CTO books
Mike Jackowski Updated: 10 Sep 2022 4 min to read

Best 10 books for CTO – What to Read as Chief Technology Officer?

Are you familiar with the classic Dr Seuss saying that “the more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go”?
  • We will introduce you to 10 amazing books we recommend to every CTO!


Well, it couldn’t be truer of what is needed to be an effective CTO! Like in many other professional disciplines, reading and self-development are indispensable if you want to be a skilled and supportive leader.
With this in mind, we’ve put together a list of the top 10 books for CTOs. Among other subjects, they speak on key areas such as productivity, the art of making smart decisions, being a good leader, and understanding UX principles.
Make sure to cross them off your ‘to-read’ list (or include them in your upcoming Amazon order!).


#1. Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager / Michael Lopp

It was a humorous recollection of what it was like being a software engineering manager in Silicon Valley for more than 20 years. While you’re likely going to be laughing or shaking your head in disbelief while you peruse the pages of this book (spoiler alert: there’s some chair throwing included), you’ll also take away a lot of wisdom on what it means to be a good manager. A recommended read for anyone looking to ace their role as a tech leader.


#2. The Hard Thing About Hard Things / Ben Horowitz

You might know Ben Horowitz as the person who famously said he would use many lead bullets to solve a problem due to the lack of a silver bullet.

In fact, “The Hard Thing About Hard Things” builds upon this exact notion by discussing how to tackle the difficulties of running a startup. It also helps you understand how to be a leader, your team looks up to – even in the most difficult of times.


#3. Don’t make me think! / Steve Krug

If you want to succeed as a CTO, you must learn how to communicate with designers effectively and understand the elements that drive (or disrupt) website usability.

“Don’t make me think!” by Steve Krug is the perfect introductory reading for this! The book gets reprinted nearly year after year and is still relevant 20 years after its initial debut. It’s also one of the best books for CTOs who want to get the hang of the subject quickly – you can read it from beginning to end over weekend coffee or during a long layover.


#4. Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time / Jeff Sutherland

An all-time classic by one of the Agile Manifesto authors and an absolute must-read for anyone who manages employees. Sutherland makes a strong case for Scrum through his extensive experience of running teams (and salvaging entire, multi-million projects) and why it’s as popular as it is today. Plus, you’ll be intrigued to discover what Sutherland has done for the FBI in the days following 9/11…


As a technology leader in the company, you should have a lot of practical knowledge and know current trends and think strategically. Reading books is ideal for this.

#5. Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things / Don Norman

While “Don’t make me think!” focuses on website UX, this book looks at usability form a wider angle. The book (authored by the norman of the famous Norman Nielsen Group) lets the reader know how people use (or, unintentionally, misuse) the things in their daily lives. A real eye-opener helps you understand what “usability” means, where to omit mistakes, and how to make better project decisions.


#6. Hooked / Nir Eyal & Ryan Hoover

Did you ever wonder why some products gain traction while others fall flat though they seemed pretty awesome? Many times, it’s not just about how well it was developed but because it lacked certain elements that make people want to come for more. As a CTO, knowing how to incorporate these factors when you make technological decisions is key. After all, who wouldn’t want to predestine their app for success?


#7. Rework / Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

A New York Times bestseller by Basecamp founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, widely known for writing the first-ever book on remote work. The authors discuss how to launch a successful business, but they take the road less travelled. In this case, it means walking you through the elements most business books don’t touch upon. Needless to say, you certainly won’t find “how to write a business plan” in the table of contents!


#8. Continuous delivery / Jez Humble & David Farley

Maintaining continuous delivery of high-quality functionalities – isn’t this every CTOs dream? This award-winning book will tell you how to manage work and make smart decisions to pave your way toward software deployment. First, the authors discuss the components of the delivery process they implement in their work. Next, they also share best practices that have helped them remove obstacles from the deployment pipeline. One of the most to-the-point books for CTOs bridges subjects like management and decision-making with more sophisticated infrastructural areas.


#9. The Phoenix Project / Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, George Spafford

Already a classic in its own right, the book discusses how to become better at DevOps and rebuild entire IT processes from the ground up. All this in a format you’ve likely never seen before – a novel!

The main character is entrusted with a project that is both falling behind schedule and hugely underfinanced. Reading this book is like killing two birds with one stone – packed with a lot of knowledge, all in a narrative that keeps you engaged.


#10. The Unicorn Project / Gene Kim

The sequel to “The Phoenix Project” – freshly off the press and already predestined to become another bestseller! Unlike the first book, “The Unicorn Project” focuses on The Five Ideals of being a successful tech leader. These include, among others, improving your daily work, embracing simplicity, and developing a focus on the customer. All these are precious areas for any engaged CTO.



What separates great CTOs from the merely ‘good’ ones lies in growing an eagerness to learn. This means that to be a skillful leader, you must pay equal attention to developing tech and design, and managerial skills. If you don’t know where to start, the list above will be a great starting point!

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What do you think about our curation of the top 10 books for CTOs? Is there anything else you’d add to our list? Let us know in the comments!

Mike Jackowski

Operating Brother



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