What Order Should I Read the Robert Greene Books?

Robert Greene is an author who has garnered a lot of controversy for different reasons depending on the groups. His books deep diving topics like power, charisma, seduction, and leadership are either lauded or reviled – once again, based on who you talk to. Even the general look at the books varies within different demographic groups.

Some say the advice in contradictory, wrapped in stories that oviscape any actionable information, while others laud the books as the key to mastering their lives, their business, and their relationship with others to build the lives they want. Some yell charlatan, others yell genius, and these books were infamously banned from many prison libraries.

They are an impressive and in-depth read onto major topics that affect us in life whether we like it or not, and potentially hold the key to mastery over ourselves, and others, in building that dream life, business, and otherwise increase power and control in life. These are considered very powerful books by many, and for those who aren’t familiar with them, here is your introduction into reading Robert Greene books in the best order.

Let’s begin!

author robert greene
Author Robert Greene – Photo By Author Robert Greene – https://www.flickr.com/photos/88088424@N08/8052329908/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22010328

The “BIG” Robert Greene Books in Question

While Robert Greene has wrote many books worth reading, when it comes to the “core books” that are about mastery, seduction, power, etc, there are a small number that are considered the core of his teachings. When people want to know which Robert Greene books to read first, these 5 core books should be the ones that are focused on.

We’re not focusing on later works or books that play off the deep dive early books with “more digestible” versions or supplemental works later. When someone wants to get to the heart of what Robert Greene has to teach, it’s the core books that are being talked about. These are dense reads and I understand the instinct to read the abridged “concise” versions, and they are easier (still not easy) reads, but I do feel like someone wanting the full impact or meaning is going to miss out going that direction.

Those core Robert Greene books are:

These are the core books that are often considered the core of Robert Greene’s teachings. While some would argue whether or not The 18 Laws of Human Nature belong with the other four, they were clearly meant to be part of the canon and I believe from reading them they have that core value that make them a part of the group, even though it is admittedly even more high-minded or philosophical than usual compared to the others on the list.

Still, the people who argue this are definitely on the minority as most see all of Greene’s trademark writing and in-depth analysis in this book and it fits in quite well stylistically with the other books.

Robert Greene Books on Bedspread
As you can see, I’m a fan. Here are four of the books, two others are leant out, but even after all the moves and travels, these are some of the few books that that have survived all the moves 🙂

What Robert Greene Book Should I Read First?

While there is an argument that can be made for Mastery being the first in the list, The 48 Laws of Power was the book that broke Greene into the mainstream and it really is the first Robert Greene book that should be read by newcomers. This is the book that skyrocketed Robert Greene into the stratosphere and many (including myself) are that it’s his best book.

Some would argue that later books do an important job of setting more foundational work, and that books like Mastery and The 18 Laws of Human Nature focus more on broad foundational work that is crucial for getting the most out of 48 Laws. That being said, I would argue that the 48 Laws book is the crucial first step because reading this not only exposes you to the best and most important book first, but this also creates the lens through which you can see other books.

Many people who aren’t as familiar with the books argue that you go with mastery/nature books first to get the right foundation, but the lens can work the other way, as well. By reading Mastery and Human Nature after first getting familiar with the 48 Laws means that you can pick up the ideas of how mastery works and how human nature works with those laws in mind.

The lens can work both ways, and in my opinion, either one can be valid. A lot depends on a person’s temperament, where they are in life, what their career or current power situation is, but there are a couple of “proper” orders for Robert Greene books and we’ll go over both of them and who they’re best for.

Two main lines of thought on what the best order for Robert Greene books go as follows:

So the best order that most agree upon (although books can be adjusted based on where the person is in life).

  • The 48 Laws of Power
  • Mastery
  • The 18 Laws of Human Nature
  • The 33 Strategies of War (I personally love this one better than Nature, but the foundation Nature lays is more valuable for most people overall and belongs higher up on the list as far as ideal first time ordering)
  • The Art of Seduction

The majority of people will generally look at this as the right order, and then throw on The 50th Law at the end, which actually I would agree with. That is the order that starts with the most famous of the books and the one that starts with the strongest book that started it all, goes straight into the art of mastery, flows into using mastery and an understanding of the laws to view the laws of human nature, then finishes off with two doses of very different power strategies.

This is a great order and the one that I find is best for the majority of readers.

For heavy philosophically-minded individuals, for those who really, really need to have all the foundational and philosophical points in place before slowly advancing, there is an alternative order that can make a lot of sense. I’m close to this group so I get how this order could work, but I estimate probably less than 10% of all readers would do clearly better reading Robert Greene books in this order versus the more traditional one, but if you think that might be you consider:

  • The 18 Laws of Human Nature
  • Mastery
  • The 48 Laws of Power
  • The 33 Strategies of War
  • The Art of Seduction

There’s also an argument here in the second list for putting The 50th Law before The Art of Seduction. For a certain type of orderly mind, that will make a lot of sense and it will work well.

What About The 50th Law?

The 50th Law was a very interesting book that Greene released in 2009 shortly after The Art of Seduction, and it’s worth the read, it’s just a very different book so it’s not included in the core book list. I would recommend making it book #6 on your Robert Greene reading list. This book is part Robert Greene deep dive study of business law and power, and part autobiography of famed rapper 50 Cent.

Greene’s book The 48 Laws of Power have long been a huge hit in the hip hop world, and 50 Cent was one of many top hip hop artists who have openly praised that book and obsessed over it. Because of his he reached out to Greene and a mutual respect became friendship and this project was born out of it.

Wikipedia actually does a half way decent job summarizing the story behind this book, and it’s a great read, but I feel you get the most out of it once you’ve read Greene’s other works.

Like I said, great read, but it’s not core canon of Greene’s books and it’s best read after the other main ones.

Robert Greene Reading List, In Conclusion

There are many people who find one of Greene’s books out of order, have a great experience, and then find the others. Honestly, if the books couldn’t stand alone they wouldn’t have had the impact they’ve had. Each of Greene’s books bring a lot of knowledge and learning, and there’s nothing wrong with reading them in any order the piques your interest, but there’s a reason why there are generally two main ordered lists of how to read these books.

I tend to fall on the more philosophical side where I want foundation to maximize my action as opposed to needing immediate action to verify foundtion. Because of that I think the best order is:

  • The 48 Laws of Power
  • Mastery
  • The 18 Laws of Human Nature
  • The 33 Strategies of War
  • The Art of Seduction
  • The 50th Law (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Re-read The 48 Laws of Power

This dives you right into the best of Greene’s works, delves into foundation and mastery right after, then brings you back around with your newly acquired skills to re-read and re-learn the original laws at a higher level.

This order did wonders for me, and it’s the one I recommend most readers take, though I understand those who want the full base foundation first before diving in. That’s the best order for reading Robert Greene books to get the most out of them, and I wish you well on your upcoming journey of discovery. These are some dense reads, but the payoff is worth the time and effort invested many times over.

Other Articles You May Enjoy