This post contains a comprehensive List of Books like The Prince, Craft of Power, 48 Laws of Power, etc, that Niccolò Machiavelli would read, if he was live today.
More than once was I asked for good book recommendations; so often actually that even if I was the Vitruvian Man, I couldn’t count them on all fingers and toes. Hence, I set some time apart, for you, my magnificent reader, and compiled the most comprehensive book list about power and money, as a token of gratitude for your praise and support.
So what are the best books on war, philosophy, mindset, success and darker topics like influencing and manipulation, PR & propaganda, ancient classics and modern works that perfectly fit the spirit of this blog.
Let me start by talking a little about how to read. All of you are probably now asking themselves what I might be talking about, but I can assure you that most people are extremely ineffective readers and I want to provide you with an excellent toolset for improvement.
The modern prince reads as much as possible. He knows that not moving forwards equals moving back. In our modern world, we can not opt out of the game of power and neither out of the game of self-improvement. To stay competitive one must adhere to Darwin’s studies that state that not the strongest animal survives, but the most adaptable.You want to start reading as much as possible, then rereading important parts, because knowledge and theory
The act of reading alone can never change a man if his mind is not prepared for the change. But it is a good start. The acquisition of knowledge to the mind is what the barbell is to the body. Now I do not believe that knowledge is power, this statement is absurd, but knowledge is potential power; and reading alone has the power to hone your mind and allows you to make better judgement calls. A good portion of instinct and analytical talent is the bare minimum, combined with perpetual practice. You can not acquire those skills via reading but rather need to put yourself in real-life situations time and time again. Never make the mistake of becoming a
Now I do not believe that knowledge is power, this statement is absurd, but knowledge is potential power; and reading alone has the power to hone your mind and allows you to make better judgement calls. A good portion of instinct and analytical talent is the bare minimum, combined with perpetual practice. You can not acquire those skills via reading but rather need to put yourself in real-life situations time and time again. Never make the mistake of becoming a book-worm who knows everything but applies nothing.
Success is not a choice, it is the logical consequence of knowledge, a burning desire and hard work.
The Machiavellian Way of Reading Books
I aim to read or reread at least one book every 10 days, and so should you. The technique that allows me to make the most of both the book and my time involves the following steps:
- The first step would be observation. Getting a feeling for it, by doing a little research and quickly skimming them from cover to cover. So we can say: reading chapters, headlines, summaries, reviews.
- Next I read the book from start to finish (or abandon it in rare cases) and take notes. I write them down into a little notebook or into a MS Word document. I try to make my notes as concise as possible, because nothing is more frustrating than having a great idea of how to use/integrate new found wisdom, forgetting about it and the idea vanishing.
- Sometimes no book or laptop is available and in such a case I always use a post-it notes to mark the site and put the words onto paper as soon as I am home.
- If I happen to come across especially valuable information or didn’t understand something I reread the parts right after I am done with the book.
- I may decide to reread the book as a whole, around 3-4 weeks after my first read-through, if I deem it to be a good use of my time.
Unless I can not get hold of a physical copy of a book, I never read eBooks. You would never consider drinking a fine Champagne out of a cardboard cup, so why would you read great books on such an abomination of a device.
Studies have shown that you retain information a little better when reading actual books and you are able to read them 20-30% faster on top of that. While eBooks are a convenient way of reading, nothing trumps real books.
The library of a man says a lot about him, and nobody who visits your home is ever going to inquire about the number or quality of books you have on your e-reader. Also highly doubtable that they will want to take a closer look and browse your “library” in these cases. If you library is a desolate space it is your objective to fill it with ancient thinkers who will accompany you on your path.
Best Books on Power & Life – Top 20
The Top 20 Books for the Modern Machiavelli. Read these books and they are guaranteed to change your life to the better. Like the books in this list, they, as well as your mind, need to be open in order to get a grasp of the art of power and the games people play.
In no particular order.
Best Books on Charisma, Social Skills & Seduction
This book makes it into my Top 3 and is a must read for everyone, no exceptions. The tactics found within seem like common sense or even strike some people as “weak” or “beta”, but those people lack the intelligence and/or logical capacity required to see the genius behind the concepts of this timeless classic. Do you know the Manson Family? Charlie used this book to charm his followers and to found his own cult. An easy & quick but highly efficient read.
What is the best book on Public Speeching & Personal Branding? You are looking at it. It also gives great hacks for giving speeches and making a great impression. Together with “Propaganda” (see below) this has to be one of the best books on PR. Roger Ailes is one of the highest decorated speeching coaches and if you are looking to improve your communication skills, this is one of the best books on communications.
Robert Greene ladies and gentlemen. Enthralling writing style, history lessons, charisma & seduction techniques of the biggest charmers to ever live on our planet. Do not make the mistake of confusing this masterpiece with a Pickup Artist mambo jumbo, it is much more than that. He digs deep into the psyche of human beings and how people use manipulation to achieve their goals in life & love. Want a shorter summary or refresher? Get the concise version.
Best Books on Psychology & Manipulation
Hands down the best book on Body Language. A science based, no bullshit approach to the topic, backed by many examples and pictures to properly understand the dynamics behind body movements. We learn how to detect our own body language missteps and also why Hitler liked to cover his crown jewels with his hat, as well as cultural differences.
Also referred to as the Sales Bible. A must read not only for every sales person, but everyone who has to deal with people. His six main influence factors are easy to grasp and apply, and he teaches you how to defend yourself against the major manipulation attempts people fall victim to. If you would like a more extensive version, in the style of a university course (even comes with assignments and homework) get this version instead.
This has to be the most influential works on influence & manipulation. Berne exposed the games people play, why they do it and how we are manipulated by others. Business, marriage, sports, everything is covered in this best seller. This is a book that you need to read sooner rather than later.
The Propaganda Bible by the founder of Public Relations. This was the favourite book of Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels and might have played a big role in the holocaust. Ironically “Propaganda” was written by a Viennese jew, cousin of Sigmund Freud, who emigrated to the United States. I love it, easy but eye-opening read, get this!
Books similar to the 48 Laws of Power – Power, Strategy & War
The Prince or The Art of Power. How to acquire and secure power in every human interaction imaginable. The most influential work ever written on Power dynamics, be it in politics, business or religion. It is a quick and easy read and offers an artfully crafted insight into Realpolitik and the origin of Machiavellianism. Easily translated into real life and not only the most powerful work on leadership & taking action but one of the best self-help books to ever be written. My favourite translation would probably be the one by Mr. William J. Connell.
No introduction needed, check out The 48 Laws of Power summary & review and make sure that you read the book. Don’t be lazy and read the concise version but instead, get the real thing.
All warfare is based on deception. And all modern warfare is based on The Art of War. Easy read with interesting history lessons and battle tactics that are used by the biggest players in modern business and politics. I actually recommend this premium version filled with real life examples that are easily translated to our lives.
This is THE book on warfare, named in one sentence with “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. Clausewitz never was a great general but a great military philosopher and the book oozes of wisdom. To be honest, I struggled a little with the first couple of chapters (Clausewitz is too overtly Prussian), but once I got into it, I had a hard time putting the book down. Required reading in every military school around the globe. This book is neither an easy nor a short read, but who said that things would be easy? If you are looking for the best book on war, you are looking at it.
If the 48 Laws of Power was written as a maxims book, this is how it would look like. Evil tongues say that the 48 laws is a carbon copy of this book. If you read this book you will know why. Short but very sophisticated, it makes for the perfect bed or toilet literature. Read a couple of his maxims and reflect on them.
An unknown gem that could also be titled “The 80 Laws of Power”. The author, a professor who dedicated his life to researching the acquisition and utilisation of power. R.G.H. Siu possesses excellent writing skills, using a lot of big words and complex sentences, often found in academic papers, without the dryness associated with academic writing. If Niccolò Machiavelli would be alive today, this is precisely the book he would have written. While being premium priced, the diamond content makes up for it and I have never regretted spending money on this priceless and possibly life changing book.
The second completely unknown book. Unless you speak with historians with a focus on the Italian renaissance, you won’t come across many people who have read this book or are even aware of Francesco Guicciardini, a contemporary and friend of Niccolò Machiavelli. His ideas are not that far away from straight Machiavellianism and if you are interested in the accumulated wisdom of a successful ambassador and statesman, you are going to love this hidden gem.
Mad Bob Greene strikes again with a self-help book disguised as a military book. He artfully provides us with historical examples of the applications of his 33 Strategies of War. The book is similar to the 48 Laws of Power and his other books. If you enjoyed the 48 Laws, you are likely to enjoy this well-researched book and find yourself with new tools at your disposal. Do you prefer a lighter read? Then get the summary of the 33 Strategies of War.
This is hands-down the ugliest book I have ever seen. If you tell a monkey with a learning disability to design a book cover, he is going to come up with a better design, that much I can guarantee. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about the hideous design, a sin that might be forgiven, when looking at the marvellous information found within the book. It is much worse, the format strikes me as being completely random at best and at worst they chopped a chicken’s head off and designed the book format after the path the headless chicken took. If you wish to improve your confidence and want to develop an IDGAF (I don’t give a fuck) attitude, this book is a gift from heaven. Read this book in public transport for a week, and running around naked with a party hat on your head, singing “Amazing Grace” will seem like a walk in the park. How this book could have been released, looking like this is beyond my grasp. If you look at the amazon link, you will find that the book doesn’t have a single review. People judge books by their cover, and if the content was as pathetically crafted as the design, reading this book would be as enjoyable as washing your eyes with pipe-cleaner. I am a person who loves beautiful things, hence one might say that I might be exaggerating a little. I am not.
Now let’s talk about the content. The 36 stratagems is an ancient military classic and offers lessons similar to the Art of War (Sun Tzu) and the 48 Laws of Power. It is an essential read for the Modern Machiavellian and this version offers relevant, well-researched case studies and observances of the gambits in modern international politics. The content makes up for the affront to every single one of your senses (yes, it even smells bad) and I can highly recommend it despite the numerous spelling mistakes. It was written by Douglas and Teresa Tung, but I believe that they took those names after escaping a North Korean prison camp. 5/5
Best Books on Mindset, Success & Philosophy
The classic that taught me the way of Stoicism, written by the man who went into history as the philosopher-general. The ancient philosophy of living a worry-free existence in the present, and spending one’s life how it is supposed to be spent. Cut out useless emotions that only hinder you and strive. My favourite translation is the Modern Library translation by Gregory Hays.
Chances are, you haven’t heard of this book, despite it being one of the most influential works ever written by a man who spent decades on peeking behind the scenes of success. The book you probably know is the little son of this manifesto, Think & Grow Rich. The 16 Laws of Success is an epic journey into the science of success. Most of the current day self-help, 7 step, bastard children of the personal-development industry, is based on this classic. Very long but insightful read.
There are only two ways something can be done or interpreted. My way or the wrong way. Nassim has to be the most narcissistic writer to ever put ink onto paper. He is so unbelievably full of himself and believes himself to better than his readers and every academic whose name does not end with Taleb. Despite pretending to be a book about probabilities, this in no way constitutes a business book.
Now let’s talk about the pros: he succeeds in pointing out the fragile systems all around us and point us in the right directions, making us use reason and logic to analyse our environment. This book has the potential to alter your life to the better, and an admirable goal in life to strive for, is being able to understand Nassim’s books. I fell in love with Antifragile after the first two pages I read, and there are not many books that managed to arouse my interest as much as Nassim Taleb’s work did.
Why is Marcel Hirscher the best skier, how did Charles Darwin manage to trump his much smarter brother? Why will Ronaldinho, the football player with the biggest talent and potential the world has ever seen, be forgotten in 19 years from now, while Lionel Messi, a disabled man with nothing but his agility and will, is going to write history? Why talent is overrated and why hard & smart work runs circles about talent and how you can find your passion is explained in depth in Robert Greene’s latest book. Want the perfect refresher on it? Get the concise version.
This concludes my Top 20 books on Power & Machiavellianism. If I had to only pick 3 books from this list, that have the potential to change the course of history they would be:
- The 48 Laws of Power
- How to Win Friends & Influence People
Now depending on your situation, strengths, interests, and weaknesses, you will find some of the following books more valuable than my previous suggestions:
Recommendations for other good books to read
Charisma / Seduction
Stop being Mr. Nice Guy and become Mr. Machiavelli instead. This book is a must read for people who are too nice (ergo spineless) and want to start getting treated with the respect they are due. I personally have not read and don’t feel like it is a valuable use of my time, but everyone recommends it.
One of the most endorsed and highly rated books about Pick Up and Seduction.
An ok book that in my opinion is a little overrated. Still useful for certain people. If you are afraid of socalled crucial conversations, ergo negotiations, speeches, confrontation, this book is going to provide you with a frame for doing so. Quite easy to read and understand.
Like the title suggests, this book is about small talk and networking.
Another overrated book, but this doesn’t necessarily make it bad. My expectations were too high and in retrospective it was a useful book I can recommend to improve authority, social skills and the character.
Psychology / Manipulation
A book about sales & negotiation. One of the better sales books out there.
One of the best books on Social Engineering and manipulation.
Inferior to the Definite Book of Body Language in every aspect, but still a good read and quick read, making you aware of non-verbal cues of other people trying to play you for a fool.
Bandler is one of the co-founders of NLP and this book offers a good general insight into Neurolinguistic Programming.
This has to be one of the most overrated and hyped books I have yet to read. Despite the fancy name and fancy cover, the value of the book for advanced Machiavellians goes towards zero. Tedious read and you might believe that an IT nerd tried his luck of writing his own interpretation of the 48 Laws of Power. If you read my Top 20 books, you might want to skip this. Since it is a fan favourite, I still decided to include it.
One of the best books on psychology, economics and why people act in the way that they do. Won the Nobel price, is a little bit dry and very long. Still a highly recommended book to read.
This is one of the best books on personal branding and surviving the career rat race I know of. The author has 2 other books that are good as well, but this one takes the cake.
Can’t really recommend it unless you are interested in a repetitive biography of 50 Cent. You will find a few gems about acting boldly and being fearless, but all in all your time might be spent better with another book. On the plus side, the worst (by a huge margin) work of Robert Greene, looks like the bible.
Similar to The Art of Worldy Wisdom and Maxims & Reflections found in my Top 20.
Strategy & War
As seen in “the 33 Strategies of War” by Robert Greene and the cult movie “The Warriors”
The ruthless warrior king who made a science out of warfare and outmanoeuvred his enemies skillfully.
Not as good as the original Art of War by Sun Tzu but still a very insightful work from which every leader can profit.
A book about the pilot who invented the OODA loop technique. I am not that convinced but it might be something situationally useful. Some people go as far as to say that he made Clausewitz and Sun Tzu obsolete. Never buy into the hype. Judge for yourselves.
Excellent books on leadership from two highly successful individuals. They also offer interesting views behind the scenes.
Politics & Society
If you are interested in politics, this is a recommended reading for every Modern Machiavellian. If not, there is no harm in skipping it.
Cheap, short, part of common knowledge. Good translation as well and a pocket-sized book, perfect for the train.
One of the greatest works of the greatest philosophers to ever live. I haven’t read it in English, thus I can’t comment on the quality of the translation. As usual, link to the cheapest version.
A highly underrated gem, crushing the illusions you had of history and our modern world.
Mindset, Success & Philosophy
A book that might strike one as a book about sword fighting techniques, but if you take a closer look, it offers valuable insights into life & philosophy. The last chapter is extremely enthralling.
Book written by a jew during the second world war. A true classic.
Back in the day, this book was unbelievably shocking, but in our modern world, where morals and the church come second, it offers not too much value. I disliked the melodramatic writing style, but many a person recommends it.
Machiavellis analysis of the Roman Titus Livy. A praise for Niccolò Machiavelli’s favoured form of government, the republic. A good behind the scenes look of the influences of Machiavelli.
A book about the way of the warrior; Bushido. Great insight into the philosophy and life of the samurai of the early 18th century.
Regarded as the best book on stoicism by many, I have to admit that I have yet to read it, but it is on my reading list.
Economy & Money
Never take financial advice from a bum or a person who only made money by teaching people how to make money. This book offers solid advice from an actual millionaire.
Funny, quick read about how our economic problems have their roots in math and can be solved by it. There are books with better value, to be honest.
Another masterpiece by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, mainly about probabilities and risks
If you want to found a start-up, this is required reading alongside Innovator’s Dilemma
A marvelous book about saving, investing and amassing wealth. A quick and easy read. I don’t know which version I read so I am going to recommend you the cheapest.
Best Fiction Books involving Machiavellian schemes:
Do you have other book recommendations? Let us know and comment.