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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
ISBN: 9780857081025
List price: $17.95
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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.more
If you're already self-actualized (read: me), this is nothing but a bunch of shih.more
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.more
No wonder the words in this book have such wide applications across a whole massive spectrum of professions to situations.more
I read ‘The Art of War’, not because I wanted to know about warfare, or even the typically extrapolated purpose of business and politics, but because I’ve been looking for the source of a 6 character Chinese phrase that I’ve known since I was a kid. I think I found it. The 6 characters are:People Philosophy (or Principle)Earth Philosophy (or Principle)Heaven Philosophy (or Principle)Earth is commonly extrapolated to also mean the environment, your physical surroundings, and/or the situation you’re in.Heaven is commonly extrapolated to also mean the weather, fate, and other elements you can’t control but only can work around.While ‘The Art of War’ goes into strategies of planning/waging/winning a war, the commoners (i.e. the adults around me when I was growing up) used these six characters to explain the simple considerations in life, being cognizant of the people and the things around you. In the case of ‘Heaven’, life happens. You can’t get what you want. You can’t have everything you want. And it simply wasn’t meant to be. A hard lesson for a kid… and for an adult.The edition I read is a Collins Classic with a crisp, simple translation and a good intro. I would have liked a version with side by side Chinese and English text, but ah well. In 13 Chapters, with numbered lines between 14 to 68 for each chapter, this was an easy read. As alluded to above, one can extract many layers of meanings from the simple text. Quotes:Ch 1, Line 22 – Perhaps this is the modern day equivalent of pressing someone’s buttons.“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”Ch 2, Line 19 – I read this as results driven, in business terms.“In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”Ch 3, Line 18 – People Philosophy. Replace enemy with anyone else, this might work for understanding the probabilities of a relationship, friendship, etc.“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”Ch 4, Line 10 – This was very humbling.“To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.”Ch 5, Lines 1 and 2 – This made me think about growing a team or an organization and managing them or taking on bigger challenges. “Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.”“Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.”Ch 6, Line 9 – One of the primary strategies in this book is deception. I’m guessing it is applauded for business and politics! Too brutal for my taste.“O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.Ch 7, Line 13 – Earth Philosophy. In the most literal sense for battle.“We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country – its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.”Ch 9, Line 35 – This made me think of office gossip, and the negativity associated with it.“The sight of men whispering together in small knots or speaking subdued tones points to disaffection amongst the rank and file.”Ch 10, Line 24, 25 – My business translation: A leader that is not after title for himself/herself, but simply cares, and gives a damn, for the work and for his/her team.“The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”“Regarding your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”Ch 10, Line 31 – I believe this is the one line that envelopes the 6 characters, even though I hope to never mark anyone as my enemy.“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”more
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)more
one of the best books I've ever read; just be careful of the translator. There are some really horrendous editions out there. ALWAYS buy the one translated by "CLEARLY" he is very profound in eastern philosophy and traditionmore
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.more
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)more
It is a really old book, but still has much application to everyday life in modern times. The book is a little hard to read at times. However, the knowledge you get from reading it worth it. I recommend everyone read this title at least once in their lifetime.more
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.more
Meh. Okay I guess but overall I'm not that impressed.more
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.more
Awesome for anyone looking for a good strategy book. helps with any type of war situation, I recommend reading it if you choose to go into the military.more
This book counts as classic even for modern warfare and strategy games. My experience has been unsatisfying and boring - perhaps I didn't delve into deep implications of obvious sounding tactics.more
The oldest military treatise on war. This one is Tops! Translation by Lionel Giles and with original Chinese.more
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.more
A little book full off great thoughts and advice for life. I read it every year.more
(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? Nomore
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.more
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.Misomore
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.more
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.more
This is a manual and reads like one. Better to take in very small doses, digest and discuss rather than to read continuously.more
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!)more
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.more
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.more
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Reviews

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.more
If you're already self-actualized (read: me), this is nothing but a bunch of shih.more
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.more
No wonder the words in this book have such wide applications across a whole massive spectrum of professions to situations.more
I read ‘The Art of War’, not because I wanted to know about warfare, or even the typically extrapolated purpose of business and politics, but because I’ve been looking for the source of a 6 character Chinese phrase that I’ve known since I was a kid. I think I found it. The 6 characters are:People Philosophy (or Principle)Earth Philosophy (or Principle)Heaven Philosophy (or Principle)Earth is commonly extrapolated to also mean the environment, your physical surroundings, and/or the situation you’re in.Heaven is commonly extrapolated to also mean the weather, fate, and other elements you can’t control but only can work around.While ‘The Art of War’ goes into strategies of planning/waging/winning a war, the commoners (i.e. the adults around me when I was growing up) used these six characters to explain the simple considerations in life, being cognizant of the people and the things around you. In the case of ‘Heaven’, life happens. You can’t get what you want. You can’t have everything you want. And it simply wasn’t meant to be. A hard lesson for a kid… and for an adult.The edition I read is a Collins Classic with a crisp, simple translation and a good intro. I would have liked a version with side by side Chinese and English text, but ah well. In 13 Chapters, with numbered lines between 14 to 68 for each chapter, this was an easy read. As alluded to above, one can extract many layers of meanings from the simple text. Quotes:Ch 1, Line 22 – Perhaps this is the modern day equivalent of pressing someone’s buttons.“If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant.”Ch 2, Line 19 – I read this as results driven, in business terms.“In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns.”Ch 3, Line 18 – People Philosophy. Replace enemy with anyone else, this might work for understanding the probabilities of a relationship, friendship, etc.“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”Ch 4, Line 10 – This was very humbling.“To lift an autumn hair is no sign of great strength; to see the sun and moon is no sign of sharp sight; to hear the noise of thunder is no sign of a quick ear.”Ch 5, Lines 1 and 2 – This made me think about growing a team or an organization and managing them or taking on bigger challenges. “Sun Tzu said: The control of a large force is the same principle as the control of a few men: it is merely a question of dividing up their numbers.”“Fighting with a large army under your command is nowise different fighting with a small one: it is merely a question of instituting signs and signals.”Ch 6, Line 9 – One of the primary strategies in this book is deception. I’m guessing it is applauded for business and politics! Too brutal for my taste.“O divine art of subtlety and secrecy! Through you we learn to be invisible, through you inaudible; and hence we can hold the enemy’s fate in our hands.Ch 7, Line 13 – Earth Philosophy. In the most literal sense for battle.“We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country – its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.”Ch 9, Line 35 – This made me think of office gossip, and the negativity associated with it.“The sight of men whispering together in small knots or speaking subdued tones points to disaffection amongst the rank and file.”Ch 10, Line 24, 25 – My business translation: A leader that is not after title for himself/herself, but simply cares, and gives a damn, for the work and for his/her team.“The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom.”“Regarding your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look upon them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”Ch 10, Line 31 – I believe this is the one line that envelopes the 6 characters, even though I hope to never mark anyone as my enemy.“Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt; if you know Heaven and know Earth, you may make your victory complete.”more
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)more
one of the best books I've ever read; just be careful of the translator. There are some really horrendous editions out there. ALWAYS buy the one translated by "CLEARLY" he is very profound in eastern philosophy and traditionmore
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.more
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)more
It is a really old book, but still has much application to everyday life in modern times. The book is a little hard to read at times. However, the knowledge you get from reading it worth it. I recommend everyone read this title at least once in their lifetime.more
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.more
Meh. Okay I guess but overall I'm not that impressed.more
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.more
Awesome for anyone looking for a good strategy book. helps with any type of war situation, I recommend reading it if you choose to go into the military.more
This book counts as classic even for modern warfare and strategy games. My experience has been unsatisfying and boring - perhaps I didn't delve into deep implications of obvious sounding tactics.more
The oldest military treatise on war. This one is Tops! Translation by Lionel Giles and with original Chinese.more
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.more
A little book full off great thoughts and advice for life. I read it every year.more
(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? Nomore
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.more
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.Misomore
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.more
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.more
This is a manual and reads like one. Better to take in very small doses, digest and discuss rather than to read continuously.more
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!)more
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.more
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.more
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