Picks and Pans Review: The 48 Laws of Power

updated 09/21/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/21/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Robert Greene and Joost Elffers

You can't be too rich or too thin—or have too much power. That's the premise of this beguiling self-help manual for control freaks, which explains how to win in love and at work by waging what the authors call "civilized warfare." Take the working lunch, for example: You readily accepted a rival's invitation to meet at that downtown bistro. Oops. That's a violation of Law 8: Make Other People Come to You. Not to worry—you can regain the upper hand with Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary. "Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less," we are instructed.

Former Esquire editor Greene and noted designer Elffers (Play With Your Food) have done their research: This literate, 430-page tome is chockablock with history, drawing on everyone from P.T. Barnum to Casanova. Some exemplars are obvious (Andy Warhol and Law 4); many more are fascinating (Thomas Edison was an ace at Law 6: Court Attention at All Cost). Read this book over a homemade sandwich. It'll taste pretty good when you reach Law 40: Despise the Free Lunch. In the world of power, nothing comes cheap. (Viking, $24.95)

Bottom Line: A wry primer for people who desperately want to be on top

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