With the rise of China on the world scene (and certainly in the news), there could hardly be a more timely read than Sun Tsu’s The Art of War. More than 2 millennia have passed since the treatise on strategic battle was written yet it remains a must read for Chinese and Westerners, especially those seeking to maneuver the treacherous of the business realm.
For those of you (rather those of us) who think strategy is a word and who could care less about the proper methods for navigating around “quagmires and crevasses,” this book may not be one to add to the list. The rest of you can eat your heart out with this short handbook of pithy statements that can be consumed in day and referred to time for a lifetime.
Tzu is clearly a master commander and he begins his tract with the simple statement, “the art of war is of vital importance to the state.” He goes on to explain the tactics used to win wars. Surprisingly he does not simply suggest plans of attack, but also how to avoid bloodshed and outwit the opponent. The author explains, “To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
While not every sentence holds such plucky words of wisdom, Tzu does speak from experience, and the twenty-first century reader would do well to revisit The Art of War when the inevitable conflicts of work and relationships arise. Keep a pencil handy to take down the many quotable adages.
Several unabridged versions of The Art of War exist. Two feature women readers, which seems an odd choice. In these two versions, read by Lorna Raver and Shelly Frasier, respectively, they recite the text as though it were a fictional account which I found distracting.
Joe Mantegna’s reading is a better choice. He approaches the treatise with a scholarly tone which allows Sun Tzu’s words to speak for themselves.