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213 of 216 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Translation of a Classic
The Art of War seems to be a classic piece of Chinese philosophy that is easy to translate into a mediocre work. I've read a number of translations of Sun Tzu that are clunky and have none of the wit of the original text. Now, I don't read ancient Chinese, but when a Chinese philisophical text reads like a manual for a microwave, you know something is lost in...
Published on March 1, 2006 by Scott R. Dukart

55 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Thought this would be better
The content of the translations themselves was fine, but I found the formatting difficult to read. The translator also interjects thoughts into the middle of sentences which disrupted the flow of the text even further. Other versions may be fascinating, but I found this one stale and unremarkable.
Published on August 3, 2010 by NYM

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50 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clear and useful translation, January 4, 2003
Craig MACKINNON (Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Art of War (Paperback)
The Art of War is a military classic, written around 400 BC. However, because the maxims contained in the book are so succinct and universal, this is still a useful book for understanding and waging war today. The central themes are to attack where the enemy is weak, deceive the enemy into attacking you on your terms (not his), and the use of espionage to confuse the enemy while gathering information for your own use.
This book is a classical, scholarly translation. I cannot comment on the accuracy of the translation, as I do not read Chinese. However, the translator sprinkles the text with footnotes to explain why he has chosen certain phrases that do not directly translate, and offers alternative explanations from other translators. Therefore, you get a good feel for what Sun Tzu originally meant, especially through the critical inclusion of selected commentaries. In addition, there is an introduction by the author on the history and background of the text, which are useful. There are also some comments on the influence the text has had, especially on Mao Tse-tung and on the Imperial Japanese forces through World War II.
Therefore, I certainly recommend this translation for a first-time reader such as myself.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In some ways outdated, in others, prophetic, August 6, 2010
This review is from: The Art Of War (Paperback)
A. Overview
The ancient Chinese military general Sun Tzu lays out a blueprint for the effective waging of war. In his classic The Art of War, the successful war campaign largely revolves around two key elements: deception and surprise. Sun Tzu also describes the virtues that are required of effective military leaders, and, drawing from his many years of military experience, he gives wide ranging and insightful advice on knowing oneself, knowing one's enemy, and how to keep the spirits of one's soldiers fixed on victory. Throughout his treatise, his words are piercing, direct, at times witty, and often paradoxical. He writes, for example, "If your opponent is of choleric temper, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant" (I.22). "Simulated disorder postulates perfect discipline, simulated fear postulates courage; simulated weakness postulates strength" (V.17).

1. Virtues Necessary for a Successful War Campaign
The Commander is to be an exemplar of five virtues: wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness (I.9). Discipline among the Commanders and soldiers is the key to victory. One can even determine which side in a war will be victorious by asking "(1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law? (2) Which of the two generals has most ability? (3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? (5) Which army is stronger? (6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? (7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?" (I.13).

2. The Law of Deception
The Law of Deception is summarized by Sun Tzu with these words: "All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near" (I.18-19).
Sun Tzu goes to great lengths in justifying this assertion and in giving examples of how to deceive and to detect deception from the enemy. He writes, "Humble words and increased preparations are signs that the enemy is about to advance. Violent language and driving forward as if to the attack are signs that he will retreat" (IX.24), but "Peace proposals unaccompanied by a sworn covenant indicate a plot" (IX.26). "At first, then, exhibit the coyness of a maiden, until the enemy gives you an opening; afterwards emulate the rapidity of a running hare, and it will be too late for the enemy to oppose you" (XI.68).

3. Law of Surprise Attack
Surprise is also an important element in weakening the enemy. The military is to "[a]ppear at points which the enemy must hasten to defend; march swiftly to places where you are not expected" (VI.5), and, "[i]n raiding and plundering, be like fire, in immovability like a mountain" (VII.18). "Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt" (VII.19).

4. Effective Warfare
The rest of the treatise focuses on how to wage war in an effective manner. War is to be waged by first knowing oneself and knowing one's enemy. Battle is never undertaken unless one is certain that he will win. Sun Tzu outlines the five principles of victory: "(1) He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight. (2) He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces. (3) He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks. (4) He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared. (5) He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign" (III.17).
A successful war campaign is waged efficiently, with the Armed Forces knowing when and how to attack by expending as little effort as possible, for "supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting" (III.2). Few resources are to be expended in an effective war campaign: "The skillful soldier does not raise a second levy, neither are his supply-wagons loaded more than twice" (II.8).
Sun Tzu also seems to hint at a metaphysical plane in which warfare is fought. He writes, for example, that the effective Commander "wins his battles by making no mistakes. Making no mistakes is what establishes the certainty of victory, for it means conquering an enemy that is already defeated" (IV.13), as though war is first fought on some metaphysical plane before the victory and defeated is reflected in the visible, physical world.

B. Critique
Some of Sun Tzu's counsel is outdated in the age of terrorism, military insurgencies, and digital and nuclear warfare. Some of it revolves around the size and numbers of the enemy's forces and one's advantage relative to the enemy based on numbers. Similarly, much of his advice is based on obsolete forms of land warfare that are rarely fought in the modern day. He writes, for example, "Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted" (VI.1). This advice will rarely, if ever, be relevant in an age where most warfare is fought in the air or from long range missiles, with forces rarely clashing in land battles.
The advent of nuclear weapons also changes the entire equation of relative forces and makes the numbers of infantrymen almost irrelevant. Similarly, the introduction of insurgencies that blend into local populations have been able to render even large armies of well equipped soldiers ineffective and unsuccessful. Furthermore, the advent of digital and cyber-warfare makes the numbers of enlisted and commissioned soldiers largely irrelevant to foreign attacks.
Though the forms of warfare have changed over the ages, many of Sun Tzu's principles continue to apply. Whether fighting a land battle or an air battle, the laws of deception and surprise attack are still relevant and highly effective. Furthermore, Sun Tzu outlines lessons that are important not only for the battlefield, but also for the general struggles of life. He writes, "You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended. You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked" (VI.7). This is advice that should be heeded by businessmen, political leaders, and anyone else in a position that requires defending against an onslaught of attacks or competition.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Edition of a Timeless Classic, January 22, 2006
It has to be a little strange that we are still reading Sun Tzu's book. It's been at least 2,000 years since it was written (We don't know exactly when it was written, most guesses are from 100 to 600 BCE.) and we really don't know if Sun Tzu even existed (Some say it was written by a group of unknown Chinese philosophers.)

You would think that the situations in ancient China would be so different that they would have no lesson at all to our modern times. Yet it turns out that the book is still read. It is read by military men, by atheletes, and by corporate executives.

The way it is written, the philosophies it expouses seem to have timeless meaning and when we read the words we recognize some things about our own situations, our own lives. Perhaps like the Bible, there are universal truths that do not dimish with time.

This is a beautiful edition of the book. It has the S. B. Griffith translation, combined with some 75 illustrations (mostly color). The illustrations are photographs, paintings, or art objects from China that keep in the spirit of the book and remind us of another culture as well as of another time.
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79 of 90 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whatever you were looking for, you've found it here., March 13, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Art of War (Paperback)
In ART OF WAR, there is a rare thing in books in which all of it or most of it can relate to many things. If the reader uses some of these war tactics and strategies in the modern world, they may find it easy to relate. Business is war, but in a different scenario than actual battles. Thus it is easy to relate to this book. Even rivals in sports and entertainment can be outwitted by the wisdom in this book. It also adds examples of some actions, which show how these sayings and writings apply to the real world.
So no matter what you were looking for in this book, whether it be business, entertainment, sports, war games, actual wars, or even travel, you can be sure to learn more on how ot attack life here.
The book's age is hard and easy to see at the same time. You can tell that it was written thousands of years ago by what Sun Tzu tells of. (Chariots, gold pieces are currency, etc...), but some of the grammar and language are shown well in the translation in the book, making it easy to read in English as well as other languages you would be able to find the book in.
The only weakness of this book would have to be its accented topic towards foriegn countries, and much older devices. The way to break through this is for the reader to be able to translate it into his/her life.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Broadening Your Perspective, September 21, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Art of War (Paperback)
War is not really based on honor... or glory, or even whose right. It's all about conditions, who has the advantage and how to dishearten your opponents while making sure your own resources are protected. It tells you what to look for through hundreds of various quotes and snippets of advice. This book was not entirely by Sun Tzu, but a collection of famous tacticians through-out history. Each seem to add another element to the concept of how to win in conflict.
In life, you can see a little of this in each day... but just remember not too get too carried away. After all, even Sun Tzu himself said 'A battle not fought, is a battle won.' For broadening your perspective, I'd suggest adding this book to your collection as well as 'Open Your Mind, Open Your Life: A Little Book of Eastern Wisdom' by Taro Gold.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book on war, February 22, 2002
This review is from: The Art of War (Paperback)
Sun Tzu's essays on war make up the first known book on the subject. The translator has done a good job translating the original text and providing commentary. The writing is clear, however the order is somewhat confusing, which is probably due to the translation (it might have sounded more orderly in the original text). Also, you can tell by looking at a lot of what is written that the author assumes that the reader has knowledge of many of the circumstances and events in ancient China. The translator largley solves the problem through the use of footnotes, although the constant skipping between the footnotes and the original text becomes frustrating at times.
While many maintain that the content of the book can be applied to business or life or whatever, I believe that putting it that crudely is quite misleading. The book was originally written for the purpose of war and combat, and that is what most of the book deals with. However, one will occasionally pass through important wisdoms that one can apply in many fields of life, such as the importance of knowing one's adversary.
Overall this is a good read. Get it if you have the time to read it (which shouldnt be more than a couple of hours a day for a week max).
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars This is an Analysis of Art of War not Art of War, December 21, 2010
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This review is from: The Art of War (Kindle Edition)
So... Just so you know. Remember, anyone can review any product on Amazon, and for the most part few actually review the product itself. This particular eBook is thick with in-depth information on Art of War and its author. It takes about 3 chapters to even begin to reach the chapter. First a discussion of Sun Tsu's existence, then of the books existence, then of the 13 critics that will be interjected as you read the book. And the interjections don't wait till the end or are footnoted, they're put wherever and however long need be.

It's not bad, in fact, it's really informative; but I just wanted the 13 chapters. If you think you'd be apply to just push through the square bracket passages be ready for a real challenge. I'd want to rate it 1 to offset the other ratings but this 'edition' isn't that bad, just not what was expected.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible translation of a most important work..., December 7, 2003
This review is from: The Art of War (Paperback)
Indeed, I am heartened to read one reviewer lambasting the general critical acceptance of "The Art of War" as "flowery". Unfortunately, most Westerners see Chinese philosophy as little more than yoga meditation and interior decoration. Of course, this is not the case.
Take, for example, Sun's "Art of War". Here is a man sick of watching ancient Chinese warlords wage war in a sloppy, haphazard fashion (more as a social tradition than anything else), wasting their populace's resources and lives. Thus, Sun writes a magnum opus discussing the proper means of waging war, from gaining the support of the people to clearly articulating goals to ensuring success of well-trained armies in short and long campaigns all the way to the minute details of using fire (even setting other people on fire). Far from the flowery rhetoric of most Western diatribes on Taoism and Buddhism and (enter your favorite Chinese term here), the Art of War is at once simple and immediate, which is why it has survived for 2500 years.
Griffith's translation of this work is masterful as well. Included are many of the commentaries of the ancient scholars (including, for you Three Kingdoms fans, copious amounts of Cao Cao), which show how Sun's text was used in various situations, both in war AND peace). Also, he includes an excellent introduction which places the work in its historical context and speaks of Mao Zedong's use of its precepts. Also are five appendices, one of which contains the other famous Art of War, that of Wu. I was particularly surprised at his none-too-flattering comments regarding the Japanese understanding of this work (truthfully, I think that too many people see the art of war in the Gordon Gecko, "Rising Sun" business sense), particularly in pointing out their blunders during WWII.
All in all, reader, you will be hard-pressed to find a better translation of this seminal work.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Oldest Treatise on Game Theory, September 30, 2007
OverTheMoon ( - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of War (Paperback)
There are many translations of this work which has long been in the public domain. This is the popular translation by Lionel Giles made even more popular by the introduction from the best-selling author of Japan epics, James Clavell. It contains Giles' commentary along with the translation. The annotations give historical examples of the strategies in action.

Game theory is calculated strategy. The Art of War by Sun Tzu is probably the oldest and most important book on game theory ever written. It is the culmination of the development of the best warfare tactics prior to the 5th century BC. It is considered the foundation for all military plans and is still used to this day. It is most popular for its ability to win wars without fighting one. Its application has shaped the world as we know it.

The Art of War can be understood as a breakdown of the chaos of warfare into components that can be analyzed and understood. The tactics are mostly about controlled organization, recognizing environments and situations and the correct response to each one. Organization is subject to change in competition. The Art of War is essentially the strategy of responding to changing environments. Response is thus relative to evolving conditions.

1 - "Laying Plans"
The core message of this chapter is to calculate as much as possible before committing yourself. Important themes include discipline, ethics, environmental conditions and assessing the competition. It's about setting up the mission and evaluating the competition.

2 - "Waging War"
The important detail of this chapter is to win as quickly and as economically as possible. Prolonged struggle means wasting resources and undermining confidence. When winning, use the spoils as rewards and capital. It's about making war pay.

3 - "Attack by Stratagem"
This chapter is about deployment of the previous two chapters. The central message is to know thyself and know thy enemy. This stage indicates problems such as sieges, bad management and interior anarchy or legal/government interference. Advantages such as good management, exploiting opportunities and attacking tactics are covered. Strength is about cohesiveness and is independent of size.

4 - "Tactical Dispositions"
This one stresses putting yourself in a position where you cannot be defeated and waiting for the opportunity to defeat the enemy. It is about recognizing the breaks and taking them as opposed to creating the breaks.

5 - "Energy"
This part focuses on the power of deception to lull the enemy into a false sense of security and the use of spies to learn the enemy's moves. It also stresses the need to evolve in battle. It's about building up war capability.

6 - "Weak Points and Strong"
This chapter encapsulates all the previous five chapters into an advanced war strategy producing outcomes, calculating and responding to events as they unfold. The strategies are developed here. It is about creating breaks.

7 - "Maneuvering"
This deals with managing units and the internal problems they face on top of how to respond during movement to various circumstances. It is a chapter based on types of situations and responses.

8 - "Variation of tactics"
This section expands on the evolution of tactics and strategies based on situations and responses but concentrates on what causes failure.

9 - "The Army on the March"
This is advanced maneuvering especially across long distances with different terrains and how to deal with encounters. It is about interpretation.

10 - "Terrain"
This describes the various terrains that an army can encounter and when and how to occupy them. It talks about distances, potential dangers and obstructions. Positioning is important.

11 - "The Nine Situations"
This piece explains the condition of each terrain in terms of its tactical advantages and disadvantages and how to deal with both. It is a very intensive chapter because of the number of complex conditions dealt with.

12 - "The Attack by Fire"
Arson in war is probably the single most troubling weapon that an army could have inflicted on the enemy around 500 BC. This chapter is obviously based on the most advanced weapons of the time which have since been developed. It is about using the principle of creating disorder and chaos to win.

13 - "The Use of Spies"
Without spies don't war. War is won based on foreknowledge not by calculation but by direct information about the plans of the other side from spies. Spies are managed in this chapter.

Even though the work is quite short (about 100 pages or less with commentary) it is complex enough to warrant several readings. It is the equivalent to learning how to play advanced chess, a game which compliments this study. There is a lifetime of thought within the pages. Napoleon was said to have used it and lost when he didn't follow it.

The Art of War has become one of the most important self help books of this century popularized in big business as many executives have had recourse to this material because it offers a sound winning strategy. Most readers come away believing that the book's message finds it adaptable to many environments because it is all about adjusting to variations and so can be applied to anything and everything.

The Art of War is not supposed to be an exciting read. It is a strategy book, a step by step guide to how battles are won and why they are lost. It is more to be memorized as a set of responses, including when not to respond, than to be understood. The combinations of the responses are unlimited. There is enough on the plate without asking why. Understanding why would come later and the answers to these questions would come from a very sophisticated understanding of the theory. It is an endeavor that remains open to the reader if they can come to terms first with the information that is here.

Even if the book is not followed up on by subsequent study it can still leave a long lasting impression with its tips on discipline and achieving goals. It is great value for the amount of information contained in such a short burst. It will get you thinking strategically and that is more or less its claim to fame.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My Favorite Translation of The Art of War, November 12, 2004
David R. Cross "Purple Sage" (Fort Worth, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of War (Hardcover)
I have studied 6 or 7 translations of Sun Tzu's Art of War, and this is my favorite. I like it for several reasons, but mainly for three: It captures the poetry of Sun Tzu's original text, it captures the essence of Sun Tzu's thought, and the commentary is excellent. If you only read one Sun Tzu, read this one. If you have read others, you should still read this one. I tip my hat to John Minford.
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