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I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.

Sun-Tzu's The Art of War

The Art Of War - John Minford

Conflict is an inevitable part of life, according to this ancient Chinese classic of strategy, but everything necessary to deal with conflict wisely, honorably, victoriously, is already present within us. Compiled more than two thousand years ago by a mysterious warrior-philosopher, The Art of War is still perhaps the most prestigious and influential book of strategy in the world, as eagerly studied in Asia by modern politicians and executives as it has been by military leaders since ancient times. As a study of the anatomy of organizations in conflict, The Art of War applies to competition and conflict in general, on every level from the interpersonal to the international. Its aim is invincibility, victory without battle, and unassailable strength through understanding the physics, politics, and psychology of conflict. (source)

 

My husband and I love to play the board game Risk with two of his best friends from high school. I rarely win (actually, I don't think it's happened yet), but the friendly competition is always a ton of fun. As I was reading this book, I couldn't help but think of that game and although the advice found in The Art of War is intended for actual officers on an actual battlefield, I definitely think it will help me from suffering more defeats at the hands of my husband's friends. 

 

Sun-Tzu's The Art of War was the July pick for the Classics discussion group here on booklikes (click here if you're interested in joining us in August for Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad). I was definitely intimidated when I saw this book on our list. I had never read it, but I'd heard about it from the Civilization computer games and it sounded like a book that would go WAY above my head. I must admit that there were times when I found myself skimming and not giving the book my full attention, but the experience was actually much more manageable than I had anticipated. 

 

For starters, The Art of War is actually told in the form of a poem. This means that the book is much shorter than it appears to be and it's not as unwieldy as I thought it would be. Sun-Tzu's style and phrasing are beautiful - even though he speaks of war, not love. The advice that he gives is simple yet wise. This is a piece of literature that I believe that every military officer and politician, for that matter, should read. Master Sun opens by stating that "War is / A grave affair of state; / It is a place / Of life and death, / A road / To survival and extinction, / A matter / To be pondered carefully," making it clear that war should be a last resort, even though he is clearly one of the most prolific experts on the subject ever to exist. 

 

This is not a book that I would have chosen for myself and it is not one that I think I will re-read, as, frankly, it simply is not relevant to me. But I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would and the fact that Sun-Tzu was able to hold my attention as much as he did shows just how well-written this work is. For that reason, I have given the work 3.5 out of 5 stars - if this book could hold my interest despite my total lack of interest in war, it's clearly a good one. 

 

And man, do I want to play Risk right now.