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The Art of War Hardcover – April 5, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

The Art of War is the Swiss army knife of military theory--pop out a different tool for any situation. Folded into this small package are compact views on resourcefulness, momentum, cunning, the profit motive, flexibility, integrity, secrecy, speed, positioning, surprise, deception, manipulation, responsibility, and practicality. Thomas Cleary's translation keeps the package tight, with crisp language and short sections. Commentaries from the Chinese tradition trail Sun-tzu's words, elaborating and picking up on puzzling lines. Take the solitary passage: "Do not eat food for their soldiers." Elsewhere, Sun-tzu has told us to plunder the enemy's stores, but now we're not supposed to eat the food? The Tang dynasty commentator Du Mu solves the puzzle nicely, "If the enemy suddenly abandons their food supplies, they should be tested first before eating, lest they be poisoned." Most passages, however, are the pinnacle of succinct clarity: "Lure them in with the prospect of gain, take them by confusion" or "Invincibility is in oneself, vulnerability is in the opponent." Sun-tzu's maxims are widely applicable beyond the military because they speak directly to the exigencies of survival. Your new tools will serve you well, but don't flaunt them. Remember Sun-tzu's advice: "Though effective, appear to be ineffective." --Brian Bruya --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"The Art of War is among the greatest classics of military literature ever written. Sun Tzu warfare is as applicable today as when the book was written some 2,500 years ago....Pick up The Art of War and read it."--General A.M. Gray, Marine Corps Gazette

"As a reflection of the Chinese mind, this little work is as relevant as any Confucian classic."--The Times (London)

"Westerners have dozens of books to choose from if they want to learn about Japanese philosophy and military tactics....But when the Japanese, especially those in business, want information on the subject, many turn to an ancient Chinese, not Japanese, military manual, The Art of War....Shows managers how to be fearless in resolving conflicts."--Boardroom Reports

"Shows managers how to be fearless in resolving conflicts."--Boardroom Reports

"A brief tract on strategy that has been admired in China for centuries. Some of Mao Tse Tung's most eloquent thoughts are merely rehashes of Sun Tzu and his interpreters."--The Los Angeles Herald Examiner

"Samuel Griffith's original and scholarly translation of The Art of War shows how good scholarship can make an easily readable translation that is much more useful to modern readers." --The Philadelphia Inquirer


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Chartwell Books; Bilingual edition (April 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0785829229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0785829225
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 8 x 10.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,617 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #142,311 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

362 of 376 people found the following review helpful By Scott R. Dukart on March 1, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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 translation.

On the other hand, this translation, done by Thomas Cleary, showed me the subtlety in the Art of War. In addition to the work itself (which would make a very thin book) there is a long, interesting introduction written by the translator which I found very helpful in thinking about the Art of War, as well as helping to put the work in both a historical context, and the context amongst many of the other ancient Chinese philisophical works. How Sun Tzu's work relates to Taoism is very interesting. Also, there are selected commentation on each of the paragraphs of the Art of War. These commentaries were written over different periods of time by different Chinese philosophers. These help to show how many different points of view can exist over a single statement made by Sun Tzu.

I find this translation very well done, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who wants to read The Art of War.
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222 of 231 people found the following review helpful By Peter Mackay on May 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
War is ugly, dirty, brutal, wasteful and expensive. That is the reality of it. Let's not pretend otherwise.
Having said that, the ancient Chinese master strips away all the familiar trappings of war - the warriors, weapons, forts and tactics - to reveal the essence of conflict and how to win.
His lessons are as valid here and now as they were in an empire a long time ago and far, far away. It simply does not matter how you are fighting, what you are fighting over nor even why you are fighting. If you are forced into conflict with another, the lessons in this book will guarantee victory.
Brute strength, overwhelming force, super weapons, holding the high ground, none of these are required for victory. All that is needed is a leader who can understand and apply the principles of warfare.
Essentially it boils down to three ideas.
1. Know yourself.
2. Know your enemy.
3. Only fight when you can win.
Do this, and you will win competitions, elections, games. Anything that involves conflict. Even wars.
Sun Tzu's elegant language lays bare the principles of warfare, illustrating his lessons with examples from Ancient China. It is a thought-provoking, colourful and valuable book.
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256 of 272 people found the following review helpful By Joanna D. #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
I got this particular edition of Sun Tzu's Art of War at a strategy course for sales. I already had a copy of it at home, but this edition is so nicely done that I gave my old copy away and kept this one. The introduction of James Clavell is a nice touch.

It is amazing to me that this book is not read in high schools or colleges in favor of Machiavelli's work (The Prince or The Art of War.) Sun Tzu's writing is clear and to the point. Unlike the popular Book of Five Rings by Musashi, this book is not metaphorical and poetic; it's downright practical. And it's not hard to read, unlike many classics.

If you are doing business in China, this is also a good book to know. I mentioned some of the classic strategies while giving a course in China, and every member of the class had read it, knew it well, and gave me many examples from recent Chinese history where Sun Tzu's strategies were employed. This book is close to their hearts, and will give you insight if you are doing business in the East.
Of course, the most famous anecdote from this book is about gaining the obedience of troops; the emperor, wishing to interview Sun Tzu for the commission of general, asked if Sun Tzu's military principles could be applied to women. Sun Tzu replied yes, the principles worked for women as well as men. Accordingly, Sun Tzu was given the task of organizing the emperor's many concubines into an army. Sun Tzu lined up the concubines and set the two favorites as officers at the head of the columns.
He gave them a simple set of orders to march and drill (eyes front, right face, about face. The drums sounded and instead of following the commands, the girls simply giggled and blushed.
Read more ›
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149 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Professor May on August 23, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
Formatting is impossible to read, with too many comments unformatted so that you don't know if you are reading Sunzu or the translator's comments, and he's got far more comments than Sunzu has to say about this!

Just download a free web version and copy this whole webpage onto notepad, save it and then put it in Kindle. Looks great and is easy to read. That's what I'm doing.
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240 of 265 people found the following review helpful By Virtus on May 21, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The translation is clumsy and needs improvement. Copy editing is sloppy. Numerous typos, misspellings, punctuation, and format errors. Serves as a cheap option, but would not recommend it for anyone seeking a quality copy to add to their collection or library.
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98 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Steve Burns VINE VOICE on May 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
This ancient classic of 13 chapters was written over 2,500 years ago by the legendary Chinese general Sun Tzu. It is a must have for military buffs that enjoy reading about the tactics of the most succesful generals. It is rumored that Napoleon used a French translation of the Art of War to his advantage while conquering most of Europe, and he lost when he broke its principles.
The principles that are with in this ancient text can also be used in games of strategy, business conflicts, and the day to day battles of life.
Here are ten principles to give you a sample of the wisdom found in its pages:

Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance with out fighting.

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

Spies are the most important element in war, because upon them depends an army's ability to move.

All warfare is based on deception.

The general who wins a battle makes many calculations before the battle is fought.

There is no instance of a country having benefited from a prolonged war.

The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals.

In war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak.

When you surround an army, leave an outlet free. (So they can retreat).

Move not unless you see an advantage; use not your troops unless there is something to be gained, fight not unless the position is critical.

Taken as a whole this is a book of wisdom and principles on how to win. I rank it in my top ten books I have ever read. It is a must have for any home library. The is a very small book that is quick and easy to read.
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