I saw one of my students carrying around a copy of Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power. The book, a national bestseller, is essentially an updated version of Machiavelli's The Prince. Greene, who has a degree in classical studies, makes short chapters out of each "law." Here are some sample laws:
3 Conceal your intentions
9 Win through your actions, never through argument
17 Keep others in suspended terror: Cultivate an air of unpredictability (this one was quoted on Studio 60 to make fun of it)
38 Think as you like, but behave like others
Each chapter is really a series of anecdotes from various other books, including the Prince and the Art of War, illustrating the law and also its "reversal" (since, in certain situations, the law would be counter-indicated). On the margins of the book are red quotations from famous people in literature and history -- so it has a kind of scholarly backing that could be avoided by the incurious, but is there to attract people who like to see the background, or think ancient things are more true than modern ones.
I can of course see that the book is cynical little cash cow, simplifying complex stuff to make money, but I do admire to a certain extent someone using history and literature to make a practical point, rather than a theoretical one.
I was considering incorporating this book into a composition course, or even building a composition course around this book, as it sneaks in ideas from history in a form my students might be interested in -- they are, after all, very much the target audience -- and it is VERY debatable.
I wanted to get some reactions to the book from people around here -- any thoughts on this? Have you read it, or do you know about it?