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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

The Art of War by Sun Tzu; Book Review

Be aware that this book is estimated to have been written 2,500 years ago & is on the United States Marine Corps recommended reading list.

This book is said to have been written by Sun Wu (or Sun Tzu), a general & strategist in ancient China; some time roughly between 770-476 BCE. The text has been reproduced into many versions of translations which have become highly disputed by scholars as well as producing rather corrupted versions.

The structure of the text is widely accepted with its 13 chapters which do an incredible job at being very direct, insightful & inclusive on the topics of planning, strategy, analyzing & winning a war, plus more.

What has become more interesting about the book is the other communities, outside of the military, that have taken both interest & advise from the text. It has become especially utilized in business management.

The book is a brisk read. I was able to complete it in a plane trip between Vancouver, BC & Toronto, ON (4.5 hours.) But - many of the sections warrant a second or third read, slower & more carefully considered. The author makes many astute points about how your own army, or how the enemies army will respond to certain treatment & conditions. It discusses assessing your terrain & geography when defending, waiting or attacking. These become very interesting insights into human nature when they are applied to social relationships, company management & even parenting - since the vast majority of us are not soldiers or generals fighting actual wars.

While reading this book I had many moments where I was tempted to draw out diagrams of what he was explaining, or to take notes & create contextual comments for personal situations non-military people face in the current times. Notes that would provide updated comparisons to internal strategic problem solving & personal development. One of the greatest uses I see in this book is the 'human vs human' or 'human vs self' application of a battle or disagreement.

There are countless phrases & sentences in this text that easily become invaluable quotes for how to take action, respond & behave; both with integrity & in order to win. Much of his writing mixes compassion with duty; a deep humanity with a gladiator's heart.

As a busy adult, this book can easily become a brisk read & put back on the shelf of the serial book collector as another trophy. I strongly suggest implementing some sectioned time to actually make 'study' of the book. To take the notes, draw the diagrams, relate it to sections of your own personal battles, with others & within yourself. The use of these tactics have won wars larger than many of us will ever see.

Highly recommended.


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Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. 

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