The most recommended books about power

Who picked these books? Meet our 59 experts.

59 authors created a book list connected to power, and here are their favorite power books.
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What type of power book?


The Prince

By Niccolò Machiavelli, Tim Parks (translator),

Book cover of The Prince

Keith Grint Author Of Leadership: A Very Short Introduction

From the list on understanding why we get the leaders we do.

Who am I?

There’s something about leadership that intrigues me. I was an army child and that might help explain why I was expelled from school and had a rather unorthodox pre-academic career: I had fourteen jobs in nine years between leaving school and starting university, and several of those involved significant leadership roles that clashed with managerial authority. Both my undergraduate degrees and my doctorate were focused on trying to understand how authority worked, so it was almost inevitable that I ended up as a leadership scholar. But my greatest achievements have been co-founding the journal Leadership in 2005 and its related International Studying Leadership Conference, now in its 20th year.

Keith's book list on understanding why we get the leaders we do

Why did Keith love this book?

Machiavelli is often despised as the man who promoted both authoritarian leaders and the notion that the ends justify the means, but this is to misunderstand the importance of the context within which he was writing: 16th century Florence – which was besieged by enemies on every side who proclaimed adherence to the Christian faith but acted as monsters. Machiavelli’s writing made two things clear to me. First, leaders and leadership cannot be understood if you abstract them from their context – when political morality is a contradiction in terms then leaders must be wary of sacrificing their followers for the sake of that same fallacious morality. Second, he lays out how dictators obtain and retain power – and in doing so establishes what we need to do to stop them or remove them. 

By Niccolò Machiavelli, Tim Parks (translator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Prince as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is the world's most famous master plan for seizing and holding power.  Astonishing in its candor The Prince even today remains a disturbingly realistic and prophetic work on what it takes to be a prince . . . a king . . . a president.  When, in 1512, Machiavelli was removed from his post in his beloved Florence, he resolved to set down a treatise on leadership that was practical, not idealistic.  In The Prince he envisioned would be unencumbered by ordinary ethical and moral values; his prince would be man and beast, fox and lion.  Today, this small…

The Silent Coup

By Josy Joseph,

Book cover of The Silent Coup: A History of India's Deep State

Shivam Shankar Singh Author Of How to Win an Indian Election

From the list on understanding Indian politics.

Who am I?

I graduated early from the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor to come back to my home country and work in Indian politics. Since then I’ve worked with a Member of Parliament, handled campaign design in states across India, and headed data analytics for India’s largest political party. This experience gave me an inside view of how politics operates and how elections are actually won. The fact that this was at a time when Indian politics was going through massive changes with micro-targeting, digital technologies and disinformation gaining ground made the experience even more unique. Based on this experience, my books detail how power is gained, (mis)used, and lost.

Shivam's book list on understanding Indian politics

Why did Shivam love this book?

Although elections are dependent on how people choose to cast their ballot in the voting booth, politics is much larger than just elections. Political power isn’t just retained by convincing citizens to vote for you, it is sometimes also retained by crushing opposition voices and concocting fake narratives. This book shows how political parties in India have used organs of the state, including the police, investigative bodies, and intelligence agencies to consolidate power. It was a heartbreaking read, but it offered key insights into understanding how political power is actually wielded in the world’s largest democracy. 

By Josy Joseph,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Silent Coup as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

Book cover of The Sources of Social Power: Volume 1, A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760

Nicos P. Mouzelis Author Of Post-Marxist Alternatives: The Construction of Social Orders

From the list on social sciences.

Who am I?

After finishing my secondary education in Athens I got a degree in business administration at the University of Genova. The idea was to return to Greece to work in my father’s business. But I soon realized that I was neither interested in business theory nor going back to Greece to work in my father's organization. I decided to continue my studies in England focusing on the social sciences – first at Leicester University and then at the London School of Economics. After retiring I continued to write books and articles in Greek, English, and French. I have passion for reading and writing. It helps me psychologically as well to survive in a postmodern chaotic world.

Nicos' book list on social sciences

Why did Nicos love this book?

Professor Mann is the best macrohistorical social theorist I know.

The book is a clearly written analysis of the development of social formations from primitive societies, to the more developed societies in many parts of the world. As it combines a sophisticated conceptual homework with extensive empirical research the book will help the reader to grasp from where we are coming and where we are going.

I personally recommend the book. It is extremely valuable.

By Michael Mann,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sources of Social Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Distinguishing four sources of power in human societies - ideological, economic, military and political - The Sources of Social Power traces their interrelations throughout human history. In this first volume, Michael Mann examines interrelations between these elements from neolithic times, through ancient Near Eastern civilizations, the classical Mediterranean age and medieval Europe, up to just before the Industrial Revolution in England. It offers explanations of the emergence of the state and social stratification; of city-states, militaristic empires and the persistent interaction between them; of the world salvation religions; and of the particular dynamism of medieval and early modern Europe. It…

No Excuses

By Gloria Feldt,

Book cover of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think about Power

Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD Author Of Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life

From the list on empowering women to become leaders.

Who am I?

Women’s empowerment is my passion and my purpose, which is why I founded Women Connect4Good, Inc., a 501(c)3 foundation to help support other organizations that work to advance women and girls. Our name says it, and our work proves it. Women make phenomenal leaders, and while I can do a lot through my foundation to promote women’s leadership, we can all do something in our day-to-day lives to help women lead. Every day we can do something to support another woman, or partner with another woman, like the women who’ve written the books I’ve reviewed here – friends, colleagues, and fierce advocates for equality on every level. We are all lifting as we rise.

Nancy's book list on empowering women to become leaders

Why did Nancy love this book?

Imagine your ideal leadership role where you – and the you who you’ve always known you were meant to be – can fully thrive. Well, imagine no more…Gloria Feldt’s No Excuses can show you the way. This book opened my eyes to how women think about power. We're used to being subjected to power over us and don't want any part of it. But when we change how we view power as the "power to," we can transform our careers and lives to one where we fully thrive beyond what we might have imagined. No Excuses turns power into nine very specific, female-oriented tactics to help women channel their inner strength and power to advance where ever they wanteven the c-suite, where we need hundreds more phenomenal women leaders. 

By Gloria Feldt,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Excuses as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An invaluable guidebook, which contends that the most vexing problems facing women today isn't that doors of opportunity aren't open but that not enough women are walking through them

Feminist icon Gloria Feldt pulls no punches in this new book, which argues that the most confounding problem facing women today isn't that doors of opportunity aren't open, but that not enough women are walking through them. From the boardroom to the bedroom, public office to personal relationships, she asserts that nobody is keeping women from parity-except themselves.
Feldt puts women's power into an historical context, showing the ways in which…

The Wicked King

By Holly Black,

Book cover of The Wicked King

Kelly Risser Author Of Never Forgotten

From the list on to indulge your love of Fae.

Who am I?

I dreamed of being a fairy tale princess at a young age, and although I never received my glass slipper, I still have a highly active imagination. This is probably why fantasy books are my favorite, and I’ve read extensively in this space. I’m also a huge Disney and Harry Potter nerd. While I might not win a trivia competition on these topics, I could definitely hold my own. To be honest, immersing myself in another world is my favorite form of escapism and the number one way I relax and unwind after work. I’ve read many, many books in my life and can quickly tell you the ones I love the best.

Kelly's book list on to indulge your love of Fae

Why did Kelly love this book?

Holly Black is the queen of fairy tales, but not the happily ever after kind. The world building is lush, from the exotic fruits, foreign, but gorgeously detailed landscapes and lush parties with Fae royalty to the variety of magical creatures: Beautiful women with horns and cloven feet, princes with tails and kissable lips, and humans who find themselves immersed in the Fae games, which could very well result in life or death.

I could choose many of her books, but Wicked King is my absolute favorite. Yes, it’s the last book in a trilogy, and sometimes that is a letdown. Not true here. There is tension, passion, intrigue, and nonstop action all the way to the end, which I won’t spoil for you, but I will say left me completely satisfied.

By Holly Black,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wicked King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The enchanting and bloodthirsty sequel to the New York Times bestselling novel The Cruel Prince.
You must be strong enough to strike and strike and strike again without tiring.
The first lesson is to make yourself strong.
After the jaw-dropping revelation that Oak is the heir to Faerie, Jude must keep her brother safe. To do so, she has bound the wicked king, Cardan, to her, and made herself the power behind the throne. Navigating the constantly shifting political alliances of Faerie would be difficult enough if Cardan were easy to control. But he does everything in his power to…

The Peace War

By Vernor Vinge,

Book cover of The Peace War

Laurence E Dahners Author Of Quicker

From the list on “what if” in science fiction.

Who am I?

As a surgeon and scientist who has had a lifelong interest in science and science fiction, I can’t help being fascinated by “what if” questions, especially as regards the impact of inventions on human society and the world. As an optimist, I tend to enjoy exploring inventions that benefit mankind much more than those that bring on an apocalypse.

Laurence's book list on “what if” in science fiction

Why did Laurence love this book?

This riveting tale asks “what if” a future technology allows the “bobbling” of spherical volumes of invincible space within which time is stopped. In a misguided effort to stop a war, the Peace Authority bobbles military groups and war-making machinery all around the world with unexpected consequences. 

But, for me, the stars of the show are the bobbles themselves, especially when they unexpectedly start popping, releasing people, war machines, and exploding bombs that have been in stasis for decades. 

By Vernor Vinge,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Peace War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First in a quintessential hard-science fiction adventure, Hugo Award-winning author Vernor Vinge's The Peace War follows a scientist determined to put an end to the militarization of his greatest invention--and of the government behind it.

The Peace Authority conquered the world with a weapon that never should have been a weapon--the "bobble," a spherical force-field impenetrable by any force known to mankind. Encasing governmental installations and military bases in bobbles, the Authority becomes virtually omnipotent.

But they've never caught Paul Hoehler, the maverick who invented the technology, and who has been working quietly for decades to develop a way to…

7 Rules of Power

By Jeffrey Pfeffer,

Book cover of 7 Rules of Power: Surprising--But True--Advice on How to Get Things Done and Advance Your Career

Deborah Shlian Author Of Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Physician Leaders

From the list on women leaders.

Who am I?

I am a physician with over 30 years as a healthcare executive recruiter and consultant. I have been responsible for launching the careers of future leaders—many are women who have defied the odds to become senior executives In every area of healthcare. Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Physician Leaders is actually the third iteration of a project that has followed the careers of women physician leaders over almost 3 decades. In the version, 33 women share the lessons they have learned along the way.

Deborah's book list on women leaders

Why did Deborah love this book?

I like this book because it provides proven strategies that have helped individuals advance their careers within various organizations. The examples the authors use are good guides for readers who need to learn how to leverage their power to accomplish career goals. I think this is a good book not only for entry-level workers, but seasoned executives as well.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 7 Rules of Power as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If you want to 'change lives, change organizations, change the world,' the Stanford business school's motto, you need power.

Is power the last dirty secret or the secret to success? Both. While power carries some negative connotations, power is a tool that can be used for good or evil. Don't blame the tool for how some people used it.

Rooted firmly in social science research, Pfeffer's 7 rules provide a manual for increasing your ability to get things done, including increasing the positive effects of your job performance.

With 7 Rules of Power, you'll learn, through both numerous examples as…

Power in Organizations

By Jeffrey Pfeffer,

Book cover of Power in Organizations

Roberta Chinsky Matuson Author Of Can We Talk?: Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work

From the list on maximizing your talent.

Who am I?

I’m one of the world’s leading experts on the maximization of talent, who is the author of six books on leadership and talent. I’m also a LinkedIn Top Voice in Leadership and Workplace, and one of the few people who was a guest on The O’Reilly Factor, with Bill O’Reilly, who left the show unscathed.

Roberta's book list on maximizing your talent

Why did Roberta love this book?

Power in Organizations changed my life. This book was required reading for me in grad school. What I learned from this book is that there is office politics in every organization and that the company I was working for had way more politics than any one person should have to handle. Upon completion of this book (and grad school), I quit my job and traveled around the world, where it took me a year to recover from the politics that was going on all around me. I wish I read this book before I entered management. I’m sure I would have been better prepared to manage the people above me, as well as my peers.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Power in Organizations as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book aims to synthesize current knowledge on power in organizations, and to develop a reasonably consistent theoretical perspective that can guide analysis and understanding of power phenomena. Throughout the book, hypotheses are proposed which have no empirical evidence to support them.

The perspective of this book is basically sociological. Power is seen as deriving from the division of labor that occurs as task specialization is implemented in organizations. When the overall tasks of the organization are divided into smaller parts, it is inevitable that some tasks will come to be more important than others. Those persons and those units…

Empires in World History

By Jane Burbank, Frederick Cooper,

Book cover of Empires in World History: Power and the Politics of Difference

April Biccum Author Of Global Citizenship and the Legacy of Empire: Marketing Development

From the list on empire as a particular kind of politics.

Who am I?

My interest in empires began as an undergraduate taking a course in International Political Economy. We were asked to view poverty and ‘underdevelopment’ in the historical perspective of European colonization but asked to see development economics as something entirely new. I couldn’t see the difference. I have since become fascinated not just by the world historical recurrence of this particular type of politics, but also why our understanding of it is occluded through repeated framing of global politics via the nation state. Unless we understand this global history we are at risk of misdiagnosing contemporary problems, and repeating historical patterns. Moreover, we can’t build a world that is truly non-imperial without sustained comparative study.

April's book list on empire as a particular kind of politics

Why did April love this book?

This book is part of a new genre of global history and provides enough of a historical sweep to acquaint the non-historian with a view that is not dominated by the nation state as its unit of analysis and Europe as the apex of world historical change. 

It’s an accessible work that fills in a lot of gaps in world historical knowledge that often exist because our myths of historical change (like modernization or development) keep us focused on ‘the west’ and ‘the state’.

From my point of view, it’s no longer politically acceptable to be ignorant of history in India, Africa, or the Middle East, by way of example, before European colonization. Viewed through the lens of empire, world history looks very different, and this book shows how doing so is a myth-busting exercise.

By Jane Burbank, Frederick Cooper,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Empires in World History as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Empires--vast states of territories and peoples united by force and ambition--have dominated the political landscape for more than two millennia. Empires in World History departs from conventional European and nation-centered perspectives to take a remarkable look at how empires relied on diversity to shape the global order. Beginning with ancient Rome and China and continuing across Asia, Europe, the Americas, and Africa, Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper examine empires' conquests, rivalries, and strategies of domination--with an emphasis on how empires accommodated, created, and manipulated differences among populations. Burbank and Cooper examine Rome and China from the third century BCE, empires…

The March of Folly

By Barbara W. Tuchman,

Book cover of The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam

Aparna Pande Author Of From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's Foreign Policy

From the list on history and foreign policy.

Who am I?

Foreign policy has been my passion since I was a child. My father was a civil servant and growing up in India, I always wanted to follow in his footsteps but instead of working on domestic issues, I wanted to work on international affairs. History was another passion of mine and I wanted to combine the two of them in such a way that I studied the past in order to explain the present and help the future. This passion led me to enroll in a PhD program in the United States and then work at a think tank. I have written three books, two of which focus exclusively on foreign policy. I hope you enjoy reading the books I have listed and read my book.  

Aparna's book list on history and foreign policy

Why did Aparna love this book?

This classic, from the 1980s, is a must-read for history buffs and those interested in international affairs. The author cites examples from ancient Greece to the 1970s, to demonstrate how empires and nations often make decisions that are detrimental to their long-term interests. I love this book for its writing style which is captivating, for the breath of its examples which range from ancient times to modern-day and for the recommendations this book gives not just for political leaders but those in business and other walks of life.

By Barbara W. Tuchman,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The March of Folly as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Barbara W. Tuchman, author of the World War I masterpiece The Guns of August, grapples with her boldest subject: the pervasive presence, through the ages, of failure, mismanagement, and delusion in government.
Drawing on a comprehensive array of examples, from Montezuma’s senseless surrender of his empire in 1520 to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, Barbara W. Tuchman defines folly as the pursuit by government of policies contrary to their own interests, despite the availability of feasible alternatives. In brilliant detail, Tuchman illuminates four decisive turning points in history that illustrate the very heights of folly: the Trojan…