Books That Were Game Changers

Hi all,

Today's blog post is about game changers. These are the books that literally changed my game, meaning they changed my approach to problem solving, design, project management, product management, and personnel management.

I've chosen these books for impact. There are certainly lots of great books out there and more that I'd recommend. But these books divide the world into how I viewed it before reading these books and how I viewed it afterwards.

Where I found other books that were worthwhile, but not necessarily "game changers", I've made notes with recommended follow up in the specific order that I recommend reading them.


The New One Minute Manager - At its core, getting the best out of people is about setting expectations, providing corrective feedback when necessary, and reinforcing good behaviors with positive feedback. That's it.

Follow up books: High Output Management, How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen, Radical Candor, Making of a Manager, Never Split the Difference,

Traction: Get a Grip On Your Business - A clear, succinct guide to basic habits and guides for running a team or business.

Follow ups: Radical Focus, Built to Last, Turn the Ship Around

The Goal - A remarkable illustration of lean manufacturing principles. It completely turned my view of efficiency in manufacturing upside down, and refined my understanding of lean as applied to product development.

Follow ups: Lean Startup, Toyota Production System

Design / UX / UX Research

The Non-Designer's Design Book - Once you learn basic graphic design principles, you can't unsee them. There's no summarizing this book, the examples and lessons need to be seen and practiced.

Refactoring UI - Understanding the basics only took me so far. Refactoring UI leveled up my skills for understanding color palettes, type systems, design systems, and UI patterns.

The Mom Test - Past behavior contains real evidence and hypothetical predictions can be dangerously misleading. This book teaches quick and dirty UX research and interview skills that can be utilized immediately.

Rocket Surgery Made Easy - Opinions and feedback can also be dangerously misleading, but live reactions contain real data. This book is a great complement to the Mom Test and leveled up my skills for product testing.

Follow ups - Continuous Discovery Habits, Inspired


User Story Mapping - I already believed in the power of user journey mapping (which I very much muddle up with service blueprint design) as an organizational framework. This book helped me refine and polish these ideas and effectively upped my game for working with software engineers.

Follow ups - Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work In Half the Time, Product Development Flow, Building a Project Work Breakdown Structure


Atomic Habits - I remember reading an 8 or 9 page handout from Amazon on mechanism design, or how to build systems to ensure things get done, rather than wishfully hoping they will. This book is better, with a deeper understanding of the psychology, and better guide on how to successfully build habits. Total game changer.

Follow ups - Hooked, Deep Work

Books That Were Really Good but not Game Changers

Start with Why - I actually recommend people watch the 20 minute TED talk, rather than read the book.

Spin Selling, Inside the Tornado - Two books about marketing through all the stages of the adoption life cycle.

When Coffee and Kale Compete - The best book about "Jobs to be Done" theory.


That's all for now! As I read more, I will add them to the list!

best regards
aka THE Awkward Engineer

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