products or Inspired, you’ll certainly enjoy it!

And I’m willing to bet — it will change the way you think about your company.

4. Talking to Strangers

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Why It’s Great For Leveling Up PM’s:

I’ve said it a million times: Product Management is about being a “translator” between different groups.

It’s about…

Translating the vision of your CEO into the epics and stories for your developers

Translating the requests of customers into features that get at the bigger themes of missing functionality

Translating macro-trends happening in the market into roadmap items for your product

and so. much. more.

It’s this core responsibility of the Product Manager that makes Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers so interesting to me and so perfect for the leveling up PM. In his latest book, Gladwell dives deep into our interactions with strangers and why they so often go wrong.

After listening, you will have learned so much more about how humans relate (or don’t) to each other, experiences guaranteed to help you as a Product Manager “translator”.

A significant portion of the role of Product Manager is also based on psychology and influence and Talking to Strangers will help you better understand both.

5. Crushing It

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Why It’s Great For Leveling Up PM’s:

While “crushing it” as a concept is losing favor quickly in today’s world as flexible work hours, work-life balance, and <40 hour work weeks take hold, I’m still a very strong believer that in order to build something truly impressive, you have to work for it.

No, you don’t have to sacrifice everything you’ve ever owned or all of the relationships you hold dear, but you have to sacrifice something. There are no free lunches.

In Crushing It, hyper-entrepreneur and speaker Gary Vaynerchuk shares experiences gathered through working with dozens of influencers and entrepreneurs and how he helped each one build thriving businesses and killer personal brands.

Benefit from Vaynerchuk’s energic approach and by the end of the audiobook, I guarantee that you’ll have at least 10 ideas for how to amp up your personal brand and live life on your own terms.

6. Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen

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Why It’s Great For Leveling Up PM’s:

Product Management is about telling stories and getting your teams and your customers to buy-in. With Donald Miller’s StoryBrand, you’ll learn about his process to develop compelling stories to share with customers to help them understand the benefits of using your products, ideas, or services.

Leverage his step by step process to build the right stories for your product and you’ll see them pay off quickly. Whether you work for a multibillion-dollar conglomerate or a startup, make sure you have a StoryBrand for your products.

7. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

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Why It’s Great For Leveling Up PM’s:

What motivates you?

What motivates your team?

What motivates your company?

If this is the first time you’re thinking about these questions, your answer is almost certain to be incorrect. Daniel Pink challenges you to forget everything you thought you knew about how to motivate with his audiobook Drive.

This book is perfect for Leveling Up PMs because they’re reaching a point in their career where motivating others isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a requirement of their role.

I also enjoyed Drive because Pink includes many stories on companies that are testing new motivational approaches, including several prominent tech entrepreneurs.

Top Audiobooks for Advanced Product Managers (>5 years)

8. The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age

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Why It’s Great For Advanced PM’s:

All Product Managers need to think ahead. However, Advanced PMs need to think even further into the future so they can ensure they’re building the right team to attack the right problem at the right time.

While The Optimist’s Telescope certainly has a few political messages, Product Managers of all political biases will enjoy Venkataraman’s perspective on how we can all plan better for the future.

How can Product leaders make smart decisions for the long-run when instant gratification pressure is rampant? It’s simply too easy to avoid thinking ahead. But, as Venkataraman highlights, the consequences of a failure to plan are devastating.

After listening to The Optimist’s Telescope, you’ll be motivated to think ahead, see the future for your products, and plan more for the future, even if those plans change after you make them.

9. Tech Titans of China

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Why It’s Great For Advanced PM’s:

China has become a MASSIVE force in the world of startups and technology. Whether it’s the ongoing trade war with the United States, their doubling or even tripling down on AI and Autonomous Vehicles, or their acceleration of domestic 5G and GPS development, big things are happening in China.

Here are just a few Chinese startups to keep an eye on in 2020:Top 10 Chinese Startups to Watch in 20202019 was a very interesting year for Chinese startups, to say the least. Author: Alex

While many of the day-to-day or week-to-week happenings will likely have little impact on you as a Product Manager, the Advanced Product Manager should keep a close eye on the macro-trends happening in the country.

Tech Titans of China covers the China tech sector from the inside with Rebecca Fannin highlighting the tech sectors that matter most in China’s grab for superpower status and her predictions for China’s tech dominance in the next decade.

10. Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction

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Why It’s Great For Advanced PM’s:

As I mentioned before, being an Advanced PM is about thinking ahead.

Digital Transformation focuses on the confluence of four key technologies— elastic cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things — and how these are fundamentally changing how businesses and governments will operate in the future.

This audiobook is filled with real-world examples from Enel, 3M, Royal Dutch Shell, the US Department of Defense, and others, highlighting unique and not-so-unique ways that these companies and government agencies are using these developing technologies to achieve game-changing results.

P.S. The forward is from Condoleezza Rice, pretty cool!


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