The Art of War

the art of war

I picked up The Art of War years ago, because it was a great-looking hardcover, Barnes and Noble had it at a great price, and I wanted to learn more about Asian culture and war generally. Also, it was an old classic, and I wanted to be better-read. Also, how could a book with entire sections about the proper use of spies not be amazing? I finally got around to reading it just a few months ago.

The Art of War, by Sun-Tzu, is indeed an old classic. It was written over a thousand years ago, by a very successful general, in specific circumstances, and used to great success in more specific circumstances, blah, blah blah, blah blah. Here’s the thing: I don’t know a thing about ancient China. And here’s the other thing: Well over 3/4 of this book was commentary on the actual text. I could have gotten a version with just the original text, and it would have been short and sweet. But instead, I chose to skim all of the academic, high-falutin’ history crap in the (many) introductions. Big mistake.

Then there’s the actual text. A few of the “strategies” are interesting. Most of them are crazy boring. I’ve heard that this book is used as a marketing book sometimes. I’m not a marketing strategist, so I can’t vouch for its use there; as a literary work, it is crazy boring. I finished it primarily out of pride, and because I’m trying to read a book from every country. This one would count for China. I should have just picked up another book.

Can anyone explain to me why this book is still popular? ♦

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