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The Art of War Paperback – October 26, 1988

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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

Review

"Thomas Cleary's translation of Sun Tzu's 2,000-year-old The Art of War makes immediately relevant one of the greatest Chinese classical texts. There's not a dated maxim or vague prescription in it. 'To win without fighting is best,' Sun Tzu said. For him, war was coeval with life. Absorb this book, and you can throw out all those contemporary books about management leadership."— Newsweek

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1 edition (October 26, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877734526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877734529
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,457 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #807,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

331 of 345 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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202 of 209 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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249 of 263 people found the following review helpful By Joanna Daneman #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.
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144 of 153 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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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Jimmy Kim on November 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are hardly any divisions, indents, and parts where the reading is clearly divided. I ended having to ramble through pages and pages to find out which part to start.

The ridiculous translations and interpretations of the transcribers and translators destroyed the actual quality of the book.

This book looked as though it was one large block text without any breaths and pauses. It was formatted so horribly that I went out and just bought a hardcopy which seemed infinitely more concise and clear.

****AVOID AT ALL COSTS****

I was wondering why it was free and I understand now.

1/5 * Stars
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