What would Machiavelli read? – Ultimate Reading List of Power

What would Machiavelli read? – Ultimate Reading List of Power

The most comprehensive Booklist for the Modern Machiavelli. Read these books and they are guaranteed to change your life for 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 human psychology and the dynamics behind the art of power and the games people play.

I have included the best books about power, politics, psychology, marketing, sales, negotiation, social engineering, business, management, etc. etc. etc.

The first part is my Top 20 picks and in part 2, I have compiled a list of around 60 additional classics. Enjoy!

The best books about

Charisma & Social Skills

  • How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

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.

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  • You Are The Message by Roger Ailes

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.

  • The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene

    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.
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The best books about


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  • The Definite Book of Body Language by Allan & Barbara Pease

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.

  • Influence by Robert Cialdini

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.

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  • Games People Play by Eric Berne

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, if you are interested in decision making & game theory.

  • Propaganda by Edward Bernays

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!

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The best books about

Philosophy & Mindset

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  • Meditations by Marc Aurel

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.

  • The 16 Laws of Success by Napoleon Hill

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.

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  • Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

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.

  • Mastery by Robert Greene

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.

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Books similar to

the 48 Laws of Power

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  • The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

No introduction needed. Hands down the best book to understand how people take advantage of the unknowing. You need to know the gambits to not fall victim to them. 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.

  • The Prince or The Art of Power by Niccolò Machiavelli

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.

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  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu

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 into business, politics and our lives in general.

  • On War by Claus von Clausewitz

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.

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  • The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracián

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 are 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.

  • The Craft of Power by R.G.H. Siu

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.

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  • Maxims & Reflections by Francesco Guicciardini

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.

  • 33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

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.

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  • 36 Stratagems Plus

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. Despite their subpar English skills, they know a lot about modern power dynamics. 5/5

More suggestions for Top Books about Power, Strategy, Business, Psychology, Mindset, Philosophy, Finances, etc.


Top Books about

Rhetorics, Charisma & Social Dynamics

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Stop being Mr. Nice Guy and cease being a pushover. This book is a must-read for people who are too nice (or spineless) and want to start getting treated with the respect they are due. I personally have not read this book but many people hold it in high regards.

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One of the most endorsed and highly rated books about Self-Improvement and Social Dynamics.

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An ok book that in my opinion is a little overrated. Still useful for certain people. If you are afraid of so called crucial conversations, ergo negotiations, speeches, confrontation, this book is going to provide you with a framework for doing so. Quite easy to read and understand.

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Like the title suggests, this book is about small talk and networking. It helps you keep a conversation going, when at a loss of words.

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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 build character.

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Written over 2000 years ago, the concepts ring as true nowadays as they did back in ancient Greece. A timeless classic and mandatory for every proper bookshelf.

Top Books about

Social Engineering & Psychology

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A book about sales & negotiation. One of the better sales books out there, making use of a scientific approach.

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One of the best books on Social Engineering and manipulation to uncover weak spots in businesses. Pretty basic level but makes for a great foundation.

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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. Joe Navarro gives interesting examples of the techniques in use.

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Bandler is one of the co-founders of NLP and this book offers a good general insight into Neurolinguistic Programming. The best introduction to the topic of NLP.

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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 schemer 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.

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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 and essential for everyone working in the marketing sector.

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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.

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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.

Top Books about

Strategy & Warfare

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As seen in "the 33 Strategies of War" by Robert Greene and the cult movie "The Warriors". Greek mercenaries stranded in Persia are trying to create a bloody path back to Greece.

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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.

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Not as good as the original Art of War by Sun Tzu but still a very insightful work from which every leader can profit.

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Fully understanding strategy is a difficult endeavour. This book gives you a Spy's perspective on proven stratagems to analyse interactions and come out ahead.

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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.

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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.

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Excellent book on leadership and overcoming almost impossible obstacles. Interesting views behind the scenes of a legendary journey.

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Football fan or not, every manager and leader can highly profit from Sir Alex Ferguson's teachings.

Top Books about

Politics & Society

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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.

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Forget Chomsky, this is the best book about political power strategies ever to be written. It provides a clear understanding of how dictators and governments act and stay in power.

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If you are interested in politics, this is a recommended reading for every Modern Machiavellian. If not, there is no harm in skipping it.

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Cheap, short, part of common knowledge. Good translation as well and a pocket-sized book, perfect for the train.

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A highly underrated gem, crushing the illusions you had of history and our modern world.

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I have not read this book but know the man behind it. It is about why Trump won.

Top Books about

Philosophy & Mindset

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I have just ordered the new book of Nicholas Nassim Taleb and have yet to read it. I doubt that I stretch too far, if I still claim this book to be an excellent choice.

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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.

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A book written by a jew during the second world war. A true emotionally touching classic that makes our problems appear non-existent.

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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.

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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 at the influences of Machiavelli.

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A book about the way of the warrior; Bushido. Great insight into the philosophy and life of the samurai of the early 18th century.

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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.

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How to describe Ed Latimore? The body of a spartan, the mind of a philosopher. Not your ordinary self-help book and recommended reading if you are looking to fortify your mindset and achieve your goals.

Top Books about

Business & Finances

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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.

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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.

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Another masterpiece by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to make this list, mainly about probabilities and risks. Required business lecture.

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Great book if you are interested in learning more about branding your business and creating a memorable corporate & personal identity.

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If you want to found a start-up, this is a great way to test the profitability of the idea and stay on top of the innovation cycle.

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Why do successful small businesses fail? There is a formula which cripples new companies that experience fast growth. The book offers ideas on how to prevent it.

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Ancient wisdom about investing and saving money. This should be required reading in schools.

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A comprehensive overview of value investing. It is about minimising the losses and not just maximising profits.


Best Fiction Books involving Machiavellian schemes:



Do you have other book recommendations? Let us know and comment.

"The best method for estimating a ruler's intelligence is to look at his advisers."
 Niccolò Machiavelli
About the Author

A modern Renaissance man with a taste for Ancient Philosophy, Grand Strategy & Realpolitik, on the lifelong journey of cultivating Mastery and eager to find new paths or to create them.

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  1. Jerry Airheart on April 1, 2016 at 01:36

    I recently finished “Man’s search for Meaning” by Vikter Frankyl, what an amazing story!!! How could the book not by amazing to tell the story of survival in a Nazi POW camp. I lived in Italy while in the Air Force and my neighbor was an Auschwitz survivor and his stories were amazing. Great read remember “JUST LIVE””

    • Lionel Fox on April 15, 2016 at 00:36

      Very glad you enjoyed it as much as I did! And yes, war stories have their own appeal, though sometimes a rather morbid taste. My grandparents talk a lot about the world war since they passed the age 85.

  2. […] If you want to read more summaries, take a look at my 48 Laws of Power pillar post. If you are looking for book suggestions, find out what Machiavelli would have read. […]

  3. […] If you want to read more summaries, go to the main 48 Laws of Power post and choose your favoured law. If you are looking for book suggestions, find out what Machiavelli would have read. […]

  4. […] Full Facts of Cold Reading is another great book, unfortunately I don’t have it listed in the books Machiavelli would read, so I can’t provide you with a […]

  5. Carlos julio Ramirez on May 21, 2016 at 01:17

    Amazing compilation.

  6. Dax Gray on May 31, 2016 at 14:02

    Brilliant post, my reading list just got a lot longer!!

    I’ve just finished the 50th law and I have to agree with you. I was underwhelmed. Maybe I expected too much after Power, War and Mastery but it didn’t have the same bite.

    I can definitely see it helping some people but it warranted a chapter, rather than an entire book.

    To be honest, it seemed like the usual case of putting a celebrity name on a mediocre product to sell it.

    What would be your number one recommendation, if a man was to read only one book this year?


    • Lionel Fox on June 1, 2016 at 15:49

      Only one book is a tough choice. I would either go for a collection of Machiavelli’s works or for the 16 Laws of Success.

  7. My Book Lists – mathematicalmusingblog on July 12, 2016 at 16:49

    […] What would Machiavelli read? – Ultimate Reading List of Power […]

  8. Leonarda Coughlan on March 12, 2019 at 21:07

    you have brought up a very superb points, regards for the post.

  9. google on March 29, 2019 at 10:07

    yo its pst very interesting

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