Deborah Hanus

Some of my favorite books - 2018 edition

I’m posting this list a year late, but I hope you’ll forgive me: 2018 was quite the year for me.

I started 2018 in the throes of introspection as I decided what was next for me after leaving my PhD in 2017. By April, I decided to pursue the seed of an idea that became Sparrow. In July, the idea officially became a company. In August, we got our first customers, and by the end of the year, we had raised a small round of funding.

Customer Research

At the start of 2018, I was in the early stages of ideation, so I read several of the classics related to understanding problems and testing the effectiveness of simplified versions of potential solutions.

The Four Steps to Epiphany by Steve Blank

Talking to Humans by Giff Constable

Sprint by Jake Knapp

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries


I also picked up some great books on communication, management, and measuring effectiveness.

Measure What Matters by John Doerr

Usually, I struggle to read books by venture capitalists, because the tone is overly self-important. This was tolerable, because it was told in the voice of several people whose businesses or projects had been made more effective using OKRs.

On Managing Yourself by Harvard Business Review

Radical Candor by Kim Scott

How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haimes

Technically, this is a book about how not to be a “helicopter parent,” but I think the same strategy applies to developing junior talent into senior talent.

Biographies of Successful Women

I find reading books about effective management and leadership somewhat disenfranchising, because (a) I find books that draw data-based conclusions most credible, and (b) I often feel the conclusions drawn by most data-based books on leadership do not actually apply to me, because people see women in leadership differently and the books are all written about successful white dudes. Therefore, to get more data for my own prior, I made an effort to read more stories about and by women in power.

Dear Madam President by Jennifer Palmieri

Minority Leader by Stacey Abrams

Bad Blood by John Carryrou

Social Awareness

I read these books because they were recommended to me. The theme of these books was largely to help the reader realize limitations they might subconsciously be placing on themselves, and to be socially aware. I found the Charisma Myth especially interesting.

The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane

Playing Big by Tara Mohr

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois P. Frankel


Inferior by Angela Saini

This book was all about the history of how many stereotypes and “scientific discoveries” about gender differences came to be. It was well-written and absolutely fascinating.

Crazy Rich Asians, China Rich Girlfriend, & Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwok

This series of books did not put anything particularly useful into my brain, but it was quite entertaining.