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on July 16, 2004
This book is absolutely brilliant, and reading it is a tremendous experience. Sun Tzu is the master, and the Art of War, though aimed specifically on military warfare, is a masterpiece on general strategy and tactics that can be used in many sitautions. In fact, I will bet you that many of the most succesful sports coaches, boxers, businessmen, ploiticians, etc use tactics similar to those found in this book.
The Art of War is not a long book, but despite its size, it is totally packed with content. Some themes of the book include
- always ensuring you are prepared
- adapting and responding to circumstances
- knowing yourself, the enemy, and the environment
- being unpredictable, secretive, and deceptive
- making calculations
- exploiting opportunities
- avoiding your enemy's strengths, and attacking his weak spots
- causing disorder among your enemy
- using baits to manipulate others
- ensuring good teamwork through picking the right people to do the right job, good communication, and synergy
- knowing when to fight and when not to fight
The book is an absolute gem. It is invaluable and a must read. Sun Tzu has a beatiful style, and I really love the Lionel Giles translation, which although old, is still hihgly readable and among the best there is. I also recommend Rodney Ohebsion's tranlsation and selection and arrangement of passages, which is an adaptation of the Giles translation, and is in the book A Collection of Wisdom.
In summary, I would just like to say that The Art of War is definitely one of the greatest texts ever written, and is a must for the student of life.
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on November 17, 2003
The Art of War was originally intended for reading by ancient China's ruling military elite, and not lowly commoners such as us. It is one of the few great books people seem to be universally familiar with, and for good reason.
The struture is blindingly simple - Sun Tzu writes short chapters about different areas of battle which consist of simple dictums. Utterly straightforward, and generalisable to any form of conflict.
Surface-reading this book will take you minutes, not hours - however, time must be spent with even the barest of his principles. The purchase of this book has become alarmingly trendy over recent years, but with no noticeable effect on the global intelligence of its middle manager market. Books like this do not read themselves.
A more accurate edition would have gained 5 stars without a second thought. The fact that much better versions are available (and freesource!) holds this version back.
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on December 27, 2003
As an exposition on Chinese General Sun Tzu's ideas of fighting, "The Art of War" is an excellent source to use to look upon the spirit of ancient Chinese war. Written as truly a guide for sucessful battle campaigns, it is functionally just that. It provides a glimpse at how Chinese generals (yes plural - thanks to commentary that is given) viewed fighting and winning battles. In many ways, it provides a philosophical view of how full frontal assaults and pride can lead to the fall of conquests. However, this work is often misused as an application for businesses by capitalists who think that they too should treat the market as a war-zone. In this case, they reduce Tzu's warfare (which would be used to defend the good) to something that harms innocent workers for self-aggrandizement.
If not read from a greedy capitalist standpoint, "The Art of War" provides an excellent source of enlightenment about war tactics of ancient China (that are in many ways applicable today). However, to use Tzu's work as a guide on how to work (and hence, live) is a terrible reason for reading "The Art of War".
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Those who have read one or more of the volumes that comprise Tom Butler-Bowdon's "50 Classics" series already know that he possesses superior reasoning and writing skills as well as a relentless curiosity when conducting research on history's greatest thinkers and their major works. For these and other reasons, I cannot think of another person better qualified to provide the introductions to the volumes that comprise a new series, "Capstone Classics."

Unlike so many others, he provides more, much more than a flimsy "briefing" to the given work. For this volume, he poses and then responds to key questions such as these in order to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Sun Tzu's insights:

o What exactly can the modern reader get from a manual for waging war that is probably about 2,500 years old?
o What Are the book's "spiritual underpinnings" in addition to its practical advice about planning and waging war?
o What was the historical context, the frame-of-reference, in which Sun Tzu lived and worked?
o To what extent does his classic, The Art of War, reflect that period?
o According to Sun Tzu, what are the meaning and significance of each of the "five indispensable matters" that inform (or at least should inform) a leader's decisions, including the one to do nothing, at least for now?
o According to Sun Tzu, what are the various degrees of successful warfare, with the most valued being able to "subdue the enemy without a fight," closely followed by "taking whole" the enemy's forces and other resources?
o What are the "five occasions when victory can be foretold"?

As indicated earlier, Tom Butler-Bowdon's purpose in this Introduction is to create a context, a frame-of-reference, for Sun Tzu's insights. He does so brilliantly in this instance and in each of the volumes in the "Capstone Classics series that have been published thus far.
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on April 18, 2011
First off, I'd like to make it clear that I have read the Art of War by Sun Tzu in a variety of translations, interpretations, and presentations - so this is not in so much a review of the work as it is this version.

The Art of War is a seminal text on military strategy, doctrine and mindset. Absolutely essential reading for any involved with martial arts, warfare, or simply seeking a new way to enlighten their daily lives. An astounding work, and a fairly painless, quick read.

However. And there's always a however.

I recently bought this version after misplacing one of my former versions of the work. Needless to say, this was a buy I don't regret, but I would have liked to have picked another version had I been given the chance to do it all again. There are a number of typos, formatting errors, and misinterpretations in this version. The page size is large for the amount of text per page, likened to an 8 1/2' x 11' piece of paper folded width-wize. Actually, that may be what this is really printed on, save for a better paper stock. The editors and printers would have done better to select a smaller book format, made it thicker, or utilized more of the page space itself. This is a short work, but placing it in a large format doesn't add to it's value - especially for a public domain piece.

In any case, this is an adequate version and printing of the text, but consider spending your money on a more developed version.

3/5, based on this actual version.
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on October 11, 1999
I cannot remember who introduced me to "The Art of War", but I know I could not hold onto the book for very long. Each friend I thought would benefit from the ancient words of Sun Tzu received a copy from me. I went through seven copies before buying the hard cover for my collection.
I found James Clavell's version quite difficult to find, but well worth it - due to clarity of reading and balance.
I tried reading Cleary's version, but could not get through the first chapter. However, I did purchase "Mastering the Art of War" by Cleary; finding it a better tour guide.
Clavell's "Art of War" offers tactical insight on overcoming an opponent whether it be war, work, relationships, or your own personal demons.
Sun Tzu created a timeless piece of history written for the future. I personally feel that today's society needs to look back, master the art of war, in order to repair the future.
Today I'm buying book #9 for a person who inspired me... I wanted to return the favor.
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What a different book. I picked it up, knowing it had been around forever and I had a mild curiosity what it had in it. I've quoted Sun Tzu often enough, especially in the old Quote meme I used to host, but felt weird having never read the book.
Amazon had it free and that was my golden opportunity to read it and see exactly what I had been missing.
Philosophy.
Aren't most philosophical statements just common sense told in parable? That's how I see them, and that was especially true in this book. Most of the points or statements Sun Tzu made, I felt were common sense if you just sat and thought about it.
I took time after each point/statement and thought hard about what it meant. Sometimes you didn't have to think hard at all, it was plain as day. Each one rang true, and each one was different from the last.
Look, I know we are not a world where every country is at war. But this book isn't just about fighting a war on land, it also touches on the wars we have within ourselves.
Sadly, I don't think everyone will 'get' this book. Nor will everyone enjoying reading it, but I did.
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on January 27, 2003
This is the best translation of Sun Tzu's work on the market. Sawyer is a deft scholar with the ability to approach the meaning most carefully in his text. Moreover the lenghty introduction to the text (three-quarters of the book) gives one a good description of the evolution of warfare in the the major dynasties of Classical China. Descriptions of everything from the development of the sword, chariot, and military organisation is included, all aspects of the the major military engagements described.
The text should therefore appeal to both those who wish to get a general outline of Chinese military history and the context that Sun Tzu (and other writers described in the book) defines his concepts of strategy.
This is a serious scholarship and there is numerous references to non-translated Chinese and Japanese first sources on the subject. Sawyer knows his stuff! There is also a full index with Chinese character translations of key concepts, events, people and places (since as any reader of Chinese script knows, there is no way the phonetic romanised spelling can convey adequate meaning). It is always good to have reference to the Chinese characters. .....
This is the translation for those who hope to take a whack at Chinese classical scholarship and military history.
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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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on September 19, 2014
Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" is a great book.
This ancient classic was written over 2,500 years ago by the legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu, being a
a timeless masterpiece of interaction of power and politics this book teaches many good lessons to anyone who will ever have to command a group of people, in the workplace, in school, or on the battlefield.
The Art of War is an ageless book that teaches human nature and how to deal with difficult situations in life and business.
The lessons learned in this book can be allied to relationship, friendship, career and make you a more complete person in general. I I recommend this book to be read by all those who wants to succeed in anything they do, It is not just about lessons in war but can be used and applied for everyday life.
"The Art of War" is a must read.
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