The best books about power

4 authors have picked their favorite books about power and why they recommend each book.

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Power in Organizations

By Jeffrey Pfeffer,

Book cover of Power in Organizations

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.

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.

I wrote...

Can We Talk?: Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson,

Book cover of Can We Talk?: Seven Principles for Managing Difficult Conversations at Work

What is my book about?

Having difficult conversations at work is a necessary discomfort. Instead of avoiding these conversations with our boss, colleagues, or direct reports, you need a strategy that won't leave you feeling like you were being talked at or ignored.

The key to solving this problem starts and ends with changing the conversation. Recognizing that it takes two people to engage in meaningful conversation, Can We Talk? outlines what each contributor needs to do to achieve the best possible result. Illustrated with scenarios from everyday work situations, the author offers guidance on how to create the right conditions for a meaningful discussion as well as defining the seven key principles (confidence, clarity, compassion, curiosity, compromise, credibility, and courage) that enable both parties to gain a deeper understanding of what the other person may be thinking and establish their point of view more clearly.

Rule by Secrecy

By Jim Marrs,

Book cover of Rule by Secrecy: The Hidden History That Connects the Trilateral Commission, the Freemasons, and the Great Pyramids

Rule by Secrecy was an eye-opening, non-fiction book that gave me a greater understanding of the world we live in. The historical background it taught me about humanity and how it was developed changed my whole perspective on the world and how I approached it. I found the material fascinating.

Who am I?

Being a worldwide entertainer, I lived a lot of life in a short period of time. It takes something unusual and of high quality to really get my attention or make an impact on me. These books fit that bill. They kept me entertained & interested in the knowledge they possess. I strive to seek information that isn’t typically presented in everyday life. I hope these books & their subjects will have a huge impact on you as well.

I wrote...

Food As A Prescription: A Handbook for Those Currently On or Prescribed a Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free and/or Dairy-Free Diet

By Anthony Lo Cascio, Staci Lo Cascio,

Book cover of Food As A Prescription: A Handbook for Those Currently On or Prescribed a Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free and/or Dairy-Free Diet

What is my book about?

Have you or a loved one been prescribed a dietary change because of autoimmune issues, skin irritations, or digestive complications? Or, do you simply want to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle? Making changes in something as fundamental and important as your diet can be overwhelming, but it does not have to be!

Food As A Prescription is the perfect guide for those who need to change their diet for a healthier life! This internationally best-selling handbook will enlighten, empower, and support you on your gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, and/or dairy-free journey. Filled with tips, tricks, recipes, and recommendations, Food As A Prescription, will help you focus on what you’ll gain in life and help you eliminate the stress of living life with modern-day food allergies.

Silencing the Past

By Michel-Rolph Trouillot,

Book cover of Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History

Why are some stories remembered or silenced? How does power influence the production of history? Is the past really past, and what is history anyway? First published in 1995, this weaving of personal narrative with stories of slave rebellion, black Jacobins in the Haitian Revolution, and the ‘discovery’ of the Americas was an instant classic. There’s a reason so many teachers use this book in their courses – no other text tackles the questions of silence and sources in such an accessible and succinct way. It totally shaped my understanding of how history works and I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I’m an archivist. Thanks Michel-Rolph Trouillot! 

Who am I?

As a reader, I want to be thrown into the heady world of revolution, to learn how everyday people made history, to see what they saw and feel what they felt. And I want a book that challenges mainstream narratives of the past. Radical history does this through gripping storytelling and revealing hidden histories of power. As a writer that tries to shine a light on lesser-known aspects of New Zealand’s past, these five books are both my ‘how-to’ and inspiration. I love to share the stories of people who are often left out of history but nonetheless made it. And being an archivist means questions of power and memory are always lurking.

I wrote...

Dead Letters: Censorship and Subversion in New Zealand 1914-1920

By Jared Davidson,

Book cover of Dead Letters: Censorship and Subversion in New Zealand 1914-1920

What is my book about?

In his excellent book, Dead Letters, archivist, and historian Jared Davidson introduces us to a range of extraordinary characters whose stories and struggles challenge the nationalist narratives of the war. These historical characters, as introduced in the blurb of the book, include ‘a feisty German-born socialist, a Norwegian watersider, an affectionate Irish nationalist, a love-struck miner, an aspiring Maxim Gorky, a cross-dressing doctor, a nameless rural labourer, an avid letter writer with a hatred of war, and two mystical dairy farmers with a poetic bent.’ What connects this cast of characters is that their activities, their letters, and in some cases their activism against the war, was of interest to the New Zealand state. The letters they wrote, to loved ones, friends, and comrades, were never delivered, but were intercepted by the state. 

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

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.

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.

I wrote...

Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Physician Leaders

By Deborah Shlian,

Book cover of Lessons Learned: Stories from Women Physician Leaders

What is my book about?

33 exceptional women physicians who have defied the odds share their personal and compelling stories—including obstacles and challenges faced in balancing work, family, and personal life—as their career paths take them from clinical medicine to leadership within government, academia, hospitals, provider groups, managed care, pharma, consulting and entrepreneurial ventures. The lessons they learned are relevant not only to women and are not applicable just to healthcare—they are universal.

The 48 Laws of Power

By Robert Greene,

Book cover of The 48 Laws of Power

A good coaching conversation should generate not only insight (about yourself, about the situation at hand, about the world) but also action. If nothing changes, well, what’s the point? This is the best of Greene’s books, and it combines a ridiculously wide range of scholarship with some realpolitik lessons on how stuff gets done. When you feel there’s only one way forward, this book will show you the other 47 you might consider.

Who am I?

Coaching is a wonderful technology that can help people be a force for change… and is often wrapped up in mystic and woo-woo and privilege that makes it inaccessible and/or unattractive to too many. I want being more coach-like—by which I mean staying curious a little longer, and rushing to action and advice-giving—to be an everyday way of being with one another. Driven by this, I’ve written the best-selling book on coaching this century (The Coaching Habit) and have created training that’s been used around the world by more than a quarter of a million people. I’m on a mission to unweird coaching.

I wrote...

The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

By Michael Bungay Stanier,

Book cover of The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever

What is my book about?

The Coaching Habit is this century’s best-selling book on coaching, with over a million copies sold and thousands of five-star reviews online. It makes being more coach-like—staying curious a little bit longer, rushing to action, and advice-giving a little more slowly—something anyone can do, even (especially) if you're skeptical about all this “soft skills” stuff.

Based on seven essential questions and the tools to make using them an everyday habit, The Coaching Habit is helpful for managers, leaders, parents, children, and anyone who interacts with other human beings.

Empires in World History

By Frederick Cooper, Jane Burbank,

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

Empires or nation-states? Which do you prefer? Most of us have assumed that the endpoint in world history is the nation-state. Empires are somehow relics of the past, you know, ‘bad’ things associated with the Europeans in the 19th century or only something the Americans would dare to do today. In this tour de force, Jane Burbank and Frederick Cooper demolish this idea by showing us that empires have always been and are still a part of our world. Burbank and Cooper don’t start their story in ‘1492’ with the usual European suspects; they open with the Romans and the Chinese in the 3nd century BC and then move forward to the present. It’s an eye-opening read as the authors invite us to think of what makes empires tick, whether then or now, in Europe, Asia, the Middle East or the Americas. One can disagree with their argument…

Who am I?

Christopher Goscha first fell in love with world history while reading Fernand Braudel's La Méditerranée in graduate school in France and doing research for his PhD in Southeast Asia. He is currently a professor of international relations at the Université du Québec à Montréal where he teaches world history and publishes on the wars for Vietnam in a global context. He does this most recently in his forthcoming book entitled The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First Vietnam War.

I wrote...

The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First War for Vietnam

By Christopher Goscha,

Book cover of The Road to Dien Bien Phu: A History of the First War for Vietnam

What is my book about?

On May 7, 1954, when the bullets stopped and the air stilled in Dien Bien Phu, there was no doubt that Vietnam could fight a mighty colonial power and win. After nearly a decade of struggle, a nation forged in the crucible of war had achieved a victory undreamed of by any other national liberation movement. The Road to Dien Bien Phu tells the story of how Ho Chi Minh turned a ragtag guerilla army into a modern fighting force capable of bringing down the formidable French army.

Panoramic in scope, The Road to Dien Bien Phu transforms our understanding of this conflict and the one the United States would later enter, and sheds new light on communist warfare and statecraft in East Asia today.


By Isabel Wilkerson,

Book cover of Caste

This book challenges all of us to think about race in America and confront how racism has shaped the United States and had an impact globally. It also uses personal anecdotes to emphasize the academic discussion. I find this book particularly compelling as we all confront racism, sexism, and intersectionality. It made me question my views and how I would have responded in a particular situation. It also gave me a better understanding of the author’s experiences as a Black woman facing the world, and how those experiences are different from mine.

Who am I?

I grew up in an Italian-American, Catholic household. Early in life, I was told I couldn’t be an altar boy. When I asked my mom why, she told me that girls weren’t altar boys…that seemed ridiculous to me and it started me on a lifelong journey of advocating for the rights of women and girls. I have built a career out of pushing for better laws and policies to provide women the same opportunities and resources as men. I’ve served as Chief of Staff to two U.S. Senators on Capitol Hill, General Counsel in the Executive Branch, and in senior leadership in the non-profit sector.

I wrote...

Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls

By Stephenie Foster,

Book cover of Take Action: Fighting for Women & Girls

What is my book about?

Take Action: Fighting for Women and Girls is a well-sourced and important toolkit covering advocacy & activism, with specific information about four issues related to girls, women, and gender equality—the power and importance of education, expanding economic opportunities, eliminating gender-based violence and participating in politics and public life. Filled with loads of tangible resources—such as specific questions to ask, ideas for identifying decision makers, influencers, and organizations that can help, books and movies that inspire action…

Would-be activists will start their work, stay focused and goal-oriented and make positive change in the world, while finding themselves referring back to this guide again and again.

The March of Folly

By Barbara Wertheim Tuchman,

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

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.

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.  

I wrote...

From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's Foreign Policy

By Aparna Pande,

Book cover of From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India's Foreign Policy

What is my book about?

Foreign policy doesn't exist in a cultural vacuum. It's shaped by national experience and a country’s view of itself. In the case of India, the foreign policy paradigm is as deeply informed by its civilizational heritage as it is by modern ideas about national interest. Even policies that appear to be new contain echoes of themes that recur in history. The two concepts that come and go most frequently in Indian engagement with the world from Chanakya in the third century BCE to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2020 are autonomy and independence in decision making. 

Aparna Pande’s From Chanakya to Modi explores the deeper civilizational roots of Indian foreign policy. It identifies the neural roots of India’s engagement with the world outside. An essential addition to every thinking person's library.

States and Power in Africa

By Jeffrey Herbst,

Book cover of States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control

Jeffrey Herbst also looks at the past and present of the African continent, and ecology and demography also come into his story. But his main subject is the specific nature of power and state in Sub–Saharan Africa and the inter-relations between the two. He traces this defining aspect of Africa’s reality through several centuries and presents it within the global context by drawing in experiences of self-organisation of power and state in other continents and regions. Continuity is for him the key to understanding the precolonial, colonial, and postcolonial past and even the future of the continent.

Who am I?

I am a South African historian of Russian origin, who has studied and taught African history since the late 1960s. For us, the Russians, Africa was then an alluring terra incognita of wild nature, adventure, human suffering, struggles, and tenacity. I have studied how Africa became what it is for 50 years and lived in it for 30. I have learnt a lot about it, but for me it is still a land of human suffering, struggles and tenacity, wild nature, and adventure, and it is still alluring. 

I wrote...

The Hidden Thread. Russia and South Africa in the Soviet Era

By Irina Filatova,

Book cover of The Hidden Thread. Russia and South Africa in the Soviet Era

What is my book about?

For most of the 20th century Russia and South Africa seemed two worlds completely and entirely apart, and yet relations between them were surprisingly intense and diverse. During the Anglo–Boer War Russian volunteers, doctors and nurses came to South Africa to fight for the Boers. After the Bolshevik revolution South African Communists joined the Communist International, an international organisation, which was centred in Moscow and defined the policy of its member parties.

During the Second World War South Africans went to great lengths to assist the Soviet struggle against Nazi Germany, sending money, food, clothes, and medicines to Russia. But it was the Soviet Union’s multifaceted and partially hidden support for the struggle against apartheid, that left an indelible imprint not only on the relations between the two countries, but on what South Africa’s ruling party and the country itself are today.

The Formation of a Persecuting Society

By Robert I. Moore,

Book cover of The Formation of a Persecuting Society: Authority and Deviance in Western Europe 950-1250

Robert Moore’s history of the growth of institutional persecution in the tenth through thirteen centuries is a classic in medieval history. Moore demonstrates that the oppression of various “undesirables” in society, such as Jews, heretics, lepers, and homosexuals, fits into a pattern of state-building. Particular groups were not targeted for harassment, expropriation, segregation, expulsion, and mass execution because they caused a real threat. On the contrary, they were defenseless, and by playing on common people’s ignorance and stirring up fear, the centralized powers of state and church were able to scapegoat those groups as polluted, deviant, and dangerous.

Having established the powerless as the “other,” the ruling elite were then able to bring them down and appear to be the saviors of the Christian social order. This book does not focus on witches per se, but it explains how in the central Middle Ages governing mechanisms and bureaucratic procedures created…

Who am I?

I’m a scholar, a teacher, and an activist for gender equity. I earned my Ph.D. in medieval history at the University of Virginia. Since then, I've taught at small liberal arts colleges where I’ve had the flexibility to diversify the courses I teach. Among those courses are ancient, medieval, and Islamic history, the History of Magic and Witchcraft, Latin, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. My current gig is at Pacific University Oregon where I established a Gender and Sexuality Studies minor, founded the Center for Gender Equity, and developed an exchange program with Lady Doak college in India for exploring issues regarding gender. I've recently published two books on the intersection of magic, gender, and ritual.

I wrote...

Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000

By Martha Rampton,

Book cover of Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000

What is my book about?

Trafficking with Demons: Magic, Ritual, and Gender from Late Antiquity to 1000 explores how magic was perceived, practiced, and prohibited in western Europe throughout the first Christian millennium. During this period, magic was thought to play a natural and rational role in the functioning of the cosmos. Christian theologians claimed that the pagan gods and goddesses were in fact evil demons, and the essence of magic was transactional dealings with those demons. I examine the competition between pagans and Christians as the new religion spread across Europe, and I chronicle the ways in which rituals facilitated conversion. My book challenges long-held views that women monopolized ritual magic during this period. Women had specialties including love magic, healing rites, birth magic, and several nocturnal and chthonic rites. 

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