14 Must-Read Books That Changed My Life
3 Books I Bring Up In Conversation All The Damn Time
My go-to answer for the question: “what’s one book you recommend.” I’ve read it 3 times, and it’s influenced innumerable decisions I’ve made. A few of the many takeaways from this book:
- Pursue opportunities that have great upside and limited downside. Writing publicly, creating software, and working at startups are all examples of things with uncapped upside but finite risk.
- Shocks and stressors on a system are much-needed. Smoothing out variability is dangerous and leads to fragility. What doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger!
- “What Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise”
Reading this book helped me procrastinate less, stick to my habits better, and get my sleep schedule together. My biggest takeaway: while motivation helps in the beginning, you won’t be able to follow through on a good habit if the setting around the habit is unfavorable. Build the environment, and the habit will follow.
This Silicon Valley classic was written by billionaire Peter Thiel - a member of the Paypal Mafia and first outside investor in Facebook. When I first read this book in college, I didn’t like it. But now, 5 years later, I’ve grown to cherish this book. My key takeaways: don’t compete - strive to be unique - build a monopoly. Peter Thiel's work was a big driver for me to switch from Software Engineering to Marketing - my way of becoming unique and not having to compete in my career.
4 Job Interview Prep Books With Massive ROI
While Cracking The Coding Interview is a great starter book, EPI is my favorite book to recommend for acing SWE interviews. It has more problems, as well as tougher problems, than Cracking The Coding interview. I credit this book with helping me ace the coding interview rounds at Facebook.
I recommend this book not just to aspiring PMs, but to anyone who works closely with PMs. Software Engineers and Designers who read this book will be able to better communicate and empathize with their PM teammates - a valuable skill for the workplace. The majority of the advice in this book is easily generalizable to other technical roles. For example, many of the tips in my “36 Resume Rules For Software Engineers” come from Cracking the PM Interview. The section on behavioral interviews is also excellent for all kinds of job seekers.
If you are an aspiring Consultant or Product Manager, I highly recommend this consulting interview classic. Reading this book helped me better structure my thinking, which helped me get into Deloitte’s summer leadership program my 1st year of college. Re-working through the case studies many years later helped me transition from my SWE job at Facebook to my business role at SafeGraph.
Hands down the best interview prep-book for marketers. Product Managers trying to get into the elite PM programs at Facebook and Google will also benefit from this book. Paired with the book 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, these two books will prepare you for any entry-level marketing interview. Both books were fundamental in helping me land my marketing job at SafeGraph.
Beyond The CS Curriculum: 3 Books Which Helped Me Code In The Corporate World
Real-world software engineering is very different from the Computer Science taught in universities. This book covers more practical issues developers face when writing code: how to fight software rot, how to write flexible code, and ways to bullet-proof your code from bugs. I highly recommend this book to Software Engineers entering their first professional job or internship.
At Facebook, I worked mostly on the Android app. This was a huge complicated monorepo. Learning design patterns helped me grok unfamiliar parts of the codebase faster. I recommend this book for new grad engineers who are working on a big codebase for the first time - especially if it happens to be in Java.
I had no artistic skill or design taste. But this book, combined with learning the design tool Sketch, helped me get to a base-level knowledge in color theory, typography, and elements of design. While I’m no product designer, I now have more nuanced takes on user experience and visual design. This helped me work better with the designers and PM on my team at Facebook, and overall boosted my productivity as a full-stack product developer.
4 Of My Favorite Books On Product Management, Marketing, And Startups
Valuable to anyone interviewing for Product Management, Data Science, or Marketing roles at tech companies. It walks through the most important metrics to measure for a variety of tech business models. Interviewing at Instagram? Just read the chapter on User-Generated Content websites. Interviewing at Uber? Just read the chapter on Two-Sided Marketplaces. Very practicable, actionable insights that will help you measure what matters.
At just 112 pages, this classic is the ONE book I recommend if you are looking for a crash course in marketing. It features timeless principles for effective marketing and go-to-market strategy.
This book helped give me the confidence to write publicly. My favorite chapter: “Embrace The Ugly First Draft”. It’s all about how instead of editing while writing, you just throw up all the words in an ugly way for a first draft. Only then edit down the work!
High Growth Handbook is less of a story book, and more of an active reference book for entrepreneurs. It covers startup issues like VC financing, recruiting a team, and board management. Much of the advice directly comes from interviews with famous entrepreneurs like Marc Andreessen (a16z/Netscape), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Patrick Collison (Stripe), and Naval Ravikant (AngelList).