Renowned for his unique perspective on power, strategy, and seduction, Robert Greene has written six international bestsellers with profound influence on politics and pop culture. Born in Los Angeles, he pursued a classical studies degree from Berkeley and worked a series of odd jobs before publishing his groundbreaking debut, The 48 Laws of Power, in 1998.
A provocative book that swiftly gained attention in leadership and strategy circles, Greene followed its success with The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law (co-authored with rapper 50 Cent), and Mastery. Marked by meticulous research and timeless wisdom, his works have been translated into multiple languages and continue to shape diverse domains, from dating dynamics to corporate boardrooms and political arenas.
In two Youtube videos on the books of his life, Greene shared 8 titles that changed his outlook on the world. From Machiavelli’s brutal masterpiece to Miyamoto Musashi’s meditation on swordfighting and strategic thinking, explore his recommendations below. Complement with the bookshelves of Sam Harris and Tim Ferriss.
Robert Greene’s Reading List
“I must have been 15 or so I when got a copy of Machiavelli’s The Prince… It had no relevance to my life in high school, obviously, but I loved the brutal realism of it. I loved the fact that he was looking at human beings as if we are these animals that we are, and he was analyzing it without all the usual guilt – all the usual moralism that’s going on in the world. He was just presenting us as we are. I didn’t really understand experientially what he was talking about but the style, the clarity, the pragmatism, the beautiful language entranced me. And so I probably read that book six or seven times over the years.” -RG
“It’s the most beautiful thing you can ever read, because you’re reading about our history as humans some 2,500 years ago in ancient Greece. And you’ve got this narrator who’s so modern, who’s someone who could be somebody who’s not sitting right next to you, who has this very clear perspective. And he’s describing these events so far in the past – they’re so dramatic and they’re so exciting and he’s analyzing it brilliantly. I wish we had a handful of writers to this day who could be like that, who could have that clarity, who could have that kind of logic, who could have that kind of analytical ability. But it existed 2,500 years ago. This great historian Thucydides wrote one book that I know of, The History of the Peloponnesian War, but it’s the most marvelous adventure you could ever go on.” -RG
Journey to Ixtlan by Carlos Castaneda
“Basically what it’s about is the author is an anthropology student at UCLA named Carlos Castaneda and he goes to study indigenous Indian practices. He comes upon this Yaki Indian named Don Juan who kind of initiates him in all of the ways of his indigenous culture, and it includes eventually ingesting peyote and learning to become a crow… All these weird things that you think, ‘wow that’s too weird,’ but a lot of it is the stuff that’s all about power. It’s all about controlling yourself, it’s all about confronting your mortality, it’s all about becoming this great warrior in life.” -RG
The Gay Science by Friedrich Nietzsche
“The Gay Science is a fantastic book and the reason is it’s early Nietzsche. Later in life things sometimes got a little bit obsessive with him, but this is one of his books that he wrote early on. It’s the book that has one of his most profound ideas of all time, which is the Eternal Recurrence, which is related to the concept of Amor Fati. And Amor Fati was actually created by Nietzsche himself, the idea which I and Ryan Holiday have talked a lot about, so I highly recommend The Gay Science. It’s a collection of aphorisms, of short little excerpts, you can pick and choose.” -RG
“He was this weird genius, he was like the Mozart of sword fight. He was very creative, he was very eccentric, very weird. He wrote a book on strategy and when you read it at first glance, it looks to be about swordsmanship but it’s not. It’s about the shapes, the ideas of strategy in a kind of almost spiritual sense. These are the patterns that go on in life, this is how to have a warrior stance in any kind of encounter that you have, even in business. And in Japan, where he’s from, The Book of Five Rings is required reading for every businessman because it’s the masterpiece of strategic learning.” -RG
Stalin by Boris Souvarine
“Nothing compares to this book. I believe it came out in the late 80s or early 90s when all this new information was just being developed. It is the most terrifying thing you could ever imagine, certainly the most evil, maniacal person who ever lived in the history of mankind… Stalin is responsible for even more deaths than Hitler when it comes to the Great Famine that struck Ukraine in the early 1930s and all the people that he executed in the gulags, etc. He is a monster but he has a logic to him, he’s a real person. He has a history, a biography and all that. Some of it wasn’t so bad, there’s a reason behind it, but it is a fascinating, chilling read.” -RG
Marie Antoinette by Stefan Zweig
“One of my favorite biographers that I think you absolutely have to read is the writer Stefan Zweig. He was an Austrian writer and most active I believe in the 1920s, 30s. He was also a poet and a novelist, a great man and creator who wrote some of the best biographies ever… [Marie Antoinette] is a fantastic book that will make that whole period of the French Revolution and prior to the Revolution come to life.” -RG
The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky
“Perhaps one of my favorite novels ever is The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It’s sometimes translated as ‘The Demons‘ but I prefer the old translation, titled The Possessed… This is an exploration of these anarchists, these revolutionaries in Russia in the 1860s. It’s absolutely fascinating, these characters are unforgettable. I still think about them, these really evil, amazing characters.” -RG
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