The Art of War

Sun Tzu

Book cover

Was not very impressed with this at all. It was the successor to “Thoughts of Marcus Aurelius” as my iPod/subway book, but not as enjoyable. First of all, nearly half of the edition I had was editorial notes interspersed with the text. I guess the text itself isn’t really long enough to justify a whole book on its own. And second, I feel like it didn’t really offer me any new insights. It reminded me somewhat of “The Wealth of Nations” in having some interesting wisdom mixed in with long boring parts. But Sun Tzu is considerably less organized than Adam Smith, and what’s more, I feel like the main interesting insights of this book have been so sublimated into American cultural awareness that they didn’t feel fresh to me: win the battle by fighting on your own terms, know your enemy as well as you know yourself, etc. I feel like I had a much better experience of learning about military strategic and tactical thinking by reading, for instance, Shogun, and probably the same would be true of Lawrence of Arabia (though I haven’t read that). I much prefer reading a narrative of Toranaga/Tokugawa’s military coup to having its key insights boiled down (and all the motivation boiled away).

Next iPod/subway book: Epictetus.

My Goodreads rating: 2 stars