Bamboo_Book_binding The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Earlier this year I was on an island in the Adriatic sea with nothing to read. I had my phone with me so I have decided to take a look what is available in iBooks. The Art of War by Sun Tzu was at the top of bestsellers list in the Croatian store and near the top in the US store. I have heard about the book before and saw people quoting it, so I have decided to read it.

I think this is the first book (and the only so far) that I have read completely on the phone. The strange thing about this Project Gutenberg edition of The Art of War is that it has more comments than the actual book content. The comments are really helpful. I would not understand some things if it were not explained in the comments.

It is a good book, but I am really surprised that it is so popular, because it is not an easy read. Maybe the people just download it because the title sounds interesting, but never read it. It would be interesting to see the stats which books are the most read ones, instead of which ones are the most downloaded ones.

Since iBooks has a highlighting feature I was not fighting with taking notes, as I usually do. Here are a few quotes that I found interesting:

  • Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles in not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
  • Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory: He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
  • With a superior force, make for easy ground; with and inferior one, make for difficult ground. (Comment, not original content.)
  • Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
  • Attack is the secret of defense; defense if the panning of an attack. (Comment.)
  • He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
  • Humanity and justice are the principles on which to govern a state, but not an army; opportunism and flexibility, on the other hand, are military rather than civil virtues to assimilate the governing of an army. (Comment.)
  • The good general can secure success by modifying his tactics to meet those of the enemy. (Comment.)
  • To secure ourselves agains defeat lies in our own hands, but the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.
  • Thought according to my estimate the soldiers of Yueh exceed our own in number, that shall advantage them nothing in the matter of victory. I say then that victory can be achieved.
  • Humble words and increased preparations are sign that the enemy is about to advance.
  • Violent language and driving forward as if to the attack are signs that he will retreat.
  • If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt.
  • For those who have to fight in the ratio of one to ten, there is nothing better than a narrow pass. (Comment.)
  • Rapidity is the essence of war.
  • Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve.
  • To mystify, mislead, and surprise the enemy is one of the first principles in war. (Comment.)
  • Napoleon, as we know, according to the veterans of the old school whom he defeated, won his battles by violating every accepted canon of warfare. (Comment.)
  • To remain in ignorance of the enemy's condition simply because one grudges the outlay of a hundred ounces of silver in honors and emoluments, is the height of inhumanity. One who acts thus is no leader of men, no present help to his sovereign, no master of victory.
  • Knowledge of the enemy's dispositions can only be obtained from other men.
  • An army without spies is like a man with ears or eyes. (Comment. I guess "with ears or eyes" should be "withOUT ears or eyes").