94 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on June 26, 2006
Among the other reviews here, there have been some comparisons between this book and the Art of War by Sun Tzu. I'd agree. Both are elegant and detailed instruction manuals on how to prepare yourself for conflict.
Once again, Green brings a tremendous body of research and historical insight to his writing, demonstrating the key points of each chapter through some of the greatest successes and mistakes from history.
But this isn't just a book about war. Greene repeatedly states that many of the strategies and tactics used to harden an individual for conflict (or conflict avoidance) apply equally well to business, politics and negotiation, and the examples come from everywhere from Hollywood to Ancient Rome.
The advantage this book has over the previous two is that his clarification of his strategies is more balanced and consistent. He goes vague less often here.
This book completes nicely Greene's cycle of historical self-improvement books: the first in how to woo others to your way of thinking, the second to deal with power structures, and the third for self-discipline and conflict resolution.
170 of 182 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2006
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Robert Greene is a prolific research and thinker who has made a habit out of writing masterpieces that explore all nuances of human behavior. In his latest tome he follows the same approach as in his previous bestsellers by leading off each chapter with a quick and easy to read summary that gives you the essence of the strategy and the stories that follow. Then he leads you on one fascinating historical excursion after another that brings each strategy to life through the exploits of some of histories most famous and notorious characters.
The beauty of his approach is that there is something for everyone in this book. You may read about a tactic that is highly amusing, but that you say to yourself, "I could never do that." Then in the next chapter you may say, "That's fits in with my personality. I can do that." That's how I felt about his strategies for laying back and appearing to not care, and about his strategy for taking an unassailable position.
A brief story in chapter 4 on developing a sense of extreme urgency was well worth the cost of the book to me. It talks about Fyodor Dostoevsky and how a change in his perspective on the value of life lead to a greater appreciation for every moment, and to an era of rampant productivity that continued until his death. Because I'm an author I spend a good part of every day writing and thinking about my work. After reading about Dostoevsky I immediately felt an even higher sense of purpose and motivation.
You really can't go wrong with this book. It is very entertaining and educational. Beyond that, you could pick up some sage, time-tested advice for improving both your business and your life. Bravo!
92 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Robert Greene's books are deep and they are for thinkers. If you want a breezy beach read or airplane read, this is not that book.
You'll read this book once, get to the last page and go back to page 1 and start reading again. There are literally hundreds of ideas in this book.
I especially like the way the author has made the book applicable to your life, the business or the battlefield.
As a former soldier, I deeply appreciate the detailed review of war strategies and found the book so compelling, I'm buying copies for all of my friends who are in the military and currently deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
If you only read one business or self improvement book this year, read this one. If you read three, read the author's other two books, The 48 Laws of Power and The Art of Seduction.
36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on October 19, 2006
I got a top tier MBA, spent tens of thousands of dollars and two years, but didn't learn the important stuff. (And I was the valedictorian, and got some really great jobs). I really enjoyed Greene's book 42 laws of power (I can't remember if it's 42 or some other number), but this book is a great reminder and educator of the way things work behind the scenes, in people's minds, and at the macro level of every business and political dealing. I'm convinced that there is either a conspiracy in our educational system to make us dumb workerbees, 99% of our teachers just don't get it, or our measurement system for the quality and effectiveness of our eductional system is severely broken. (Or all the above!)
Much of the book rings a bell with my intuition, but there is a great deal which is so inciteful and informative. I would say I couldn't put the book down, but that's not true, I needed to take a rest every chapter or so. I love his mixing of explaning the principals then giving historical examples. The war stories have direct analogies to the business world.
I have also read Greene's "Art of Seduction", which I think is absolutely vile and disgusting. I don't think the book is vile and distigusting, I think the book simply tells the truth. Greene doesn't make the rules, he's just telling how many "successfull" people play the game, which is really just a clear illustration of the part of human nature which is cloaked behind good manners and grooming, and how people take advantage of our good nature, weaknesses, and need for connection and love--all of which applies to both our personal and business world. Better to know it than not know it, and know when to fight fire with fire if you think you can stay true to your principles. Maybe there should be a followup something like "Buddah's dance with Devil"
This book is going on my top shelf.
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2006
Having been a previous owner of "48 Laws of Power" and the "Art of Seduction" I was awaiting this foray into the art of warfare... and I have not been disappointed! After receiving this book as a birthday gift, I have not put it down in the last 10 days; managing it a piece at a time, and adding some highlighting to key phrases...
While some may consider the art of war (or even seduction or manipulation of power) to be an evil thing, Mr. Greene's take on the subject seems to be "its out there: learn about it to either use it or defend against it." How true this is. The anectdotes in this book are not just coverage of battlefields and generals - varying in scope from Alfred Hitchcock to Joan Crawford, to Cortez - this book has one for (almost) everyone. And while this may seem like Sun Tzu for the Jet Set, "33 Strategies of War" would find a welcome home on the bookshelf of a four-star general preparing for battle or a stay-at-home mom wanting to match wits with her unruly children...
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2009
Here come Mister Greene again with another masterpiece.
This book is deeper and requires more concentration than his previous "48 Laws". As we're talking about strategies, it's necessary to be more "cold-blooded" than simply following some rules. I took double the time to read it, and still I have to read it again.
This book seems more empowering since he gives us the tools and we're solely responsible for how and when to apply them! It goes way beyond war, it's a far-reaching book.
KEYS TO WARFARE:
The greatest power you could have in life would come neither from resources nor skills in strategies. It would come from clear knowledge of those around you - the ability to read people like a book. Given that knowledge you could distinguish friend from foe, smoking out snakes from the grass. You could anticipate your enemies' malice and take defensive action. Armed with that knowledge, you could make them tumble into traps and destroy them.
1: Declare war on your enemies: Polarity
You cannot fight effectively unless you can identify them. Learn to smoke them out, then inwardly declare war. Your enemies can fill you with purpose and direction.
3: Amidst the turmoil of events, do not lose your presence of mind: Counterbalance
Keep your presence of mind whatever the circumstances. Make your mind tougher by exposing it to adversity. Learn to detach youself from the chaos of the battlefied.
10: Create a threatening presence: Deterrence
Build a reputation for being a little crazy. Fighting you is not worth it. Uncertainty can be better than an explicit threat. If your opponents aren't sure what attacking you will cost, they will not want to find out.
11: Trade space for time: Nonengagement
Retreat is a sign of strength. Resisting the temptation to respond buys valuable time. Sometimes you accomplish most by doing nothing.
12: Lose battles, but win the war: Grand strategy
Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the present battle and calculating ahead. Focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it.
26: Deny them targets: The Void
The feeling of emptiness is intolerable for most people. Give enemies no target to attack. Be dangerous and elusive, and let them chase you into the void. Deliver irritating but damaging side attacks and pinpricks bites.
28: Give your rivals enough rope to hang themselves: One-upmanship
Instill doubts and insecurities in rivals, getting them to think too much and act defensive. Make them hang themselves through their own self-destructive tendencies, leaving you blameless and clean.
33: Sow uncertainty and panic through acts of terror: Chain Reaction
Terror can paralyze a people's will to resist and destroy their ability to plan a strategic response. The goal is to cause maximum chaos and provoke a desperate overreaction. To counter terror, stay balanced and rational.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I have read 3 of Robert Greene's books (Power, Seduction, and War). And they are all great insightful books. Robert Greene is an obvious student of history and psychology. He is also a very engaging writer.
This is the only of 3 Greene's books I've read twice.
Why would anyone who is not engaged in a war read a book on how to win a war?
Success in life involves winning. Sure, winning is not everything. But you know what they call people who never win? That's right..losers.
So how can one enhance one's chance of winning? One needs right strategy, emotional intelligence, keen perception of people's motivation and psychology, understanding of the rules, and just plan competence and intelligence.
The book touches on all these areas.
Napoleon and Alexander the Great are two of the prime examples the author uses to showcase his argument. Other lesser known yet notable figures include Pyrrhus, Canaris, Machiavelli, Metternich, and Alexander (Czar of Russia).
Military strategies, such as concentration of forces, encirclement, divide-and-conquer, and feinting are well explained so one can incorporate them against everyday adversities.
Avoiding some key and common mistakes is also crucial. The author emphasizes what mistakes to avoid in adversarial situations.
One should fight only battles worth fighting. If winning will cost too much to the point it is like losing, then the battle is not worth fighting. Very often people are their own biggest enemy. Whether it be insecurity, obsessively strong ego, inability to listen, inability to think objectively, or just lack of emotional control, a person must work to master his weaknesses or others will take advantage of them for their own gain.
If you are interested in winning in life and want to understand how, I recommend reading this book. Winning a "war" is a complex subject and I recommend reading from various sources.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2006
As "an older professional" I am usually a bit cynical about books of this sort -- usually pretty superficial stuff. Not so with this book. Very well done, few errors, well written and thought provoking. I highly recommend it.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 25, 2006
I was intrigued by this book. I already own a concise version of the 48 Laws of Power, written by the same author.
However, for some reason I never really got too taken with his previous book, which I shall revisit.
I had a strong suspicion that this book would be essentially a rehash of the aforementioned 48 Laws, but the militaristic subject matter appealed.
Well, I can confirm that this book definitely stands on it's own as an individual work.
In appearance, it is very inviting, beautifully designed with a great cover design and highlighted extracts of text on the borders of most pages drawn largely from classic military writings throughout the ages.
This book has a sinfully charismatic quality about it, like a rich slice of chocolate cake that beckons in the most tempting manner.
However, beyond the design and look of the book, it definitely has meat on the bones.
The mainstream subject matter is how someone could draw on lessons from military history and strategy to employ in everyday life.
There are finely researched stories from throughout the ages that cite various approaches, ploys, plots, victories, defeats, as well as some non-military examples, such as Alfred Hitchcock.
Now I am not entirely sure that this is a self-improvement book as such. It is not exactly the same type of work as Covey's 7 Habits of Effective People, but I find it so much more enjoyable.
I have plenty of time for those who do not push the warm and fluffy approach to life that demands we smile at people in the elevator to spread our positive energy.
Now I'm not advocating an opposite approach or use of the strategies outlined in this book, but my point is that the perspective is ironically refreshing.
The author obviously draws strongly on a familiarity with classical studies to summarise stories of ancient battles and conflicts, as well as such influential figures as Clausewitz, through to more recent conflicts.
Again, I am not quite sure what kind of book this is, as it could not be looked on as a pure work of military history, either.
However, whatever kind of strange animal it is, it is stylish, darkly charismatic and cynical.
If the 48 Laws of Power was a book made to sit on the bookshelves of our wealthy businessman uncle, then the 33 Strategies of War is the kind of book that would be found in the reading room of our Brigadier grandfather, albeit with a modern-day feel to it.
I certainly enjoyed this book and it added to my perspectives on military strategy.
For example, Sun Tzu advocates an approach of always allowing a desperate enemy force a route to escape - or they will fight to the death.
This book spun that perspective, advocating that to create a sense of desperation, urgency and drive in ourselves, that sometimes we should put ourselves on the "death ground", with no exits so that we are forced to rise up and overcome the challenge. Highly motivational.
55 of 74 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2008
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
"The 33 Strategies of War" is an interesting and accessible collection of various strategies and ways of understanding conflict. Easy to read it has a wealth of well organized information - to include the Greene's explanations of strategies, historical anecdotes to support his convictions and ideas to approach various situations. These approaches are much more than simply how to maneuver an army - one of the book's strong points is it's ability to help you understand and embrace conflict. It does this by clarifying what conflict is and demanding you to see it all around you as a sort of generative opportunity.
Of course everyone will take something different from this work - and with the multitude of history stories and quotes it has a lot to offer. The almost overwhelming resources contained within this book are well organized (unless you have a Kindle version in which case the quotes are highly disruptive, breaking into the text in what one could only hope was a completely unintentional manner).
Organization and an over abundance of sources make this a nearly encyclopedic collection of strategies, and the writing style aggressively asserts the importance of conflict in day to day life. At the same time, the interpretations and suggested strategies are often times nothing but a restatement of previous thinkers' strategies, which have just been quoted. These interpretations seem to have no applicability: they are not for people in day to day situations (dealing with motivating the troops, coordinating attacks ect.), and they are far too general to be of any use to either a business manager or a soldier.
One of the most glaring examples of this work's sloppy construction and over simplification marketed as wisdom and power is the sections in which the author himself supports and states arguments against learning strategy from a book.
In conclusion this book is short, easy to read with a multitude of sources and information - ultimately providing an experience that is too general to prove particularly beneficial for any one person or group. However, it does have some strengths in it's collection of general tenets and approaches. The only real benefit you should be able to claim after reading this book (unless supplemented by personal knowledge and investigation) is a wider understanding of some of the elements and aspects of conflict and warfare.
As a soldier and academic I can't help but personally feel that this is an uppity self-help book with little to offer the professional soldier or business person who would be better reading a more detailed, better applied, and more reasonably and thoughtfully argued analysis of applicable methods of dealing with material, personnel, adversity, confrontation and outright conflict.
The average reader, with no particular needs or demands, may still find this an interesting, perhaps helpful book (I don't mean to disparage this audience) but the seeming simplicity of 33 turns into expansive sources and glossed over analyses of partial strategies leaving the reader with a mound of partially formed ideas of questionable relevance and applicability.