Torch Reads

Admit it, you want power. You want to live life on your own terms and that’s okay. It is a natural human instinct to crave more power. However, in today’s society, it is seen as unacceptable, and perhaps even evil, to overtly demonstrate your quest for power. According Robert Greene in his book, The 48 Laws of Power, one must appear to be powerless while they try to accrue more power.

In his book, Greene takes the ideas of dozens of great strategic thinkers throughout history and combines them into 48 concise laws. Some of the laws seem ruthless (“Law 15: Crush your enemy totally”) and some seem disconcerting (“Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies”), but each one has real-life applications. From Machiavelli to Sun-Tzu and from Bismarck to Queen Elizabeth I, The 48 Laws of Power encompasses thousands of years of history.
Each law is separated into several sections. First there are the observances and transgressions of the law in which historical examples are used to illustrate the actions of people who followed and disobeyed the law. Next are the “Keys to Power.” In this section, Greene fully explains the law and how it applies to life. After this, there is a section about the reversal of the law. Here, Greene talks about instances where the law does not hold true. Throughout the entire book there are quotes, fables, and stories in the margins, which help to demonstrate each law.

While reading this book, you cannot help but think back and remember past experiences in which you fell victim to people seeking power. You learn to see certain games people play and to defend yourself against such games. It is very possible that this book will change the way you think about certain social situations. One warning to readers; tread carefully. If you are not prudent while reading, you may just become totally absorbed in your newfound quest for power.

One common critique of this book is that it lacks practicality and morality. If one follows the rules laid out by this book, then you will undoubtedly alienate yourself from your peers and become an immoral person. This can only happen if one allows their life to be taken over by the ideas presented by Greene. It is important to take what he has to say and then to inject your own ideas of morality into it. Don’t take these 48 Laws and turn them into your sole outlook on life. Simply take the ideas presented and try to incorporate them into their lifestyle. This will allow for the ability to live life without interference from other people.

Of course, there are other reasons to read this book. Some might scoff at the ideas presented by Robert Greene in this book, but one indisputable fact is that he provides the reader with scores upon scores of interesting historical anecdotes and facts. He recounts the antics of Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil, which perhaps the most famous conman of his generation. He tells of the ancient Chinese wars and the strategic masterminds who lead them. There are also several stories about the interaction between Louis XIV and his court. These are just a few of the examples of the narratives that are told in The 48 Laws of Power. If you are a history buff, or even if you have just a passing interest in history, you will without a doubt enjoy this book.

So, if you are feeling like you could use some more power or more control in your life, then read Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. Or, if you just feel like reading dozens of interesting, exciting, and true stories about some of history’s most powerful and cunning people, then read this book. If nothing else, it will give you some stories to tell your friends at cocktail parties.