The ultimate app growth reading list: Expert-selected books
From leadership to analytics – books that cover it all.
Peter MeinertzhagenJuly 5, 2023
What if you had the chance to pick the brains of leading mobile app growth and product experts for book recommendations? Well, you needn’t wonder anymore. We’ve done the legwork, probed the minds of some of the industry’s best and brightest, and have compiled a list of must-reads for you.
Understanding the rapid pace at which our industry evolves can be daunting — today’s tactics may be obsolete tomorrow. To help you stay ahead of the curve, our contributors have selected books that offer timeless principles, real-life success stories, and strategic roadmaps to growth.
This list is structured to reflect the lifecycle of product development and growth strategy — starting from leadership and team building, through customer understanding and product building, innovative thinking and decision-making, monetization and pricing, data analysis and metrics, and culminating with broader perspectives on human nature.
Leadership and team building
Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by David Marquet
Recommended by Jason van der Merwe
“If you want to build an amazing product that drives business value, you first need to be a great leader. This book is the perfect roadmap to becoming an effective and successful leader. But it’s not a typical self-help, leadership book, because it’s the real story of Captain Marquet, as he sought to disrupt the leadership structures and styles within the US Navy. We learn about the leadership philosophy which he develops during his time in the Navy, a philosophy that focuses on empowering those around you and relying on their expertise to achieve success in a team or organization.”
Customer understanding and product building
The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick
Recommended by Hendrik Haandrikman
“‘Talk to your user’ is a moto I’ve tried to live by for as long as I’ve worked in marketing and growth. Data tells only half the story: It’s in customer or user conversations that you’ll learn genuine user needs and desires, which’ll allow you to go and build the thing they want, and/or craft campaigns and messaging that speaks to their desires.
‘The Mom Test’ by Rob Fitzpatrick is probably the best, most practical, and most applicable book I’ve read on how to have those customer conversations. It teaches you how to go from validating ideas to learning how users behave and what problems they have. You learn how to go from telling them about your solution to discussing their life and to listen instead of speak. It also features some great tips on how to eliminate biases and help your users provide clear information.
Even if you’ve been doing customer conversations, this is worth a read: You’re likely to walk away with some new tricks up your sleeve.”
Get Together: How to Build a Community With Your People by Bailey Richardson, Kevin Huynh, and Kai Elmer Sotto
Recommended by David Barnard
“Building a community is tough and might not be the best fit for many subscription apps. But for those that pull it off, community can be a fantastic marketing channel and a great way to better understand your customers. Get Together is an A-Z guide for getting a community off the ground and then helping it thrive.”
Innovative thinking and decision making
The Elements of Choice: Why the Way We Decide Matters by Eric J. Johnson
Recommended by Vahe Baghdasaryan
“I highly recommend ‘The Elements of Choice’ by Eric J. Johnson for optimizing mobile app growth. The book explores the psychology of consumer decision-making, uncovering the factors influencing user choices. In the ever-expanding app market, understanding user behavior is vital. This book provides a practical framework for analyzing and shaping user decisions. It covers cognitive biases, decision-making heuristics, and contextual impact, which can create actionable user acquisition, retention, and monetization strategies. In a rapidly evolving industry, “The Elements of Choice” empowers professionals to make behavior-driven decisions and create nudging app experiences. It’s a must-read for driving mobile app growth in today’s competitive landscape.”
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
Recommended by Peter Meinertzhagen
“One book that’s had a tangible impact on me is Nudge. Thaler, a Nobel laureate, along with Sunstein, takes us on an intriguing exploration of ‘choice architecture’ – the design of how choices are presented.
The concept of ‘nudging’ — subtly steering people towards beneficial choices while maintaining their freedom of choice — is an interesting proposition for those of us working with apps. It’s a powerful reminder that the way we present options can significantly influence user engagement and satisfaction.
Whether you’re crafting a user journey, refining UI/UX, or strategizing about feature implementation, the principles in ‘Nudge’ provide a useful framework. It encourages us to consider how we can subtly guide users towards desired actions within our apps, creating a more intuitive and fulfilling user experience.”
Monetization and pricing
Monetizing Innovation: How Smart Companies Design the Product Around the Price by Madhavan Ramanujam
Recommended by Sylvain Gauchet
“Too often we build a new product or feature, then slap a price on it. Georg Tacke and Madhavan Ramanujam are senior members at Simon-Kucher, the world’s largest pricing consultancy. In this book, they talk about a different approach to building a product, choosing a pricing model and a price. They advocate understanding if customers are willing to pay and how much BEFORE you commit too many resources to building and launching it. This means having the willingness to pay conversation very early, by pitching your feature/product as if it was already ready. The book goes beyond the concept of product-market-pricefit by explaining how to avoid monetization failure, how to communicate value, and also includes behavioral pricing tactics.”
Data analysis and metrics
Lean Analytics by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz
Recommended by Jens-Fabian Goetzmann
“If you want to build a successful app business, you have to be pretty data-literate. Whether you are working on optimizing growth, engagement, or monetization, it is crucial to understand how you can measure success. Metrics like LTV, CAC, MAU, or CVR may sound cryptic but are essential to understanding the performance of an app business and the impact of changes to the product and customer acquisition. ‘Lean Analytics’ is a great introduction to the topic of metrics and measurement. Perhaps the most useful aspect of the book is that it walks through different types of products and gives an overview of the most commonly used and useful metrics for each of them.”
Broader perspectives and human nature
Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman
Recommended by Thomas Petit
“At work, I’d probably qualify as a skeptic, which helps me challenge hypotheses, find broken pieces, and think outside the box. That’s probably why I’m not a founder, who are notoriously optimistic, sometimes to the extreme. Away from the startup/tech world, Humankind is revisiting a number of historical events to debunk the idea that humanity can lean to the dark side. Besides the revigorating positivism, I recommend the book because of the incredibly detailed examples, some I had heard of and got wrong ideas (e.g. Easter Island), others I hadn’t (like the multi-charged rifles). A breeze of fresh air far away from the sensationalism of most press & social media. Rutger also wrote a previous book I enjoyed, Utopia for Realists, with thought-provoking approaches on ideas that may sound crazy at first (15h workweek or removing borders) but are really well defended.”
Bonus recommendation: Numbers Don’t Lie or How the World Really Works by Vaclav Smil
“Number-heavy books by Vaclav are always both entertaining and enlightening reads about a variety of topics that are fundamental to human society, often related to energy (transportation, food production, etc.) but not only (life expectancy, animals, China, etc.). I wish I had Vaclav’s books when I was at school!”
Before we close the book…
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