So I have a project going to read a lot of the classic works of literature, and this book is definitely one on that list. I spent my December reading it and here is my short review!
What type of book is it?
Originally written in the 16th century, it’s regarded as the worlds first true leadership book. It’s mainly written as a very direct and straight forward instructional manual on how to be a good prince and how a prince should deal with the most important matters that can occur during and before his rule. Much of the advice is transferable to the modern day world of leadership, business, politics and personal strategy.
Who should read it?
Everybody who has aspirations to attain, keep or advance a high political position, business leaders, and other people interested in high jobs or careers. The average man or woman could still find the book interesting but the application to daily life would be quite limited.
What’s bad about it?
I found the grammar very arduous and it was not an easy read. To grasp the subject fully and understand what Machiavelli was truly meaning, it took concentration and effort. He has a way of brilliantly condensing deep meanings and complicated topics down in a few sentences. It’s not a book I found suited for relaxation reading.
What’s good about it?
He often gives historical examples to the advice offered. For a quote-loving person like me, Machiavelli offers a few good ones through out the book:
“Be it known then, that there are two ways of striving for mastery, one in accordance with the laws, the other by force; the first of which is proper to men, the second to beasts. But since the first method is often ineffectual, it becomes necessary to resort to the second. A prince should, therefore, understand how to use well both the man and the beast.”
“Everyone I know, will admit that it would be most laudable for a prince to be endowed with all of the above qualities that are reckoned good; but since it is impossible for him to possess or constantly practice them all – the condition of human nature not allowing it – he must be discreet enough to know how to avoid the infamy of those vices that would deprive him of his government, and, if possible, be on his guard also against those which might not deprive him of it; though if he can not wholly restrain himself, he may with less scruple indulge in the latter.”
“As to the mental training of which we have spoken, a prince should read histories and in these should note the action of great men, observe how they conducted themselves in their wars and examine the causes of their victories and defeats, so as to avoid the latter and imitate them in the former. And above all, he should, as many great men of past ages have done, assume for his models those persons who before his time have been renowned and celebrated, whose deeds and achievements he should constantly keep in mind, as it is related that Alexander the great sought to resemble Achilles, Caesar Alexander and Scipio Cyrus.”
A good but strenuous read! It contains a lot of great wisdom if you have the patience to take your time and fully understand the long sentences.