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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Art of War (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2003
What do Tony Soprano and Gordon Gekko have in common?
A. They are successful leaders
B. They are fictitious characters
C. They have been involved in illegal activities
D. They quote The Art of War by Sun Tzu
E. All of the above
Both the HBO character Tony Soprano and the Wall Street maverick played by Michael Douglas expounded on the wisdom found in The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Reading this short book will provide you with interesting quotes at cocktail parties, such as "In peace prepare for war, in war prepare for peace."
As you may be aware, The Art of War is not a recent edition to Amazon's list; it missed Amazon by 25 centuries. It is, however, a favorite of many contemporary executives who believe that its lessons on strategy and tactics of warfare may be applied metaphorically to business situations. In addition, since it is read and studied in Asia, it is thought by many to provide insight into eastern thought and philosophy, especially in business competition.
As a reference for leaders, it provides timeless advice for dealing with conflict, especially in competitive situations. For example it provides advice to:
End conflicts quickly: "In all history, there is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare."
Conduct research thoroughly: "The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought."
Build Esprit de Corps at all levels of the organization: "He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks."
Beware of five leadership faults: recklessness, cowardice, delicacy of honor, hasty temper, and over solicitude for subordinates.
By the way, the correct answer is "E".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2001
War is not really based on honor... or glory, or even whose right. It's all about conditions, who has the advantage and how to dishearten your opponents while making sure your own resources are protected. It tells you what to look for through hundreds of various quotes and snippets of advice. This book was not entirely by Sun Tzu, but a collection of famous tacticians through-out history. Each seem to add another element to the concept of how to win in conflict.
In life, you can see a little of this in each day... but just remember not too get too carried away. After all, even Sun Tzu himself said 'A battle not fought, is a battle won.' For broadening your perspective, I'd suggest adding this book to your collection as well as 'Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Little Book of Eastern Wisdom' by Taro Gold.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 30, 1997
I agree with fellow reviewers that this is a
classic for any situation or need... However,
given Cleary's history of mistranslations (such
as The Book of the Five Rings) I believe that
a translation from a modern author of Chinese origin (maybe even another westerner- but I doubt it) who is fluent in both English and Chinese would fare better with readers. (I've seen one - unfortunately I forgot the author's name)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 8, 2003
I don't really understand all the reviews about Sun Tzu's work. People saying that this one or that one is closer to the original; are there really that many experts in ancient Chinese out there. How can anyone say which is the best translation unless they are personally familiar with the original, in the original Chinese, and if that the case they should write their own version.
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on July 18, 2003
Without question, Sun Tzu's thirteen chapters on The Art of War are some the most definitive commentaries on waging armed conflict ever written, at least until Clausewitz came along, and even then you would have a hard time discounting the importance of Sun Tzu's thought. This is such an influential peice of writing that many people have read it as a management manual or business guide. This is the nature of many of the writings in this book; they are not only useful from a military standpoint, they are truly universal in their utility.
This translation is interesting, in that Griffith provides some discussion on the origin of the thirteen chapters and the era in which they were written. Also included is a small chapter on the influence Sun Tzu had on Mao, and the extent to which Sun Tzu influenced Chinese military (and political) thought right up to the present day.
The one thing that bothered me was the abundance of footnotes, which, while informative, broke up the writings so much it was difficult to maintain a fluid sense of thought. This was abviously written as an academic endeavor, and as such is annotized relentlessly. The commentaries in the text were useful at some points, redundant at others.
All in all, this is a good book, whether you're looking for self-help or military history.
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on March 17, 2003
This Review refers to the paperback edition of The Art of War as translated, introduced by Samuel B. Griffith and forwarded by B. Liddell Hart.
The Art of War, by Sun Tzu (a.k.a. Sun Zi), is a timeless military treatise dedicated to the introduction of key military principles and activities. The book encompasses diplomatic procedures as well as military matters, and encourages peace over war. Despite these encouragements, however, the book goes on to explain the ins and outs of conducting proper warfare, much of which still being applicable in modern times. Also included in this version is an extensive introduction to who Sun Tzu was and the times he likely lived in, a brief history of The Art of War�s influence and production in other countries, commentaries on the text (some of which by Chinese titans such as Ts�ao Ts�ao (a.k.a. Cao Cao), and Wu Ch�i�s �Art of War.�
The Art of War provides the basic principles of the proper way to wage war as well as how one should deal with the differing variables that they will inevitably confront in such an instance. The work provides explanations for how to keep morale up as well as for how to keep the army properly organized. Many of his suggestions and explanations are also applicable to topics other than war, although recently there have been certain literary works that take it a bit too far. There is also a wealth of historical information provided (by both the treatise and the introduction) concerning how the ancients viewed and conducted war.
Griffith�s translation is far superior to Giles�s translation, and is a translation that is better than most when it comes to the translation of Chinese texts. The commentary is essential in clarifying the aspects of the verses in question; however, the commentary�s placement gets in the way at times. Griffith�s translation presents the text in numbered verses and is a properly organized interpretation. Griffith�s literary style both in his translation and in his introductory work is generally quite good, although there is a bias towards certain opinions concerning Sun Tzu and his questionable existence.
The commentary can be cumbersome, but is generally decent clarification (perhaps the commentary can be in a separate column in future editions). Despite the commentary the translation is, by far, the best translation I have come across. Overall, The Art of War is probably the greatest ancient (and possibly greatest all-time) military treatise to reach production. The Art of War is a classic and should be standard reading for the military personnel of any country.
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on January 4, 2003
The Art of War is a military classic, written around 400 BC. However, because the maxims contained in the book are so succinct and universal, this is still a useful book for understanding and waging war today. The central themes are to attack where the enemy is weak, deceive the enemy into attacking you on your terms (not his), and the use of espionage to confuse the enemy while gathering information for your own use.
This book is a classical, scholarly translation. I cannot comment on the accuracy of the translation, as I do not read Chinese. However, the translator sprinkles the text with footnotes to explain why he has chosen certain phrases that do not directly translate, and offers alternative explanations from other translators. Therefore, you get a good feel for what Sun Tzu originally meant, especially through the critical inclusion of selected commentaries. In addition, there is an introduction by the author on the history and background of the text, which are useful. There are also some comments on the influence the text has had, especially on Mao Tse-tung and on the Imperial Japanese forces through World War II.
Therefore, I certainly recommend this translation for a first-time reader such as myself.
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I was looking forward to reading this book so much that I fell asleep while trying to read the first 90 pages of Sino history during the time of Sun Tzu. That is the only reason I gave it a four, instead of five stars. The author has openly not taken into account that very few of us have a fraction of his knowledge of these interesting events. I understand these to be of great importance to the reader but the author needed to simplfy it a bit.
Some people have criticised this book because they were not able see how these passages correspond to modern day business relationships. It is up to the reader to interpret this for himself. One of my favorites is the following quote from page 128-129, passage 19-20
19. And therefore the general who is advancing does not seek personal fame, and in withdrawing is not concerned with avoiding punishment, but whose only purpose is to protect people and promote the best interests of his sovereign, is the precious jewel of the state.
My translation: A boss must not have fear of his superior and make decisions that are in the best interests of the people he manages which sometime clash with those of highly political senior management.
20. Because such a general regards his men as infants they will march with him into the deepest valleys. He treats them as his own beloved sons and they will die with him. Tu Mu... During the Warring States when Wu Ch'i was a general he took the same food and wore the same clothes as the lowliest of his troops. On his bed there was no mat; on the march he did not mount his horse; he himself carried his reserve rations. He shared exhaustion and bitter toil with his troops.
My translation: Bosses who spend time helping their employees solve problems, pitching in a hand with anybody in the team who is behind a project deadline etc. Employees who witness such actions are willing to spend any amount of overtime to help a team reach a goal. The boss can depend on their subordinates when push comes to shove.
This book also unlocks the secrets to the Sino and Japanese business mentality.
This book is a great read for any business person
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on February 22, 2002
Sun Tzu's essays on war make up the first known book on the subject. The translator has done a good job translating the original text and providing commentary. The writing is clear, however the order is somewhat confusing, which is probably due to the translation (it might have sounded more orderly in the original text). Also, you can tell by looking at a lot of what is written that the author assumes that the reader has knowledge of many of the circumstances and events in ancient China. The translator largley solves the problem through the use of footnotes, although the constant skipping between the footnotes and the original text becomes frustrating at times.
While many maintain that the content of the book can be applied to business or life or whatever, I believe that putting it that crudely is quite misleading. The book was originally written for the purpose of war and combat, and that is what most of the book deals with. However, one will occasionally pass through important wisdoms that one can apply in many fields of life, such as the importance of knowing one's adversary.
Overall this is a good read. Get it if you have the time to read it (which shouldnt be more than a couple of hours a day for a week max).
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on February 1, 2002
I am at a loss as how to review this book. Having a background (i.e. a BA) in history, I was reading it as an historical text, and not a guide as to how to run a business. However, since a hammer can crack a coconut as well as drive nails, I think I will progress. Secondly, and separately, there is an old adage that says, "Plato is easier to understand than the Platonists," which illustrates the idea that these old texts, unlike the commentators on the texts, are not mysterious or esoteric, but quite easy to understand.
I think out the outset, an understanding of "TAO," and its supplementary doctrine of "mandate of heaven" need to be clarified. "Tao," in a word means the "Way," or the proper course of things. It is roughly equivalent to the Greek "Zoe," which means the correct and proper lifestyle. The idea is living one's life in accordance to the morality of the universe. In the Anglo-Saxon tradition we call this "Natural Law." The idea of "Tao," and all of these, is to bring one in accordance, or "at one," with the moral force of the universe.
That "at-one-ment" with the universal morality is the key to a leader's power, whereby he would have "the mandate of heaven." This is the Asian equivalent of "the divine right of kings." The idea was in doing the proper thing in the proper to achieve success.
Sun-tzu's philosophy is supple. As a contrast, Sun-tzu is the exact opposite of General William Tecumseh Sherman. Sun-tzu embodies that Asian patience and restraint that we all admire, while Sherman was more or less a Rambo on speed. It is, odd, therefore that so many business men would find the good Chinese general's philosophy so appealing, since it runs counter to current cooperate culture-back stabbing, "more, more-faster, faster!," and human sacrifices to the Almighty Dollar. If this book can restrain some of the out of control Enron greed, then it is worth the trouble of reading.
If anything, this book is novel in that it provides a "softer" approach to war, or anything else. Sun-tzu advocates strategy, disinformation as a tool, and the rather novel idea that you use an army as a last resort. But if the army is to be use, fight the battle quickly, severely, and with full force. This is a lesson I hope the Department of Defense is heeding, since in our current war on terrorism, the world is in the balance.
This translation is readable, and it includes the ancient commentaries on Sun-tzu's work, since I think it is crucial that we understand the work as the ancients understood things. C. S. Lewis in his book "God in the Dock," has an essay entitled "On Reading Old Books," where he points out that each age has its own assumptions and presuppositions about things, and that it is in the area of these assumptions that the real intellectual work takes place.
The introductory chapters are priceless, and put the book in its historical context-past, present, and future. The section on Mao's and the Soviet's use of this book was quite interesting. This edition also has Wu chi's "Art of War," which is more of a Taoist approach to war, and includes religious practices, such as divining. It provides an excellent counterpoint to Sun-tzu's work.
I would recommend reading this book with Lao-tze's "Tao Te Ching," Confucius's "Analects," and Machiavelli's "The Prince." The first two books help round out Asian culture, religion, and philosophy that are indispensable for getting the subtleties and details of "The Art of War." "The Prince" is included, because fighting a war and maintaining a state are two totally different projects. Take Alexander the Great as the greatest example: he conquered the land from Macedonia to India, but after his death, his empire split into three kingdoms. Machiavelli illustrates some techniques for maintaining a state. Actually, for a really interesting book on success, and how to be successful AND moral, I would recommend the humble "Book of Proverbs" conveniently found in you Bible. Proverbs is ancient wisdom, like "Art of War," or Tao Te Ching," but we frequently for get it, since familiarity breeds contempt!
In the final analysis, a book is only good insofar as it opens up your mind and causes you to reevaluate things, which this book does.
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