A colleague recently asked me what ten books I would recommend to him and it turned into a much more difficult question than I expected. While it is relatively easy to rank books you read in the last few month or even year, picking the ten most useful at all time is very hard, a lot of books have contributed to my growth. After much thought, I came out with my top ten books and after going through the exercise I felt the list could be useful to everyone.
While I did not initially rank the books, given everyone’s limited time, I have now ranked them from one to ten based on how much value I derived from the book. Below are my top-10, with the most valuable one first (given that this is not Miss Universe, I did not think creating suspense by starting at number 10 made sense):
- Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Kahneman’s book about human behavior and decision making has influenced me more than any other work. It has helped me understand what drives others and mistakes I commonly made. The book will help you make better decision, understand your customers better, be a superior leader and create more compelling products.
- Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant. Blue Ocean Strategy drives how I develop strategy everywhere I have had the opportunity. It starts by showing the superior results in creating a new market space rather than competing directly in an existing space and this leads to a framework for building long term competitive advantage.
- Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Predictably Irrational is my favorite book on the list, reading Dan Ariely is comparable to reading a Michael Lewis or even Tom Clancy book, a true page turner. Ariely’s work is in the same space as Kahneman, behavioral economics, or why people make the decisions that they do. In effect, people are not rational (which undercuts traditional economics) but their irrationality is not haphazard, it is predictable. Like Kahneman’s work, reading Predictably Irrational will improve your decision making, leadership and ability to interact with your customers.
- Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal. Hooked is the best book I have read about how to create truly compelling product. It provides a framework for building something that customers will engage with regularly, thus having a high lifetime value.
- Smart Customers, Stupid Companies: Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive, and How To Be One of Them. This book highlighted the value of personalization before it was cool. It anticipated the trend of customers expecting an experience tailored to them before everyone gave it lip service and still provides compelling evidence on the value of personalization.
- The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail–but Some Don’t by Nate Silver For those of you who are not familiar with Nate Silver, he is probably the best known US statistician because of his success predicting election results (though he did miss on Trump) and high profile sports analytics sight. The Signal and the Noise is fantastic at explaining in a very easy to understand way how analytics work, why they sometimes do not, and how you can apply them.
- The Ultimate Question. The Ultimate Question is effectively an explanation of NPS (Net Promoter Score) and framework on how to apply it. I find NPS the most useful KPI after LTV (and a key driver of it) and this book helps you understand how to apply it correctly as it is often the most misused KPI.
- Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground, and Reap Big Results by Morten Hansen. Hansen’s book made it into my top-10 largely because collaboration is so often misused to justify more meetings and design by committee, which destroys value. Hansen, instead, shows you how to collaborate to create increased efficiency and better results.
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger. Contagious is in the top-10 because it is the only work I have ever read that really shows you how to make a product or marketing viral. Given the value of virality in LTV, this book provides core knowledge that will help your marketing, CRM and product decisions.
- Moneyball by Michael Lewis. The tenth spot in this list was actually the hardest to fill, as I had to drop many other great books. Moneyball, however, changed the way I looked at the video game and digital entertainment ecosystems. It highlighted similar opportunities as Billy Beane saw in building a baseball club. And, like with Dan Ariely’s books, it was a lot of fun to read.
As I just wrote, there were a lot of contenders for the top ten and a lot of valuable books I would love to include. If you are looking for other great books to read, I also recommend (this time not in order):
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
- The High Roller Experience: How Caesars and Other World-Class Companies Are Using Data to Create an Unforgettable Customer Experience.
- Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing – Proven Steps to Inspire Confidence and Seize New Growth.
- 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story.
- Whale Hunt in the Desert: Secrets of a Vegas Superhost.
- Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.
- The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change).
- Toughness: Developing True Strength On and Off the Court by Jay Bilas.
- The Success Matrix: Winning in Business and in Life.
Happy reading and also please post your suggestions.