Book Review: The Art of War: Sun Tzu

Details: Translated by Lionel Giles. More information can be found at

Score: 6/10

The Art of War is a much adored book that has been recommended by many in finance, business, and all other areas of society. It’s often treated as a yuppie self help book, with many people not knowing what the book is actually about. Having read the book, I’ve decided to write a review and a little opinion on the value of this book.

The Art of War is an ancient Chinese literary work that was supposedly written by a great war scholar named Sun Tzu a hundreds (maybe thousands) of years ago. No one knows for sure if any of this is true because it was just so long ago and many aspects of Chinese history were deliberately altered to reflect the ruling hegemony of the time.

The specific translation I read was written by Lionel Giles. I think most publications of The Art of War are of this translation, just published by different companies.

In any case, The Art of War is about war. It’s literally a short book (some translations are around one hundred pages where some are around forty) about medieval warfare strategy. There is stuff about knowing your terrain, the psychology of generals and soldiers, logistics of supplying an army, etc. This is not a contemporary self help book. This is a book literally about medieval war.

I think why so many finance bro’s and other people in business or corporate culture have revered this book is because they want to approach business and life in general in the same way Sun Tzu approached war. This book is often use as a guide book for life, which is horrifying in many ways. One of the foundation ideas in the book is that all warfare is based on deception. Now imagine applying that to all business relationship, personal relationship, romance, raising your children, etc. Want to succeed in business? lie to your business partners. Want a successful marriage? Lie to your spouse. Want a happy family? Lie to your kids.

I admit, lying is often necessary to get through life, but if you live your life looking to deceive everyone you know from the get go in order to “defeat” them, then don’t be surprised when others do the same to you. If everyone adopted the strategies of this book into their civilian lives, our society would increasingly become a needlessly cruel hell hole.

Which leads to my opinion on people who want to read this book for guidance on how to live civilian life: don’t. This is a historical text that has very little relation to modern day life unless you really stretch your imagination or if you’re just looking for an excuse to be cruel to the people in your life. There are enough needlessly cruel pieces of crap in this world. Trying to adopt this book into your life would likely make you just another one of these pieces of crap.

Overall, this is a short read and an interesting look into warfare strategy a long time ago. If you have an interest in medieval military tactics in ancient China, this is an interesting book to quickly read. If you’re looking for advice on how to live your life, look somewhere else.

Score: 6/10

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.