Sean Barrs the Bookdragon's Reviews > The Art of War

The Art of War by Sun Tzu
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bookshelves: non-fiction, 3-star-reads, philosophy
Read 2 times. Last read August 28, 2015.

We all know one person who has an answer for everything. This person is usually annoying and won’t accept that sometimes they’re just wrong; they won’t accept that at some point their logic may fail them and run dry; they’re completely resolute in what they believe and they just won’t budge from it: they simply can’t be proven wrong or at fault. This is how I feel about Sun Tzu. It’s like he interpreted questions and doubts before they were born, and countered them with his own logic based responses that felt immaculately persuasive to the point that I found them to be convincing truths. Sun Tzu, literally, has an answer for everything war based.

How to win at war

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I could never consider war as a form of art, but Sun Tzu has provided a detailed manual of how to survive it. Well, at least if you’re a general in the command of legions of armies and have the ability to respond to a multitude of situations with the quick thinking advice of Sun Tzu. Then, and only then, might you be ok. If you’re a foot solider or a random underling, then you’re screwed because you’d most likely be spent in some well thought out attack or defensive manoeuvre. This book is certainly one for the generals who must consider victory first and overcome the loss of human life.

There’s a reason why this book is still read today by military leaders, soldiers and random bookworms; it provides valuable insight on how to master the battlefield; it advises the reader on how to respond, in the most effective manner, to a number of tactical situations. There is so much covered in this relatively small book that it’s quite surprising. However, despite the convincing nature of his arguments, I do feel like there would be a situation where his logic failed him. There will be a situation where an unforeseeable circumstance defeats his approach and leads in an unexpected defeat and complete rout. No manual of war could ever be completely extensive even if it appears that way. But, don’t tell Sun Tzu I said that because he’d have an answer.

Easy to read

One thing that struck me when reading this was the sheer approachability of it. I expected it to be very complex and intricate. The manoeuvres and counters are conveyed in a simple, yet comprehensive, manner. It undeniably makes war look easy, which it obviously isn’t. I’m not saying that it’s misleading, but I was just looking for a logic hole in here. I was unable to find one, though I think if someone used this in war they may find it. I am glad of the simplicity of it, though, because it made the book very approachable and easy to understand. I never thought I’d say this, but The Art of War is very light reading.

This was such an interesting book to read. I feel like I learnt a lot from it, which is quite scary really. Perhaps, I won’t read it a second time, as I don’t want to get to many ideas in my head. I do recommend giving this book a read though, just for the sake of reading something completely different.

A tactical three stars
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading (Paperback Edition)
Started Reading
August 28, 2015 – Shelved
August 28, 2015 – Finished Reading
September 14, 2015 – Shelved (Paperback Edition)
September 14, 2015 – Shelved as: non-fiction (Paperback Edition)
October 8, 2015 – Shelved as: non-fiction
March 9, 2016 – Shelved as: 3-star-reads
February 21, 2019 – Shelved as: philosophy

Comments Showing 1-6 of 6 (6 new)

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Jeff Dawson What I found striking was, if your enemy had also read the book, the outcome would be a stalemate as each countered each other's moves. I will agree,when "the fog of war" appears, it won't matter what you've read or how you've planned, the one quickest on feet, ie: the boots on the ground, will determine victory or defeat. Battle of the Bulge and Operation Market Garden come to mind. (less)


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Jeff wrote: "What I found striking was, if your enemy had also read the book, the outcome would be a stalemate as each countered each other's moves. I will agree,when "the fog of war" appears, it won't matter w..."

That would make for an annoying encounter! ;)


Jeff Dawson Yes it would, but if each general followed his teachings, their best course of action would be staying at the house, turning on a game and cracking open a beer.


Matthias It's a strategy book based on mathematical calculations. If you don't like 'math', then it's simply based on common human behaviour and it's meant to protect yourself and your way of living. Most things discussed are defensive strategies, albeit hard to understand because the book starts off by executing leaders. IN present day you would not kill these same incompetent leaders, you would fire them. Or rather, now-a-days, you would put them in a 2 week training boot-camp/seminar.


Stelmaria But there is a thing : if Sun Tzu's logic would failed anyone, The Art of War wouldn't survive 2500 years.


message 6: by Jerno (new) - added it

Jerno The thing is, if both party read the book, then war would end eventually. As most of its lessons rely heavily about the cost of war. It is as if saying that we must not go to war. It is atleast for me.


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