Machiavelli Recommended Reading

Here’s a bit of a select bibliography for Machiavelli. I’ve tried to keep it short, to only the books that I used the most or had the most impact on my work or feel would be the most interest to you, the reader of Machiavelli.


Machiavelli in HellMachiavelli in Hell, Sebastian de Grazia. De Grazia’s book was really the starter pistol for Machiavelli. A wonderful intellectual biography, de Grazia goes into detail about Machiavelli’s life as well as his philosophy, seamlessly working an analysis of The Prince into Machiavelli’s life story. He writes with such affection and sympathy for his subject, it opened up my mind to the possibilities of creating something myself.

The Life of Niccolò Machiavelli, Roberto Ridolfi. The definitive Machiavelli biography, in my opinion. Sadly out of print, Ridolfi writes authoritatively and and clearly, much in the way his subject does. He has the ability, rare among academics, to write with clarity and concision. He is wonderfully opinionated, but his occasional tear downs of his academic rivals never descend to the level of pettiness, and he almost always wins the reader over in the end.

Discourses on Livy, Niccolò Machiavelli, translated by Harvey C. Mansfield. Mansfield’s translation is excellent. He keeps his prose spare and without flourishes, as is appropriate for Machiavelli. His introduction to the text offers some excellent guides to landmarks in the text that the reader should visit, and his choices of passages to highlight are wise and correct. Mansfield’s later writings (on modern society) are unfortunate, but he’s at his best here.

Deep Cuts

Machiavelli and His Friends: Their Personal Correspondence. This book of wonderful correspondence between Machiavelli and his friends, coworkers, and family formed the basis for many of the events I depict in the book. It’s probably more than you need unless you’re doing a particularly deep dive into Machiavelli, but if you have access to a library that has a copy, Machiavelli’s letters are well worth your time. He is witty, profane, and insightful, and these letters show a human side to him that I tried to capture in my book.

A Florentine Diary from 1450 to 1516, Luca Landucci. Another out of print book, if you have access to a good library network, look for it.

Florence the Golden AgeFlorence, the Golden Age 1138–1737, Gene Brucker. This is a wonderful coffee table book with lots of images of everyday life in Florence in the late middle ages and the Renaissance. Brucker has also pulled together some wonderful visuals from tax rolls and census data (such as existed) to give the reader an idea of what the population makeup, the types of jobs people had, and how much things cost. The illustrations are well chosen to give a good idea of what life was like in Florence in the Renaissance.

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