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The Art of War (Penguin Classics) [Paperback]

Sun-tzu , John Minford
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 May 2008 Penguin Classics

Still a source of inspiration for soldiers on the battlefield and managers in the boardroom 2000 years after it was written, Sun-Tzu's The Art of War is the most influential book of strategy in the world, translated from the Chinese by John Minford in Penguin Classics.

'Ultimate excellence lies not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy without ever fighting'

For more than two thousand years, Sun-Tzu's The Art of War has provided leaders with profound insights into the use of skill, tactics, psychology and discipline to outwit opponents. Said to have inspired Napoleon, and used by Mao Zedong and General Douglas MacArthur, as well as many famous business gurus, politicians and sports stars, its ancient words of wisdom provide a touchstone for today's managers and executives fighting their boardroom battles. This best-selling book offers ancient wisdom on how to use skill, cunning, tactics and discipline to outwit your opponent.

Little is known for definite about Sun Tzu (544-496 B.C.) and his life during the Warring States period after the decline of the Zhou dynasty, but his classic The Art of War has been one of the central works of Chinese literature for 2500 years.

If you enjoyed The Art of War, you might like Machiavelli's The Prince, also available in Penguin Classics.

'Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership'


'Reflecting on Sun-Tzu's work is to the business manager what weight lifting is to the champion athlete - an exercise that makes one stronger'

John Kohut, Beijing Bureau Chief, South China Post

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (29 May 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140455523
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140455526
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,324 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The strategic advice that [The Art of War] offers concerns much more than the conduct of war. It is an ancient book of proverbial wisdom, a book of life." (John Minford, from the Introduction) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Little is known for definite about Sun Tzu [544-496 B.C.] and his life during the Warring States period after the decline of the Zhou dynasty, but his classic The Art of War has been one of the central works of Chinese literature for 2500 years.

John Minford has translated many books from Chinese, including Cao Xueqin's The Story of the Stone, and was co-editor of Seeds of Fire: Chinese Voices of Conscience and Chinese Classical Literature: An Anthology of Translations.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of War 4 Feb 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.
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95 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic work of strategy, often misapplied 11 Feb 2004
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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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting if a little generic 9 April 2005
By A Customer
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Art of War 23 Jan 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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Translated for the poetry of it 10 Nov 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Simple and Easy Business Sense!
Simple and easy to read - with a knack of connecting the business world with real life war tactics. Thoroughly recommend this book for anyone wanting to find simple basics in the... Read more
Published 11 days ago by Christophe Chateau
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
spot on good price prompt delivery
Published 1 month ago by Deb
5.0 out of 5 stars A bit specialised
Bought this for someone who really appreciated it, although it is a bit specialised
Published 2 months ago by Suki
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 3 months ago by Tessa N
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic
Well worth reading, even if you don't plan on making war in an artful way :) Seriously, this is a classic and it's not a huge read.
Published 6 months ago by Wai
4.0 out of 5 stars A Strategists Dream
Intriguingly simple yet surprisingly detailed. Not quite The Prince but direct all the same! The additional commentary is a nice adjunct.
Published 7 months ago by Mr D
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent
this book was a very good read,i,m not a big reader but i thoroughly enjoyed this .i would reccomend this book
Published 7 months ago by DAVID STEAD
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece
Brilliant when it was first written and still a masterpiece. Why not study Sun Tzu in schools, for older teenagers, but then I would be pro bringing back Philosophy generally in... Read more
Published 9 months ago by K. J. Stone
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect edition of the Art of War.
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... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Daniel Sharkey
4.0 out of 5 stars A classic
A classic book, nicely translated and in a good size in this paperback edition. A must for any book collection, or a must for those moments where you need calm, wise words for... Read more
Published 14 months ago by RobM
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