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The Art of War (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 29 May 2008

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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: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,001 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

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 56 people found the following review helpful By M. G. Armstrong on 4 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
"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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98 of 109 people found the following review helpful By Martin Turner HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 11 Feb. 2004
Format: Paperback
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ian Hamlett on 10 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Sharkey on 9 Dec. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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