Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’ and 5 Other Unexpected Political Interpretations of Famous Books

Saul Alinsky, the community organizer and author of the book Rules for Radicals, was born on this day in 1909. If you haven’t been involved in political activism, you might recognize Alinsky’s name from the 2008 presidential election, when he was cited over and over as an influence on Barack Obama. A year later, it was reported that leaders in the Tea Party had also started using Alinsky’s book for their own organizational needs. Probably not what the author had in mind. But Alinsky’s isn’t the only book that has been used for political purposes they may not have been intended to serve; here are five others that have been interpreted in ways that range from inspiring to horrifying.


The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli

The Italian diplomat and political theorist’s 16th-century treatise has been used by everyone from politicians to business leaders as a guide to gaining and keeping power. So it should come as no surprise that infamous mob bosses Carlo Gambino and John Gotti were also students of Machiavelli’s famous work. If you’re going to run a crime family, it couldn’t hurt to have the philosophical grounding to do it.