The Art of War by Sun Tzu


Title: The Art of War.
Writer(s): Sun Tzu.
Publisher: Arcturus Publishing.
Format: Paperback.
Release Date: May 15th, 2017 (first published -500 BC).
Pages: 128.
Genre(s): Classics, Philosophy, Non-Fiction.
ISBN13:  9781784287023.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★☆.


Disputes. Fights. Confrontations. Conflicts. Battles. War. The opposition of two forces is not unbeknownst by humankind. It has led many to obtain what they desire through a stunning demonstration of wit or force. After all, history is written by the victors and no one goes out there to lose. Or die. However, the road to victory has been paved by many in a myriad of ways but is there a never-failing guideline to achieve it? The answer might actually be in a tiny booklet written 500 years before Christ.

What is The Art of War about? In a 13 chapter compilation, Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu explores the necessary military strategies and tactics to warfare. Divulged in a format similar to a bulleted list, he presents the secrets to come out victorious in a battle that couldn’t be avoided. While he doesn’t hesitate to highlight the advantages and weaknesses that can be identified during war, he makes it easy for anyone to understand that overcoming adversity and laying waste to your opponent is all within arm’s reach.

Unsurprisingly, this short piece of wisdom indulges analogies and metaphors focused on nature and animals to convey its maxims regarding warfare. Straight-forward, clear, and simple, each sentence looks to argue and convince the reader of the simplicity of victory through knowledge of the battlefield and the enemy. While it is easy to conclude that numbers and resources are all you need to win battles, Sun Tzu reminds us that war also includes a psychological battle of minds as he often alludes to deception as one of the greatest tools for victory.


With very little words, he is able to convey the complexity of war and break down the subtle strategies that make all the difference in managing your odds at triumphing over your opponent. I won’t lie that Sun Tzu’s ability to demonstrate the superiority of a passive-aggressive display of power is impressive. War isn’t just about flexing muscles. It implies a meticulous analysis of circumstances, ranging from opportunities to inside information, that will be decisive in a battle.

Over the years, this book has been mentioned thoroughly throughout various forms of entertainment, almost making it seem like it had something to offer beyond the context of war. It is true. Many of the one-liners and quotable bits can be extrapolated to various dynamics in life, whether it be within sports or within your job’s organization. I do, however, feel like it still remains much more insightful in the context for which it was designed, as a lot is lost and sometimes misinterpreted when applied outside of military environments.

Not to mention that its incredibly masculine vision of war will probably not appeal to many and complicate it a bit in its potential application to everyday life. Nonetheless, there are still countless contexts, whether it’s between two individuals or online groups in the cyberworld, where this book offers unquestionable advice for success.

The Art of War is an eye-opening philosophy of warfare resource management and understanding trimmed down to essential rules for victory.





46 thoughts on “The Art of War by Sun Tzu

  1. Glad you included the isbn number. I was going to ask whose translation you used, but it was the Giles version. I’m also assuming it was the non-commentary version? I’ve read both the commentary and non-commentary version and my goodness, the book itself gets lost in the commentary version. I didn’t like it at all. If you really enjoyed the Art of War, it might be worth checking out a commentary version just to expand your thoughts on the text and what it has meant to others through the ages.

    I also agree with you that it has been over-used in non-War situations, almost to the point where it has become meaningless.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was actually pretty surprised by the lack of commentary and footnotes in my edition too but then realized how cheap my edition was too. I just told myself that on my reread I’ll hunt down a much more exhaustive edition in the future to get more out of it like you said. I can imagine it drowning me though.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your copy, very fetching! I agree, taking Art of War out of its context just renders it nearly meaningless, and besides – I firmly believe that treating everything as war/conflict really gets you nowhere. Not everything is a zero-sum game 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not too fond of it but since it was cheap and easy-to-read, I went for it. I’ll probably hunt down a leatherbound edition of it as I get older or something hahaha And I agree, life is more than just zero-sum games. A lot of what’s expressed in it are also sometimes a bit obvious when you think about it too hahah

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Because of the constant quotes you mentioned in your review, this book has taken something of a legendary status in our collective consciousness – and for some reason I had come to envision it as some sort of big tome, the leather-bound kind with a thick embossed spine. Imagine my surprise when I saw how slim it is and learned that it consists of only 13 chapters! 😀
    Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is a book I’ve been meaning to read for quite some time. Someone once gave me one of those short mini-books of this that contained snippets of the actual book, and I enjoyed that. But I really need to take the time to read one of the translations of the full sized book (which, granted, is fairly short on its own). I wonder if this might be the oldest book you’ve read?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it’s indeed worth picking up and reading, especially when it’s so short and easy to follow. It won’t blow your mind but it’s still nice to know the real quotes from the book too. It is indeed the oldest book I’ve ever read. I looked up what other book could beat this with my girlfriend and found that the whole Illiad and Odyssey books are even older. I still need to read them though! 😀


  5. Very interesting review Lashaan, I haven’t read the book but heard a lot about it, especially applied to everyday situations, and always wondered if it was possible to read the book in itself as a “life advice” kind of book, which I quite doubted. Anyway, it must be a very interesting read 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Beautiful cover! (I now sound like one of those people who buy cars based on colour…). I have heard a lot about this book and despite of not being particularly interested in war tactics, I am curious. One can’t help wonder if the basic strategies will still hold in a future where cyber attacks, AI and biological warfare may play a much bigger role.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haahah no worries! I think we all pick up books based on the cover alone. 😛 And that’s exactly a very interesting analysis to be done, if not already, to see if these basic strategies are still pertinent. Personally, I think a lot of elements are indeed still pertinent and applies quite well in those contexts!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Probably not a book I would be likely to read but I totally get its interest. And yes you don’t win a war by brute force (only) but with a good strategy! I bet I’d be lame as I always lose at war games asking for a strategy LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This sounds like such an interesting book and I’m really glad you put it on my radar. I love that the book manages to convey the complexities of war in so little words and I especially like how the book also explores the psychology and circumstantial conditions of war. Brilliant review.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s a classic, obviously, and not an easy read, especially for Western audience unused to the style… I’ve read it in Polish, and English, but I was most impressed by the quotes in Shogun: Total War, where Sun Tzu’s advice was given to a player during pre-battle loading screens 😉
    I’m a fan of Clausewitz, but I have to admit Sun Tzu is more universal, he’s discussing the very basics of conflict, that can be indeed applied not only to war, and I perfectly understand why there are so many “Sun Tzu in Business” etc books…
    It’s probably not a must-read for everybody, but this is a book that stood the test of time very well 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha love the reference to Shogun: Total War. Not surprised that you’re the one to speak so much about Sun Tzu’s classic, knowing that you’re a history buff when it comes to military! 😛

      I’ll have to look into Clausewitz’s On War at some point. The size of it, however, is definitely different of The Art of War though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have an abbreviated version, with just the most relevant political parts, the “war as extension of politics” concept. Never read the full version in its entirety, I have to admit…

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi, I loved your review! I just finished The Art of War recently myself. I definitely share a lot of the same sentiments as you do – but you put it much more eloquently than I did! Interesting to hear your thoughts on applying the maxims to other environments, there’s definitely more to unpack there. Looking forward to reading more of your reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Jacqueline! I really appreciate your kind words and I am so glad to hear that you’ve read and enjoyed this classic as much as me. It’s truly a timeless piece that has slightly suffered from popular culture usages in modern entertainment hahaha Look forward to hearing more from you! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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