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4.6 out of 5 stars43
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 4 February 2004
"Ultimate excellence lies, not in winning every battle But in defeating the enemy without ever fighting"
This book by John Minford gives a concise and informative look at Master Wu's "Art of War" using the standard and accepted translation. It is not just a book about war but is a guide to life and this version gives explanations of the text from selected experts but firstly gives you the raw treatise allowing you to make up your own mind of the meaning. It is extremely informative without getting boring and gives you brief histories and background information integral to the treatise. Don't be put off at the thought of having to read difficult chinese names or words as a quick guide to correct pronunciation is included and will help in reading and understanding the informative introduction and histories. This book makes what may seem a daunting subject to some, a very easy to understand and enjoyable book.
This book will be of interest to both those looking for information on Chinese history but mainly to those looking for a guide to life. I, myself am not a historian and hated History lessons at school but the History subject matter in this book is interesting without over examination and doesn't have lengthy and irrelevant text. I'm also not much of a reader (more of a PS2 man) but found the book to be intriguing and hard to put down.
Interesting subject matter simply put, concisely explained with commentary from the leading experts and published by quality publishers Penguin. 2000 year old wisdom that is pertinent in modern life.
0Comment53 of 58 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
The Art of War is one of the foundational works of strategic thinking. Essentially it is a treatise on the principles of warfare based on ancient Chinese military history.
The growth in academic and business study of strategy has given this book hugely increased popularity over the last twenty years. However, strategic principles are often extracted and applied haphazardly, based on what the reader was looking for.
It is important to keep this book in its context. Some of the principles - such as 'to win without fighting is the highest achievement' are obviously of general applicability. Others, such as 'when plumes of dust are seen, chariots are approaching' are clearly of little relevance to modern business. However, when faced with 'in a forced march of 100 li the commander will fall', you may decide that there is a useful application or you may not.
Likewise, you may find it entertaining to quote Sun Tzu to your colleagues, and it may give a flavour of authority to your strategy proposals. If you do so, though, you ought to recognise that your application is your own interpretation, not something intrinsic to the text.
If you are reading this book because you want to learn about Chinese military history, or because you want to understand the way early strategists thought, I believe you will find it enjoyable and rewarding.
On the other hand, if you are using this book as a way of developing your own strategic skills, I would recommend that you read it in conjunction with Mintzberg, Ahlstrand and Lampel's 'Strategy Safari', and particularly note the critique of the Positioning school of strategy. The dangers are all too great of finding in Sun Tzu echoes of ideas that you already hold, and then imagining that these are supported by ancient authority.
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on 10 November 2009
This is a great translation of The Art of War but I would strongly recommend reading the Lionel Giles translation first or at least doing a search for the text file online as a backup (it's way out of copyright). It's not that this version is too tricky, it's just that it's a direct translation that tries to maintain the rhythm of the original. Lionel Giles' translation is a more "meat and potatoes" version.

Anyone that thinks this book isn't relevant for modern warfare or business should read a different translation. What is written here can be applied to all aspects of your life. If you want to lose weight, your hunger is your opponent. If you want to sell something, the customer is your opponent. Sun Tzu said, "..attack that which he is obliged to rescue.." which translates to "buy this software and your children will be safe online" or "buy this and you will get thinner".
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on 9 December 2013
This edition (or at least the book I received) is the finest version of the Art of War I have read. The physical book quality is great, the pages have a rough edge to them giving it a more ancient feel. The best part of the book is the notes provided by the author, he provides the original text and then an annotated version with sourced notes.

The notes expand on the text and provide a nice historical element to the book, as a lover of history I found this great, learning about many of the methods, army's and leaders of ancient china. Although the Art of War is primarily suited to pre-modern era (ancient world, medieval world etc) it still has relevant lessons to modern strategy, such as the important of supplies, of terrain and combat.

This is a wonderful read for those interested in military strategy or for the historical elements of this ancient Chinese text.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 26 November 2015
The Art of War is something that I have always wanted to read, but have been reluctant to as I thought that it was not particularly applicable to me. I have also been misled by popular media which has not really represented it correctly in my opinion!

I have read the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu many times and actually the Art of War is a good accompaniment to it, and even by itself it is relevant to modern life and very interesting indeed.

This version is split into the following chapters: Making of Plans, Waging of War, Strategic Offensive, Forms and Dispositions, Potential Energy, Empty and Full, The Fray, The Nine Changes, On The March, Forms of Terrain, The Nine Kinds of Ground, Attack by Fire, Espionage.

I can imagine it being especially relevant to those in positions of seniority; indeed my husband was quick to snatch it off me when I had finished it and said that he has picked up some very useful strategies from it.

However, it is not just for the workplace (or the battlefield!) and can be used for overcoming adversity in any form. Although superficially it seems only relevant to warfare and overcoming your opponent, it is actually quite spiritual and there is a strong emphasis on self-mastery and discipline:

"He confronts chaos with discipline;
He treats tumult with calm.
This is mastery of Mind."

Even if you are not trying to improve yourself, it is just an engaging read! Highly recommended.
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on 23 January 2011
Very interesting book, can hardly believe something written so long ago can still have a relevant place in life in the 21st Century. Wonderful, wise words of wisdom. Worth purchasing not only for the poetic style but for the amazing learning. Especially helpful in putting one's mind straight when in a conflict with everyday living, like neighbours etc. This book is a gem - really putting conflict into perspective and advising one how to change one's view.
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on 9 April 2005
This text about battles is worth reading for anyone who comes into any form of conflict. Much of the text is still directly relevant ("to defeat your enemy without fighting is the highest excellence") and some of it is, on the face of it, much less so (like the section about determining whether chariots or foot soldiers are approaching). Even the less obviously useful passages can impart a degree of insight if they are considered carefully (think in terms of looking ahead to see what is coming, be it a political wrangle at work or the literal horse-drawn chariots).
It's also a useful text to quote when uttering surreal-sounding quips in meetings at work. I'm glad this is on my shelf.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 December 2005
For Sun Tzu, warfare is above all a question of psychology, before strategy and tactics come into play.
The art of war is the art to deceive: 'Apparent confusion is a product of good order; apparent cowardice, of courage; apparent weakness, of strength'.
Sun Tzu is a master of psychological warfare: sap the morale of your enemy and be cleverer (wisdom, not force alone).
For him, 'supreme excellence is to subdue the enemy without fighting.'
His strategy is based on foreknowledge (spying) in order to know the strength and weaknesses (political, geographical, defensive, offensive) of your enemy. And if you are not strong enough, you should be cleverer through diplomacy.
His tactics are flexibility, gaining the initiative and not fighting a protracted war.
This text is rightly a classic. People who launch 'preventive wars' should follow a few of Sun Tzu's recommendations.
On the other hand, it tells a lot about mankind that one of the first classics of literature doesn't have the title 'The Art of Peace'.
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on 26 September 2011
i've only read the first chapter yet but already feel like i've learnt something. the wording is simple to understand but not childish. i also like that it's a direct translation of Sun Tzu, not a rambling essay-like book, where the author/translator just provides a commentary of the original.

i think there are better versions available, but this is excellent for someone reading 'the art of war' for the first time.
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on 17 October 2015
A superb work on strategy. Most readers will get through this book without realising the strategies within are being used against them right now by their own governments. For those who want to know how the masters put the strategies detailed here into practice try: New World Order: The International Communist Revolution Engineered By The Criminal Elite. Their Strategies And The Counter Strategies.
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