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The original and bestselling leadership book!

Sun Tzu's ideas on survival and success have been read acrossthe world for centuries. Today they can still be applied tobusiness, politics and life. The Art of War demonstrates howto win without conflict. It shows that with enough intelligence andplanning, it is possible to conquer with a minimum of force andlittle destruction.

This luxury hardback edition includes an introduction by TomButler-Bowdon that draws out lessons for managers and businessleaders, and highlights the power of Sun Tzu's thinking in everydaylife.

Topics: War, Military, Leadership, Chinese History, Zen, Success, Diplomacy, Professional Development, Inspirational, Translated, Ancient Times, China, Guides, and Essays

Published: Wiley on Jan 1, 1910
ISBN: 9780857081025
List price: $17.95
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All the guff about it being the greatest management text in history is of course utter nonsense, but it's an interesting read. I preferred and would recommend the Hagakure if you're after samurai warrior philosophy.read more
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I think one of the reasons why this book has been and probably always will be so popular, is that many different people can read read it for many different reasons. Among the most obvious: some people read it to learn about war (like Tom Ricks, who quotes it in his famous book about Iraq), some people are drawn into it by an interest in the Far East (like the translator, M. Giles himself, who was a student of all things Chinese), and some people just like it because it's really really old and really really cool, and I guess that's part of the reason why I like it. And although the German wrote another famous-book about war, he was, being German, boring. But then, some things can be both popular, and well-reasoned, and, as a philosophical essay to discover the nature of war, this little book does a fine job. Recall what Aristotle says in the first sentence of his 'Nicomachean Ethics': "Every art...seems to aim at some good, and so it has been well said that the good is that at which everything aims." So, what good does The Art Of War aim at? (Absolutely nothin'--ugh! Well, no, sorry.) Well, in a way, the art of war aims to conduct war well, just as the art of baking bread aims to bake bread well. But what does that mean, in real terms? I think that if we examine the thought of Master Sun, we find that the good at which the art of war aims is to achieve victory, not by inflicting the maximum amount of destruction, but by causing the absolute minimum: for to cause much destruction is not so good. And I think he does all that with a certain sort of style, too: "II. Waging War 3. Again, if the campaign be protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. 5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. 6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. 7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. 8. The skilful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his suppy-wagons loaded more than twice. 19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns." And it's good to remind all those annoying, noisy military history fanatics that the longest, most destructive wars are the *worst*, because people *die* and things get *destroyed* and that's *bad*. (8/10)read more
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An interesting book, written with just short quips of information but it still seemed to flow rather seamlessly. A decent book with some good info, some of it could be still used today some of it would obviously not apply anymore to today's wars. A good read, enjoyable, and really quick.read more
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Rated: B-The New Lifetime Reading Plan: Number 10The general is responsible for the destiny and well-being of the nation. The scarcity of fine generals has always been a source of calamity.He regards his troops as his children, and they will go with him into the deepest ravine. He regards them as his loved ones, and they will stand by him unto death. (Chapter 10)read more
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Strictly speaking, this edition (Wordsworth Editions [UK], 1993) is General Tao Hanzhang's commentary on, and edit of, Sun Tzu's 'Art of War'. It says as much about the People's Liberation Army and military thinking in Communist China as it does about Sun Tzu's writing itself.read more
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If you're already self-actualized (read: me), this is nothing but a bunch of shih.read more
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The Art of War is a wonderful, short, and classic read that looks good on any bookshelf. While it reads in the form of a short choppy manual it is well worth anyone's time. This book has, for good reason, found it's way into the hands of thousands... maybe millions of people since its original writing.read more
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This is a manual and reads like one. Better to take in very small doses, digest and discuss rather than to read continuously.read more
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I purchased this book in its first edition when I was in my late twenties trying to climb the corporate ladder. I had just finished reading James Clavell's 'Shogun', was deep into the Akira manga and began dating a girl from Shinjuku. Needless to say I was a bit overboard on the whole Asian trip. But you remember the 80s, we were all thinking about the Pacific Rim. With that in mind, I took this book more seriously than the average reader might, but let me tell you something, it was profoundly impressive, and it worked.The book is laid out in such a way that it makes a perfect blueprint for a year's worth of meditations. I rushed the process, but memorized each of the pages, and followed up with journal writings. A bit more extreme than the average bear, I confess but it made such a difference. Now, more than ten years later, what I have internalized from that period remains core. As I review the axioms, it's hard for me to imagine how I saw things before they became as self-evident to me as they are now. And yet I still find myself drawn to repeat the entire process as I embrace a new set of challenges at middle age.I'm not the kind given to 12 step programs and all that, I make jokes about the person who asks for directions to the self-help section of the bookstore, but this is great stuff for the most hard headed pragmatists as well as the wooliest thumbsuckers. My recommendation to you is to take this book as a guide to meditations and study of the tao. The deeper you are into 'untenable' situations, the more profound the insights you will gain.read more
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To be honest, I was looking for a straightforward printing of the notes, not a re-hashing and review throughout the ages. This meant a lengthy pass-through of what others thought and believed,etc, etc. When I was finally able to decipher which was part of the book and which were the notes (as I was reading it on a digital device) it became obvious that a lot of the ideas of "war" were things already known to me. Whether it's due to our upbringing in the 20th century and exposure to the various media violences (movies, books, videos, etc) or not could be debated.read more
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The Art of War is a treasure trove of information...if you study war, ancient China, Strategy, or military history...it is useless when applied to business, I think. I love this text, but I study ancient Asian texts. Giles' translation is the one which all others are measured and it has the text with commentary and without, and in the original Chinese. As a study text this is superb, as a manual for business, it a weak application.Misoread more
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A very quick read that I enjoyed quite a bit. It really is a handbook for how to win a war, but if you think beyond that, there are many useful life lessons to take away. The most important one is to be aware of your surroundings and other people.read more
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Absolutely essential book to anyone's library. Can be read over and over again; it has a somewhat poetic style and it's an interesting insight, very inspirational.read more
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This audio book had Joe Montenga narrating the text.It was pretty cool to have the Simpsons's Fat Tony quoting a 500 BC Chinese War Scholar.(The analysis of the text was a real snooze-fest!)read more
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Love the notion that the greatest leader is one that defeats the challege before it is known that the challenge exists. Here we are obsessed with the hero leader who battles with the mighty demons and after much struggle wins. I see this in schools where the head turns around a failing school and is seen as a great leader. But all too often they miss the greater leadership of the head who intervenes with a timely word here, a school event there keeps the school on track, Much better to read the straight translations rather then the art of war for the board room which often miss the pointread more
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Sun Tzu is a great categoriser of thought. With each chapter divided into aphorisms of 5-6 lines, he often begins a topic with a list of the factors or types within the topic area, and then goes on to explain them - from chapter one's 5 factors that govern the art of war (The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The Commander, and Method and Discipline) to the final chapter on the use of spies (of whom he says there are 5 classes: local, inward, converted, doomed and surviving). As an overall summary, I took away the impression that in many ways it is the art of avoiding war (one should wait, retreat, deceive but not fight until one's victory is assured) or the art of brief war (one should not fight a prolonged war but one with minimum cost or damage) or the art of deception in war (one should not reveal anything complete to enemies or friends or spies).I was interested to read this book, and I acknowledge its thoughts tidy if somewhat unusual. But it didn't sound much like the open, self-sacrifical style of Jesus, so its direct applicability to parish ministry is likely to be minimal.read more
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(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally here.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write essays on whether or not they deserve the label. The Art of War is essay #27 of this series.The story in a nutshell:More of a technical manual than a piece of general literature, The Art of War is a field guide of sorts by famed Chinese military leader Sun Tzu, written it's believed sometime in the 6th century BC (during the period when China was coming together as a unified empire for the first time in history), as a way of instructing other commanders how to have as much success on the battlefield as he had had. (And please know that there's a debate among scholars as well regarding whether Sun Tzu even wrote this book by himself, or if like many other classics from antiquity this isn't in fact a sly compilation, gathering up the best thoughts back then from amongst a whole group of military strategists.) Now of course let's not forget that Sun Tzu was a Taoist as well, so of course his particular advice is going to be Taoist in nature, a very important thing to understand in order to really "get" this book; he sees the best war, for example, as the one that's never actually fought, because you've already dismantled the enemy's forces through sabotage and cunning to the point where they can't put up a resistance in the first place. And so it is throughout this extremely slim book (which in fact is more like a long magazine article) -- chapter after chapter of surprisingly spiritual text concerning the fine art of getting what you want, even when other people are actively trying to stop you from doing so.The argument for it being a classic:It's a 2,500-year-old book still being read and studied on a daily basis, argue its fans; what more do you want? And in the meanwhile, it's influenced nearly every Western military leader since first being translated into a Romantic language (French) in 1782, racking up a whole list of self-declared admirers from Napoleon to Norman Schwarzkopf. And if this weren't enough, starting in the 1980s it also gained a whole new life as a surprisingly apt if not Machiavellian guide to the corporate business world, best typified by symbol-of-yuppie-greed Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone's fantastic movie Wall Street, who is constantly walking around quoting from it as a way to justify his monstrous, inhuman actions. If all of this isn't enough to safely consider a book a classic, ask its fans, what is?The argument against:The case against this being a classic seems to be one used a lot with books over a thousand years old; that even if that book turns out to be historically important (and it usually does), it might be better at this point to actually study the book and how it affected society, not read the book itself for pleasure anymore. Always remember, that's part of how I'm defining "classic" here in this CCLaP 100 series, is not just how important that title has been to human history, but also whether it's worth literally sitting down and reading it page-for-page yourself, no matter if you have any specific interest in that book's subject or not. If it's yes on the former but no on the latter, as critics of this book claim, then by my definition it's not a classic, but rather simply a historically important book that should be studied by the general public but not necessarily read.My verdict:So let me start by admitting how surprisingly readable this is for being 2,500 years old, and that it really does translate metaphorically to the business world surprisingly elegantly; after all, since it's a guide to war written by a Taoist, it's more of a symbolic examination of how to get out of life what you want the most, even in the face of tough opposition, with advice that is surprisingly relevant to the modern world even when he's talking about the mechanics of medieval Asian warfare. (Just for one example, near the beginning he talks in one paragraph about how a successful commander will literally steal the food of their enemy, both to sap the enemy's strength and to avoid the burden of having to carry all that food to battle themselves; this may not seem to have much relevance to the modern business world at first, until you stop and think about it in terms of stealing talent from your competitors, literally the intellectual "food" nourishing their "army" of goods and services competing against your own.)That said, though, I think ultimately I'm going to have to side with the critics this time; that unless you're a military commander or corporate raider yourself, most people's eyes are going to quickly gloss over while trying to read this book, merely after the first few pages. Now, don't get me wrong, I definitely think this should be a primer for people who are getting into the profession themselves; this should for sure be a must-read not only for soldiers, for example, but also the politicians in charge of those soldiers' budgets. But this is a perfect example of the surprisingly complicated process of determining whether a book is a classic or not, the entire reason I started this essay series in the first place; because unless competitive strategy actually is your business, most people will find it more rewarding to spend their time reading up on how this book has affected history, and of the circumstances in ancient China that led to it getting written in the first place. There's really only one major lesson in The Art of War for a non-military general audience to get -- that most battles are won based on how well one can surprise the enemy, usually by deceiving them using their own weaknesses (to act incompetent when the enemy is haughty, for example, threatening when they're meek, picking them off at the edges when they outnumber you, destroying their supply lines when they're far from home); for those not interested in the nitty-gritty of how to actually accomplish such things, though, there's actually a lot more to be learned by studying how such a thing has been attempted over the centuries, making the book certainly important but not necessarily a classic.Is it a classic? Noread more
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A subtle and fascinating philosophy on how to wage war. Knowledge of assured victory is key for Sun Tzu. At once it is esoteric and simple giving the reader the opportunity to find new angles and places to learn with each repeated reading. Intense and interesting. (Shambhala translation)read more
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Hmm, this book can really be used in company`s management, because some war strategies are quite similar to organization management. For example, need for clear and not doubtful commands, advice to put best soldiers (workers) on first line, importance of understanding ones own weaknesses and strengths etc.Overall, it`s boring literature if one don`t think how to use those advices in life.[more: rozmarins.blogspot.com]read more
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I give it a 5 because it's a classic that you can read in under an hour. One of the best books I have read. Simple, basic, and a great strategy foundation. I refer to it all the time. Great book from a historical standpoint, but certainly is a great asset in business.read more
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No wonder the words in this book have such wide applications across a whole massive spectrum of professions to situations.read more
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It's worth reading just to say you have and because so many other books and films refer to it. I first read it in hopes of using it in corporate life but that's not always easy:Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight. So much for mountain warfare.read more
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3 stars“All warfare is based on deception.”“The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”Born in the fifth century B.C., Sun Wu (Sun Tzu was an honorary title) wrote the quintessential rulebook for warfare, known today as Art of War. While the often quoted lines of Sun Tzu are as lyrical as poetry, it was written 2,500 years ago with the singular purpose of codifying the essential requirements for generals and soldiers to be victorious on the battlefield. Even today, his treatise on war is studied by not just military officers, but business leaders and politicians as a roadmap to victory.While most of us have heard of Art of War and have no doubt read many of the catchy anecdotes that populate Sun Tzu’s writing, I dare say very few people have actually read the work from start to finish. While the version I read was about 300 pages, less than 50 pages make up the actual translated writings of Sun Tzu. That text is preceded by a rather informative historical overview of the life of Sun Wu – of which only a few documented facts are known. More importantly, the introduction does a good job of establishing the climate that Sun Tzu lived in within what we now know as China. Frankly, I found this to be the best and most informative part of the text.Sun Tzu’s actual text is written as a series of individual statements that appear to have been cobbled together. I’m unsure if this is the result of how the work was translated or if the original text was pieced together from scattered writings, but it gives the writing a disjointed feel. However, I can accept this limitation given that it was written as a technical document more than two millennia ago in a different language. From a content perspective, there are many well-known phrases that ring true today. But while the general philosophies are what we remember, the lion’s share of his text details very specific situations and strategies for warfare of that era. The remainder of the book – more than half of it in fact – is a detailed breakdown of individual passages from Sun Tzu’s text, expanded upon and placed into the context of more modern battles throughout history. This was the most problematic portion of the book because in a lot of cases it was a very tenuous leap to connect the specific tactics of some of the cited battles to the specific situations Sun Tzu wrote about. Sun Tzu’s text is just ambiguous enough that almost anything can be read into some of the passages. It was more wishful thinking than established doctrine that associated some of the examples to his writing. And while Art of War may include many philosophical musings that are usable today, most of Sun Tzu’s writing about specific military tactics– while educational from a historical perspective – are wildly obsolete in the modern world. As a fascinating historical document that illustrates the thinking and strategy of an era where little has survived the ravages of time, Art of War is an invaluable resource. But as a current day treatise on the conduct of war and competitive strategy, it is really lacks concrete value. Anecdotes aside, I’m pretty sure that no modern standing army or corporate think-tank is sending its best and brightest into the trenches with nothing but Sun Tzu’s writing even though some believe Art of War is the end-all, be-all of strategic thought. It would be a little like arguing before the Supreme Court with no other legal education outside of reading a lot of John Grisham novels. I think Art of War is a valuable work, but it has achieved a sort of cult following in certain circles that outstrips its actual contribution to strategy. The authors of this translation have gone overboard in assigning value to his teaching – value that can’t really be substantiated. Is it an important historical document? Absolutely. Is it the cornerstone of all of the strategic thought that exists today? Not hardly. While Sun Tzu was in fact a brilliant strategist and philosopher, Art of War wasn’t even translated into a western language until 1772 (French) and 1905 (English). I’m pretty sure most of these strategies had been discovered and utilized by western armies long before then. Perhaps the most important thing that is lost in the supplementation of Art of War is Sun Tzu’s primary motivation for writing his treatise. While his text is held up as the guide to war, this translation does hit on a key philosophy – it was peace that Sun Tzu was most interested in. He wanted his countrymen to be able to protect themselves and allow for the citizens to live in peace, not war. All you have to read for proof of that is what I think is the most important sentence he wrote:“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”Amen to that.read more
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New to Sun-Tzu, I found invaluable Ames' commentary on the historical times and the 1970s/1980s discovery of a hitherto unknown version of the classic text and related texts.read more
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A great translation. That was meant to be funny since I don't read Chinese and can't possibly really know how good his translation is. However, this is a great book and belongs right next to your other war strategy greats.read more
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Art of War itself is pretty cool - aside from the fact that I feel like a dork reading it because most of the people who read Art of War are nineteen-year-old fantasy roleplayers who collect nunchuks - but the version I read, Lionel Giles' 1910 translation, is chock full of typos. That kinda gets on my nerves.read more
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My first "android" book :)
3 days of boring lectures and you complete a whole book !!!!
A Sun Tzu's masterpiece on competition in a battlefield.An obstinate struggle to survive,to fight with a person's best spirits and a anecdote of survival in tough times. The book talks about various moves of enemies and optimum strategic judgement according to opponent's strength and weakness.
Main categories under which the comprehensive book is divided are: Laying plans, waging war, strategic attacks, energy, tactical dispositions, army on march, fire attacks and use of spies.
A book one of its kind. Precise, short statements without any kind of obfuscation, a provident manifestation of a probable war like situation.Indeed, a complete war time reference manual.read more
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The translation here is nice... it flows well and it felt trustworthy. What was dubious about this edition is all the commentary about how the Art of War is a treatise on how to transcend war and bring about global non-violence. To me, it seems like a pretty clear guerrilla warfare manual.read more
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The oldest military treatise on war. This one is Tops! Translation by Lionel Giles and with original Chinese.read more
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How ironic that the copy I found in my apartment should have a foreword by James Clavell, author of "Shogun;" my Mum is forever mixing up China and Japan herself, and often remarks about the former when in fact I lived in the latter.The book, meanwhile, is an interesting couple of hours' read, but without a more thorough guide I don't see how I could use Sun Tzu's ideas to conquer Wall Street, as some have proposed.read more
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All the guff about it being the greatest management text in history is of course utter nonsense, but it's an interesting read. I preferred and would recommend the Hagakure if you're after samurai warrior philosophy.
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I think one of the reasons why this book has been and probably always will be so popular, is that many different people can read read it for many different reasons. Among the most obvious: some people read it to learn about war (like Tom Ricks, who quotes it in his famous book about Iraq), some people are drawn into it by an interest in the Far East (like the translator, M. Giles himself, who was a student of all things Chinese), and some people just like it because it's really really old and really really cool, and I guess that's part of the reason why I like it. And although the German wrote another famous-book about war, he was, being German, boring. But then, some things can be both popular, and well-reasoned, and, as a philosophical essay to discover the nature of war, this little book does a fine job. Recall what Aristotle says in the first sentence of his 'Nicomachean Ethics': "Every art...seems to aim at some good, and so it has been well said that the good is that at which everything aims." So, what good does The Art Of War aim at? (Absolutely nothin'--ugh! Well, no, sorry.) Well, in a way, the art of war aims to conduct war well, just as the art of baking bread aims to bake bread well. But what does that mean, in real terms? I think that if we examine the thought of Master Sun, we find that the good at which the art of war aims is to achieve victory, not by inflicting the maximum amount of destruction, but by causing the absolute minimum: for to cause much destruction is not so good. And I think he does all that with a certain sort of style, too: "II. Waging War 3. Again, if the campaign be protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. 5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. 6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare. 7. It is only one who is thoroughly acquainted with the evils of war that can thoroughly understand the profitable way of carrying it on. 8. The skilful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his suppy-wagons loaded more than twice. 19. In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns." And it's good to remind all those annoying, noisy military history fanatics that the longest, most destructive wars are the *worst*, because people *die* and things get *destroyed* and that's *bad*. (8/10)
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An interesting book, written with just short quips of information but it still seemed to flow rather seamlessly. A decent book with some good info, some of it could be still used today some of it would obviously not apply anymore to today's wars. A good read, enjoyable, and really quick.
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Rated: B-The New Lifetime Reading Plan: Number 10The general is responsible for the destiny and well-being of the nation. The scarcity of fine generals has always been a source of calamity.He regards his troops as his children, and they will go with him into the deepest ravine. He regards them as his loved ones, and they will stand by him unto death. (Chapter 10)
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Strictly speaking, this edition (Wordsworth Editions [UK], 1993) is General Tao Hanzhang's commentary on, and edit of, Sun Tzu's 'Art of War'. It says as much about the People's Liberation Army and military thinking in Communist China as it does about Sun Tzu's writing itself.
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If you're already self-actualized (read: me), this is nothing but a bunch of shih.
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The Art of War is a wonderful, short, and classic read that looks good on any bookshelf. While it reads in the form of a short choppy manual it is well worth anyone's time. This book has, for good reason, found it's way into the hands of thousands... maybe millions of people since its original writing.
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This is a manual and reads like one. Better to take in very small doses, digest and discuss rather than to read continuously.
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I purchased this book in its first edition when I was in my late twenties trying to climb the corporate ladder. I had just finished reading James Clavell's 'Shogun', was deep into the Akira manga and began dating a girl from Shinjuku. Needless to say I was a bit overboard on the whole Asian trip. But you remember the 80s, we were all thinking about the Pacific Rim. With that in mind, I took this book more seriously than the average reader might, but let me tell you something, it was profoundly impressive, and it worked.The book is laid out in such a way that it makes a perfect blueprint for a year's worth of meditations. I rushed the process, but memorized each of the pages, and followed up with journal writings. A bit more extreme than the average bear, I confess but it made such a difference. Now, more than ten years later, what I have internalized from that period remains core. As I review the axioms, it's hard for me to imagine how I saw things before they became as self-evident to me as they are now. And yet I still find myself drawn to repeat the entire process as I embrace a new set of challenges at middle age.I'm not the kind given to 12 step programs and all that, I make jokes about the person who asks for directions to the self-help section of the bookstore, but this is great stuff for the most hard headed pragmatists as well as the wooliest thumbsuckers. My recommendation to you is to take this book as a guide to meditations and study of the tao. The deeper you are into 'untenable' situations, the more profound the insights you will gain.
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To be honest, I was looking for a straightforward printing of the notes, not a re-hashing and review throughout the ages. This meant a lengthy pass-through of what others thought and believed,etc, etc. When I was finally able to decipher which was part of the book and which were the notes (as I was reading it on a digital device) it became obvious that a lot of the ideas of "war" were things already known to me. Whether it's due to our upbringing in the 20th century and exposure to the various media violences (movies, books, videos, etc) or not could be debated.
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The Art of War is a treasure trove of information...if you study war, ancient China, Strategy, or military history...it is useless when applied to business, I think. I love this text, but I study ancient Asian texts. Giles' translation is the one which all others are measured and it has the text with commentary and without, and in the original Chinese. As a study text this is superb, as a manual for business, it a weak application.Miso
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A very quick read that I enjoyed quite a bit. It really is a handbook for how to win a war, but if you think beyond that, there are many useful life lessons to take away. The most important one is to be aware of your surroundings and other people.
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Absolutely essential book to anyone's library. Can be read over and over again; it has a somewhat poetic style and it's an interesting insight, very inspirational.
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This audio book had Joe Montenga narrating the text.It was pretty cool to have the Simpsons's Fat Tony quoting a 500 BC Chinese War Scholar.(The analysis of the text was a real snooze-fest!)
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Love the notion that the greatest leader is one that defeats the challege before it is known that the challenge exists. Here we are obsessed with the hero leader who battles with the mighty demons and after much struggle wins. I see this in schools where the head turns around a failing school and is seen as a great leader. But all too often they miss the greater leadership of the head who intervenes with a timely word here, a school event there keeps the school on track, Much better to read the straight translations rather then the art of war for the board room which often miss the point
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Sun Tzu is a great categoriser of thought. With each chapter divided into aphorisms of 5-6 lines, he often begins a topic with a list of the factors or types within the topic area, and then goes on to explain them - from chapter one's 5 factors that govern the art of war (The Moral Law, Heaven, Earth, The Commander, and Method and Discipline) to the final chapter on the use of spies (of whom he says there are 5 classes: local, inward, converted, doomed and surviving). As an overall summary, I took away the impression that in many ways it is the art of avoiding war (one should wait, retreat, deceive but not fight until one's victory is assured) or the art of brief war (one should not fight a prolonged war but one with minimum cost or damage) or the art of deception in war (one should not reveal anything complete to enemies or friends or spies).I was interested to read this book, and I acknowledge its thoughts tidy if somewhat unusual. But it didn't sound much like the open, self-sacrifical style of Jesus, so its direct applicability to parish ministry is likely to be minimal.
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(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally here.)The CCLaP 100: In which I read for the first time a hundred so-called "classics," then write essays on whether or not they deserve the label. The Art of War is essay #27 of this series.The story in a nutshell:More of a technical manual than a piece of general literature, The Art of War is a field guide of sorts by famed Chinese military leader Sun Tzu, written it's believed sometime in the 6th century BC (during the period when China was coming together as a unified empire for the first time in history), as a way of instructing other commanders how to have as much success on the battlefield as he had had. (And please know that there's a debate among scholars as well regarding whether Sun Tzu even wrote this book by himself, or if like many other classics from antiquity this isn't in fact a sly compilation, gathering up the best thoughts back then from amongst a whole group of military strategists.) Now of course let's not forget that Sun Tzu was a Taoist as well, so of course his particular advice is going to be Taoist in nature, a very important thing to understand in order to really "get" this book; he sees the best war, for example, as the one that's never actually fought, because you've already dismantled the enemy's forces through sabotage and cunning to the point where they can't put up a resistance in the first place. And so it is throughout this extremely slim book (which in fact is more like a long magazine article) -- chapter after chapter of surprisingly spiritual text concerning the fine art of getting what you want, even when other people are actively trying to stop you from doing so.The argument for it being a classic:It's a 2,500-year-old book still being read and studied on a daily basis, argue its fans; what more do you want? And in the meanwhile, it's influenced nearly every Western military leader since first being translated into a Romantic language (French) in 1782, racking up a whole list of self-declared admirers from Napoleon to Norman Schwarzkopf. And if this weren't enough, starting in the 1980s it also gained a whole new life as a surprisingly apt if not Machiavellian guide to the corporate business world, best typified by symbol-of-yuppie-greed Gordon Gekko from Oliver Stone's fantastic movie Wall Street, who is constantly walking around quoting from it as a way to justify his monstrous, inhuman actions. If all of this isn't enough to safely consider a book a classic, ask its fans, what is?The argument against:The case against this being a classic seems to be one used a lot with books over a thousand years old; that even if that book turns out to be historically important (and it usually does), it might be better at this point to actually study the book and how it affected society, not read the book itself for pleasure anymore. Always remember, that's part of how I'm defining "classic" here in this CCLaP 100 series, is not just how important that title has been to human history, but also whether it's worth literally sitting down and reading it page-for-page yourself, no matter if you have any specific interest in that book's subject or not. If it's yes on the former but no on the latter, as critics of this book claim, then by my definition it's not a classic, but rather simply a historically important book that should be studied by the general public but not necessarily read.My verdict:So let me start by admitting how surprisingly readable this is for being 2,500 years old, and that it really does translate metaphorically to the business world surprisingly elegantly; after all, since it's a guide to war written by a Taoist, it's more of a symbolic examination of how to get out of life what you want the most, even in the face of tough opposition, with advice that is surprisingly relevant to the modern world even when he's talking about the mechanics of medieval Asian warfare. (Just for one example, near the beginning he talks in one paragraph about how a successful commander will literally steal the food of their enemy, both to sap the enemy's strength and to avoid the burden of having to carry all that food to battle themselves; this may not seem to have much relevance to the modern business world at first, until you stop and think about it in terms of stealing talent from your competitors, literally the intellectual "food" nourishing their "army" of goods and services competing against your own.)That said, though, I think ultimately I'm going to have to side with the critics this time; that unless you're a military commander or corporate raider yourself, most people's eyes are going to quickly gloss over while trying to read this book, merely after the first few pages. Now, don't get me wrong, I definitely think this should be a primer for people who are getting into the profession themselves; this should for sure be a must-read not only for soldiers, for example, but also the politicians in charge of those soldiers' budgets. But this is a perfect example of the surprisingly complicated process of determining whether a book is a classic or not, the entire reason I started this essay series in the first place; because unless competitive strategy actually is your business, most people will find it more rewarding to spend their time reading up on how this book has affected history, and of the circumstances in ancient China that led to it getting written in the first place. There's really only one major lesson in The Art of War for a non-military general audience to get -- that most battles are won based on how well one can surprise the enemy, usually by deceiving them using their own weaknesses (to act incompetent when the enemy is haughty, for example, threatening when they're meek, picking them off at the edges when they outnumber you, destroying their supply lines when they're far from home); for those not interested in the nitty-gritty of how to actually accomplish such things, though, there's actually a lot more to be learned by studying how such a thing has been attempted over the centuries, making the book certainly important but not necessarily a classic.Is it a classic? No
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A subtle and fascinating philosophy on how to wage war. Knowledge of assured victory is key for Sun Tzu. At once it is esoteric and simple giving the reader the opportunity to find new angles and places to learn with each repeated reading. Intense and interesting. (Shambhala translation)
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Hmm, this book can really be used in company`s management, because some war strategies are quite similar to organization management. For example, need for clear and not doubtful commands, advice to put best soldiers (workers) on first line, importance of understanding ones own weaknesses and strengths etc.Overall, it`s boring literature if one don`t think how to use those advices in life.[more: rozmarins.blogspot.com]
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I give it a 5 because it's a classic that you can read in under an hour. One of the best books I have read. Simple, basic, and a great strategy foundation. I refer to it all the time. Great book from a historical standpoint, but certainly is a great asset in business.
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No wonder the words in this book have such wide applications across a whole massive spectrum of professions to situations.
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It's worth reading just to say you have and because so many other books and films refer to it. I first read it in hopes of using it in corporate life but that's not always easy:Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight. So much for mountain warfare.
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3 stars“All warfare is based on deception.”“The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected.”Born in the fifth century B.C., Sun Wu (Sun Tzu was an honorary title) wrote the quintessential rulebook for warfare, known today as Art of War. While the often quoted lines of Sun Tzu are as lyrical as poetry, it was written 2,500 years ago with the singular purpose of codifying the essential requirements for generals and soldiers to be victorious on the battlefield. Even today, his treatise on war is studied by not just military officers, but business leaders and politicians as a roadmap to victory.While most of us have heard of Art of War and have no doubt read many of the catchy anecdotes that populate Sun Tzu’s writing, I dare say very few people have actually read the work from start to finish. While the version I read was about 300 pages, less than 50 pages make up the actual translated writings of Sun Tzu. That text is preceded by a rather informative historical overview of the life of Sun Wu – of which only a few documented facts are known. More importantly, the introduction does a good job of establishing the climate that Sun Tzu lived in within what we now know as China. Frankly, I found this to be the best and most informative part of the text.Sun Tzu’s actual text is written as a series of individual statements that appear to have been cobbled together. I’m unsure if this is the result of how the work was translated or if the original text was pieced together from scattered writings, but it gives the writing a disjointed feel. However, I can accept this limitation given that it was written as a technical document more than two millennia ago in a different language. From a content perspective, there are many well-known phrases that ring true today. But while the general philosophies are what we remember, the lion’s share of his text details very specific situations and strategies for warfare of that era. The remainder of the book – more than half of it in fact – is a detailed breakdown of individual passages from Sun Tzu’s text, expanded upon and placed into the context of more modern battles throughout history. This was the most problematic portion of the book because in a lot of cases it was a very tenuous leap to connect the specific tactics of some of the cited battles to the specific situations Sun Tzu wrote about. Sun Tzu’s text is just ambiguous enough that almost anything can be read into some of the passages. It was more wishful thinking than established doctrine that associated some of the examples to his writing. And while Art of War may include many philosophical musings that are usable today, most of Sun Tzu’s writing about specific military tactics– while educational from a historical perspective – are wildly obsolete in the modern world. As a fascinating historical document that illustrates the thinking and strategy of an era where little has survived the ravages of time, Art of War is an invaluable resource. But as a current day treatise on the conduct of war and competitive strategy, it is really lacks concrete value. Anecdotes aside, I’m pretty sure that no modern standing army or corporate think-tank is sending its best and brightest into the trenches with nothing but Sun Tzu’s writing even though some believe Art of War is the end-all, be-all of strategic thought. It would be a little like arguing before the Supreme Court with no other legal education outside of reading a lot of John Grisham novels. I think Art of War is a valuable work, but it has achieved a sort of cult following in certain circles that outstrips its actual contribution to strategy. The authors of this translation have gone overboard in assigning value to his teaching – value that can’t really be substantiated. Is it an important historical document? Absolutely. Is it the cornerstone of all of the strategic thought that exists today? Not hardly. While Sun Tzu was in fact a brilliant strategist and philosopher, Art of War wasn’t even translated into a western language until 1772 (French) and 1905 (English). I’m pretty sure most of these strategies had been discovered and utilized by western armies long before then. Perhaps the most important thing that is lost in the supplementation of Art of War is Sun Tzu’s primary motivation for writing his treatise. While his text is held up as the guide to war, this translation does hit on a key philosophy – it was peace that Sun Tzu was most interested in. He wanted his countrymen to be able to protect themselves and allow for the citizens to live in peace, not war. All you have to read for proof of that is what I think is the most important sentence he wrote:“There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.”Amen to that.
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New to Sun-Tzu, I found invaluable Ames' commentary on the historical times and the 1970s/1980s discovery of a hitherto unknown version of the classic text and related texts.
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A great translation. That was meant to be funny since I don't read Chinese and can't possibly really know how good his translation is. However, this is a great book and belongs right next to your other war strategy greats.
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Art of War itself is pretty cool - aside from the fact that I feel like a dork reading it because most of the people who read Art of War are nineteen-year-old fantasy roleplayers who collect nunchuks - but the version I read, Lionel Giles' 1910 translation, is chock full of typos. That kinda gets on my nerves.
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My first "android" book :)
3 days of boring lectures and you complete a whole book !!!!
A Sun Tzu's masterpiece on competition in a battlefield.An obstinate struggle to survive,to fight with a person's best spirits and a anecdote of survival in tough times. The book talks about various moves of enemies and optimum strategic judgement according to opponent's strength and weakness.
Main categories under which the comprehensive book is divided are: Laying plans, waging war, strategic attacks, energy, tactical dispositions, army on march, fire attacks and use of spies.
A book one of its kind. Precise, short statements without any kind of obfuscation, a provident manifestation of a probable war like situation.Indeed, a complete war time reference manual.
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The translation here is nice... it flows well and it felt trustworthy. What was dubious about this edition is all the commentary about how the Art of War is a treatise on how to transcend war and bring about global non-violence. To me, it seems like a pretty clear guerrilla warfare manual.
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The oldest military treatise on war. This one is Tops! Translation by Lionel Giles and with original Chinese.
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How ironic that the copy I found in my apartment should have a foreword by James Clavell, author of "Shogun;" my Mum is forever mixing up China and Japan herself, and often remarks about the former when in fact I lived in the latter.The book, meanwhile, is an interesting couple of hours' read, but without a more thorough guide I don't see how I could use Sun Tzu's ideas to conquer Wall Street, as some have proposed.
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