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4.3 out of 5 stars485
4.3 out of 5 stars
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VINE VOICEon 4 June 2008
I was expecting a huge tome full of Confuscian statements which are allegorical to warfare. What I received was a 69-page book of short instructions which are dirrectly about warfare, but in many cases allegorical to life.

Possibly they're all in some way applicable to the day-to-day, the fighting with fire section does seem a bit specialised, but doubtless the scales will fall from my eyes at some stage and I will be able to use its teachings in buying tangerines from waitrose.

The best thing about the book is the ability to spice up conversation. Never again will I use a hackneyed marketing phrase where something from Sun Tzu will work. Brilliant.
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on 6 February 2001
I very much enjoyed Sun Tzu's timeless pearls of wisdom though I wouldn't agree that they are a panacea for all the ills of business and/or personal life. However, I was more disappointed with Cleary's editorial commentary of the translated text. I often found him simply reiterating the text, albeit in a more verbose and gramatically correct form. He seemed to presume ignorance on the part of the reader. Less Cleary more Sun Tzu.
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on 9 January 2015
Nigel Cawthorne's version of this book stands miles above the other version's I have seen.

There are 2 versions of this book. One is a bigger format with a papery cover. This one is a hardcover with a case. Both of them feature the same text (although this version has a bit more of explanations), same art.

But the quality of this exact book is a marvel to behold. I already bought 2 as Christmas presents for my friends. Tommorow I will be ordering 5 more. Because I want for myself (even though I own the paperback version), and I won't be able to find a better gift. The quality is top notch.

Even if you already have a copy of Art of War - i would suggest you to get this one. It's that good.

P.S. Ordered from smeikabooks if that's important.
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You may be wondering why I have picked such a title for this review, and there is a very good reason for it. Written well over a thousand years ago Sun Tzu's tactical guide to war is still used and taught in military schools, and has found more applications over the centuries.

The tactics laid out here were used in historical battles fought in Asia and China but they were also used by Ninja's and intelligence services. Nowadays still used by the military and intelligence worlds they have found a place in business. Why this is so is firstly because it isn't long to read, it isn't hard to read, and it is reliable information. If you use a bit of thought then you can apply the teachings of Sun Tzu in your life, as and when necessary. Of course although being short this does make you use your brain and think, and this in itself can make you come up with ideas how to apply the teachings here. This is a must read for those who study military tactics, and military history, as well as businessmen, and those who want to be one step ahead of the game. Ultimately this is the classic for all, and hopefully can help you in unforeseen ways, and in many situations.
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on 12 September 2009
Understanding Sun Tzu on the Art of War explores the meaning of Sun Tzu's philosophies through the use of high impact case examples, in strategic cases through psychological experimentations, and the world at large through politics and conflict bouncing on War itself. Apparently the Art of war is one of the greatest and oldest military strategy books.

The book relates to everything as a whole, so you can find ease to relate to your own life situations as it seeks to establish the conflict already present within us. The main purpose of the book is to enable us to understand our own conflicts, and reduce it's impacts on ourselfs, and each other through 13 chapters(Strategic Assessments, Doing Battle, Planning a Siege, Formation, Force, Emptiness and Fullness, Armed Struggle, Adaptations, Maneuvering Armies, Terrain, Nine Grounds, Fire Attack and On the use of spies) which gives one strength when dealing with such forces.
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I'm sampling all the Kindle versions of the Art of War to pick a readable translation.
This is YET ANOTHER version of the Lionel Giles' 1910 version WITH the rather heavy original footnotes. As a consequence the sample chapter runs out before the actual translation begins. However there are other versions of this translation available. The other samples are actually in quite readable English for the date, and seems reasonably understandable in the 21st century. I've no idea on the accuracy of the translation.

Opening line from other Giles versions: "Sun Tzu said: the art of war is of vital importance to the State.
It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected."
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"The Art of War" is a compendium of the military experience and wisdom of Sun Tzu, which is an honorific given to the author, Sun Wu. It was written over two millennium ago. Naturally there are varying theories and disputes as to who actually wrote it, and which version is correct. There is also the matter of the proper translation. The one I read was translated by Lionel Giles in 1910. It is one of the most, if not the most influential text on military strategy and tactics. Mao Zedong, Vo Nguyen Giap and Douglas MacArthur are only three of the many military leaders who credit the importance of Sun Tzu work in guiding their thinking. It remains an essential "textbook" at the military colleges in the United States, and is also required reading in the CIA. I finally decided to read this classic in search of a specific quote that I had been told was from Sun Tzu's work, and which I had had some personal experience with: "Never fight on a battlefield that resembles an inverted tortoise shell." I didn't find the quote, but perhaps I found the opposite. At least the tortoise shell reference SOUNDS like something he might have said.

The author did grab my attention with an anecdote in the introduction which underscored one of his aphorisms: "If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders are clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers." In the anecdote, it is women who are divided into two sides, each led by one of the emperor's favorite concubines. Because they could not maintain proper discipline among their "troops," each of the concubines is beheaded, despite the protests of the emperor. It should be no surprise that their replacements achieved perfect discipline within the ranks, and Sun Tzu, who proclaimed the army ready, had the temerity to rebuke the emperor with: "The King is only fond of words, and cannot translate them into deeds." (How often such a speaker, in the real world, can keep his own head is not discussed in the text.)

There is much wisdom in this text. For example: "All warfare is based on deception." "There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare." On a good leader: "Hence his ability to pick out the right men and to utilize combined energy." And one that Vo Nguyen Giap must have taken to heart: "Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances." (that is, he did not repeat the tactics that led to victory at Dien Binh Phu by repeating them at Khe Sanh; instead he went for Saigon, and the American public via television)

As for that "inverted tortoise shell," the one passage that seemed closest to addressing this issue seemed to imply the opposite: "Pass quickly over mountains, and keep in the neighborhood of valleys." And, "Camp in high places, facing the sun. Do not climb heights in order to fight. So much for mountain warfare." (Certainly Giap seemed to have disregarded that one). And there seems to be that "classic problem" of all too many "holy" books. There are passages that imply "this", and passages that imply the opposite of "this." For example, on the all-important matter of logistics and supply, Sun Tzu says: "Bring war material with you from home, but forage on the enemy," and "Hence a wise general makes a point of foraging on the enemy. One cartload of the enemy's provisions is equivalent to twenty of one's own." But on the other hand: "We may take it then that an army without its baggage-train is lost, without provisions it is lost; without bases of supply it is lost."

There is much good advice that seems to be routinely ignored, despite its place in the curriculum, such as the emphasis on short, decisive wars and the repeated admonitions to know the enemy. Conversely, there are the passages that can be chosen to buttress one argument, and others to buttress the counter-argument. Overall, 4-stars.
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on 20 October 2010
I am an enthusiast of historical figures, specifically, military figures and men of enlightenment. So, naturally, Sun Tzu's "The Art Of War" was a must read for me. With the original written in ancient chinese i found it surprisingly difficult to find a single english translation that was without a Thesis from the Author; I would personally like to read the book and make my own interpretations without being influenced by someone elses opinions at the end of each paragraph and would definetaly recommend this edition for any like minded people.

The only downside i would highlight is that much of the original script was not or could not be translated, and the result is 13 short chapters, readable in a day or two - although the amount of wisdom of warfare and life overall that is in this short book is astonishingly so, that i would recommend everyone read it at least once in their lifetime.

I hope this review has been helpful to those of you that are considering purchasing this book. Please rate kindly.
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I'm sampling all the Kindle versions of the Art of War to pick a readable translation.
This is Lionel Giles' 1910 version without the rather heavy original footnotes. It's actually in quite readable English for the date, and seems reasonably understandable in 21st century English. I've no idea on the accuracy of the translation.

Opening line: "Sun Tzu said: the art of war is of vital importance to the State.
It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin. Hence it is a subject of inquiry which can on no account be neglected."
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on 26 January 2011
Yep, the content is all absolutely great, there aren't author's interpretations, it's plainly what Sun Tzu wrote, translated best as it can. Some would say an author's interpretation is better guidance to understand or more helpful, but I'm not bothered as I wanted to interpret the words myself.

The actual book is a bit tacky to be honest, but I think the description did say 'Paperback' so not too much surprise. The presentation is quite lacking in appeal, it is very plain, but one should buy it to read it and that's all!
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