Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book #6: The Art of War

"Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys. Look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death!"
- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The Art of War was written in 6th century BC China, yet it is still influencing culture and military tactics around the world today.  Mao Zedong, General Vo Nguyen Giap, Baron Antoine-Henri Jomini, and General Douglas MacArthur all claimed to have drawn inspiration from the work. The information and advice contained in this slim volume is timeless and valuable.

Before I read it, I wasn’t quite sure that War would be that interesting; it might just have been a dry book of tactics organized into dozens of subsections. But as I began listening to it I found myself stopping often to take notes for further reference, the content was so fascinating. Far from dry, this was a lively, passionate, interactive kind of rulebook, peppered with stories and legends exemplifying the subjects Sun Tzu was explaining. I read about ancient battles and sudden reversals of fortune, witty maneuvering and plenty of bloodshed.

One of Sun Tzu’s major themes is that one can only plan so far. It is the virtue of preparedness that will make one a victor. If one is ready for anything, in any situation, then success is almost assured. Sun Tzu explains how to gain victory in easy terrain, difficult terrain, neutral terrain, narrow terrain, dangerous terrain, and distant terrain, but when it comes down to it it’s mostly all about having quick reactions and making the best of bad situations. Always have a trick up your sleeve, always give yourself plenty of options when possible.

There are so many little gems of wisdom in this book, such as the five ways of winners:

1. Those who know when to fight and when not to fight
2. Those who know how to use the large or small
3. Those who agree on superior and inferior objectives
4. Those who prepare to lie in wait for the unprepared
5. Those who lead without interference from a ruler

I would definitely recommend reading this book if you have any interest in military tactics or stories of ancient China. I found it intriguing and enjoyable!  

Tata for now,
Abby Rogers

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