Book review: It’s like history’s greatest hits!

“The 48 Laws of Power” by Robert Greene

What is the best strategy book of all time? The Prince by Machiavelli, The Art of War by Sun Tzu, The Book of Five Rings by Musashi? What about where the greatest war stories come from? Ancient Greece, medieval Europe, or perhaps China’s dynastic period? Throw in any ancient war strategy and political history book, and most likely Robert Greene has analysed them in the contextual manner within 48 theories that become his laws of power.

It has the brilliant war strategies used by Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington and Mao Tse Tung, the ruthlessness of Ivan the Terrible, John D Rockefeller and Henry VIII, and the wisdoms of Roman Emperors and ancient Japanese tea masters. It is heavy with the tricks and lies used by Henry Kissinger and Otto Von Bismarck, the masterclass diplomacy of Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, or the seductive techniques of the mythical Mata Hari and the many European mistresses. It also analyses the mistakes made even by great men like Xerses and Cyrus the Great, the fraud by con artists such as Panco Villa and Yellow Kid Weil, the camouflaging move made by Ethopian emperor Haile Selassie and Elizabeth I, and the behind the scene moves by Cosimo de Medici to rule Florence.

In between the stories there are writings by the likes of Leo Tolstoy, Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and Baltasar Gracián, and many fables, proverbs and quotations fittingly appropriate within the subject matters. And between the myths, frauds, scandals and tragedies we’ll learn about the structure of past societies and how it changes overtime. Indeed, Robert Greene has successfully managed to bring the biggest characters in history to life and even able to portray them as ordinary emotional human beings, but, crucially, human beings who posses winning strategies.

It is by far the most comperensive history book I’ve ever read, and it got to be the book I’ve read at the slowest pace. I read and re-read it, highlighted and made lots of notes, and actually made several changes in the way I analyse things, in the way I behave and in understanding other people’s behaviours.

Einstein once said that the secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources. This book has become an analysis tool so valuable that I hesitated for a while on whether or not I should write a review and reveal my sources. You know what, don’t read this book. It’s a waste of time and it won’t do you any good.

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