cover image The Laws of Human Nature

The Laws of Human Nature

Robert Greene. Viking, $30 (624p) ISBN 978-0-525-42814-5

In this detailed and expansive guide, Greene (Mastery) seeks to immerse his audience in “all aspects of human behavior,” as represented by 18 laws created by Greene. He claims that studying these laws will transform the reader into a “calmer and more strategic observer,” immune to “emotional drama.” Those are lofty promises, but even skeptics will become believers after diving into Greene’s well-organized text. In each chapter, he describes the benefits of confronting and overcoming a different form of human fallibility. Overcoming the “law of irrationality,” for instance, leads to the ability to “open your mind to what is really happening, as opposed to what you are feeling.” For historical perspective, he highlights relevant famous figures: Howard Hughes represents the pitfalls of compulsive behavior, and Anton Chekhov embodies the benefits of overcoming self-sabotage. Greene also quotes a number of literary greats along the way, including Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Gore Vidal, whose aphorism “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little” is applied, not surprisingly, to the chapter on envy. Throughout, Greene’s overriding message is to “step back” from the “immediate rush of events” in order to gain greater insight into one’s experiences and circumstances. Greene’s thoughtful examination of self and society will, for the committed reader, deliver a refreshing and revitalizing perspective. Agent: Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management. (Oct.)