The Art of War by Sun Tzu was written approximately 2500 years ago. At the time, China was divided into seven nations that all lived under a feudal system. So they had a king, an emperor sitting at the top, and slaves and peasants down the bottom. During that time, there was a lot of warfare and tension between these states. The time came to be known as the spring-autumn period.
The book is a treatise about war, meaning it systematically works through all the different components and aspects of warfare. Books like The Art of War discuss achieving victory and dealing with enemies. Surprisingly, despite its age, the book’s still used very much today in militaries, businesses, and sports teams, all looking to gain some edge over their opponents.
Many things in the book may seem common sense or something you’ve heard a million times before, but that’s only because we’ve had the privilege of knowing as common knowledge. Keep scrolling if you are waiting to read similar books to learn more.
7 Books Like The Art of War (War & Politics)
The Art of War talks about trying to achieve victory in the most efficient way possible. The biggest takeaway in the entire book is preparation. Regardless of whether you’re trying to get a new job or join a new sports team, learn a new instrument, or get in a fight with someone! Preparation is key.
So a lot of the stuff that’s saying you have to add a bit of mental acrobatics to bring it into the context of today’s world, talking about enemies and supply chains and knowing your people, all that stuff.
Yes, it does make sense in today’s world, but you have to give it that context. The information hidden within the texts is helpful, and once you know it, you are better off or more likely to achieve success or goals. Now, I will discuss 7 more political and self-help books similar to The Art of War. Let’s begin!
|The Book of Five Rings||4.0|
|The 33 Strategies Of War||4.2|
|The 48 Laws of Power||4.1|
|Tao Te Ching||4.2|
1. The Book of Five Rings
Our first book, The Book of Five Rings, is a strategic goal-thinking book. Miyamoto Musashi was a Japanese samurai warrior. He had his first fight when he was 13! The book was written in 1643. So it’s an ancient and well-known book. What’s interesting about the particular copy is two books included in it. So you’ve got the Book of Five Rings, and then you have another book called The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War.
The Book of Five Rings is broken into five sections, as the name suggests, and the first section is broken into scrolls. So you’ve got the Earth scroll, water scroll, fire scroll, wind scroll, and the scroll of emptiness. You’re going to learn a little by reading through once or twice. I realized this retrospectively after I read this through a second time. I had been practicing Jujutsu for eight and a half years, a Japanese martial art in which Musashi himself would have been proficient.
At the end of each of his parables, there are tons and tons of different parables. It requires deep contemplation or practice. So, it needs to be better to read and understand it intellectually. Also, you have to practice it. In the Earth Scroll, he’s talking about his style of fighting.
So he’s developed a style of fighting with two swords, a katana, the long sort of samurai sword in one hand and a shorter katana in the other. Then he goes on to talk about the water scroll. It is where he’s talking about individual techniques you can use as someone practicing with the sword, the fire scroll.
The author talks about how these principles can be scaled up in battle. Finally, he talks about the wind scroll and the weaknesses of other schools. To get good at it, it requires that you contemplate a lot and intimately practice until you understand in detail. That would be the biggest lesson I got from it, and I recommend the book if you want practical knowledge of philosophy.
Author: Miyamoto Musashi
Narrator: Scott Brick
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Tropes: Self-Defense, Martial Arts, Business, War, Japanese-literature
Number Of Pages: 166
Available: Audiobook | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD
2. The 33 Strategies Of War
Robert Greene, an American author, wrote the 33 Strategies Of War. He has a B.A. in classical studies, according to his book. He’s done many interesting books here at The Root, The 48 Laws of Power, which are enjoyed out of seduction.
The 33 Strategies Of War is the concise edition and a compilation of The Art of War, The Book of Five Rings, and The Eight Chuang Napoleon. It’s an excellent distillation of war strategy. I enjoyed the concise edition because it has exciting parts and additions to the side of each page.
So that’s cool, and the author puts much of the information into context. The superior strategist understands that it’s impossible to control exactly how an enemy will respond to the mood. There is too much in war and unpredictable life. But if the strategist can control the mood and mindset of his enemies, it does not matter exactly how they respond to his maneuvers. If he can make them frightened, panicky, overly aggressive, and angry, he controls the water scope of their actions and can trap them mentally before cornering them physically.
There are different models for looking at the world, tactics, and models. Moreover, you could view Dale Carnegie’s view of the world as a model and Robert’s view of the world as a model. Both models are effective, but the most effective strategy is to mix them when appropriate and not to be limited by only having one set of tools or tactics you can utilize. So, if you want to know history, war, business, and self-help all in one book, you must pick it.
Author: Robert Greene
Narrator: Donald Coren
Tropes: Communication, Social Skills, Personal Development, Politics
Number Of Pages: 496
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Audio CD
3. On War
On War is military history fiction and leadership book written by Carl von Clausewitz, who lived in the early 19th century. This guy spent his whole life at war. He signed up when he was a 13-year-old boy. It was the 1830s from cholera, and he had spent his entire life at war during a period in Europe that was constantly besieged by some form of conflict or another, mainly due to Napoleon and the French Revolution.
Like The Art of War, this book also has a remarkable amount of psychology. Carl digs into the nitty gritty of the types of leaders he’s seen and boils them down into specific parts. He’ll say which ones are good for particular tasks. Also, he remarkably goes into a quite eloquent defense of war as a tool of political and power projection.
The writing is excellent, which was originally written in German. So whenever you’re reading something along the lines of Sun Tzu or Albert Camus or any writer, depending on the language you’re reading it in, you could apply to Shakespeare as well if you’re reading it not in English.
Certain things need to be recovered in translation. The version that I have is the Oxford World Classics one. Michael Howard and Peter Perret translate it and do an excellent job of capturing the tone. If you aren’t interested in history or the military, you may feel inclined to sit this out.
If that’s the case, I urge you not to skip out on it. There are some remarkably lucid and salient points that you can take to heart and within every other aspect of your life. Moreover, this book should be read by people in leadership positions because the author covers multiple different, and they can be applied to different leadership situations.
Author: Carl von Clausewitz
Narrator: David Timson, Lucy Scott
Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks
Tropes: Economic theory, Inspiration, Strategy
Number Of Pages: 752
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle
4. The 48 Laws of Power
The 48 Laws of Power is ruthless and bold. There is a central theme that I observed, which is the theme of deception. It’s evident within the majority of the laws. For example, Law three Conceal your intentions, and law 15 Poses as a friend and works as a spy. So you’re probably thinking wrong, and why would I ever do this? Deceiving feels like a very negative thing. From one perspective, I agree. From another point of view, deception can be used as a powerful, ruthless tactic that can help you gain power over your life, including your relationships.
You’ll see more of this point of view as you read more and more throughout the book. So what I found great about the book is that each chapter, minus a few exceptions, has an observance of the law, transgression of the law, and reversal of the law.
Under the observance of the law, you’ll read stories and examples of where the law has been successfully applied under transgression of the law. You’ll read stories and examples of where the law was not applied, and under the reversal of the law are situations where you would not apply the law whatsoever. It’s excellent because Robert provides different sides to the cube and is not so one-dimensional.
A lot of the stories and examples are historical. Some do date back to 500 B.C. and even further than that. So if you’re not into those types of readings, this book might bore you only a little. So keep in mind that I expanded my vocabulary heavily with this book, similar to The Art of War.
The author uses many advanced words, so I was constantly Googling frequently used words. So it’s a bonus if you are trying to expand your English vocabulary overall. If you want to take power over your life and relationships, whether at home, work, or school, you need to read The 48 Laws of Power.
Author: Robert Greene
Narrator: Richard Poe
Tropes: Political Science, Theory, Ethics, Morality, Self-development
Number Of Pages: 452
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Leather Bound | Kindle | Audio CD
5. Tao Te Ching
Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese philosophical text. It’s quite thin, but it’s one of those books you never start or finish. It is separated into 80 or so chapters. But as you can see, each chapter is only a paragraph poem size. It’s been translated dozens of times into English from Chinese. The author almost talks about it having some mystical aspects as well. He gives some simple philosophical thoughts about how to conduct your life and the benefit of action versus inaction.
The book has a bunch of paragraphs of wisdom and philosophical takes that you can read over and over, and they can apply to many different things. The first section is about doing a bunch more action. The results come from inaction rather than action. Taking a look at what things are instead of what they aren’t.
The second part of that is about knowing when to stop. You can’t lose anything if you don’t have anything. It’s a constant reaction or opposite effect. What is, in the end, to be shrunk must first be stretched. Whatever’s to be weakened must begin by being made strong. What is to be overthrown must begin by being set up. If you’re not a hoarder, you don’t have to worry about losing things. You can consider the book as self-help as The Art of War because there are many practical examples to understand the meaning of life.
Author: Lao Tzu
Narrator: Amanda Brewer
Publisher: Ancient Renewal
Tropes: Taoism, Spirituality, Poetry, Myth
Number Of Pages: 160
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle
6. The Prince
The Prince is a classic political and philosophical literature with a very similar theme to The Art of War. Niccolò Machiavelli was a Florentine diplomat, so he worked for the Florentine Republic, the City of Florence, a republic at that time. For about ten years, he has proven himself a very skillful diplomat. He represented Florence at the highest level in diplomatic relations with other countries, with other republic states, and with the Pope. Everybody in history knew very well history and politics.
However, about ten years after he started his post, the Medici, the famous family which has always been ruling in one way or another in Florence, returned to power. So Florence was no longer a republic, and he was forced into exile in his attempts for about ten years to come back to power by pleading to the Medici. He created the book, which is addressed to Lorenzo de Medici, one of the ancestors of Lorenzo the Magnificent, who was in power that day.
Machiavelli’s demonstrated all the skill, fulness, and wisdom he had gathered from his experience. The reason why the book is so hated is that it’s so honest before the Prince. The literature that a monarch, a prince, or any ruler we’re supposed to read was dominated by religious dogma. It was history through the prism of Christianity. So it’s about the game of politics, the game of seizing power and retaining power. At the beginning of the book, he discusses the different types of states that existed during his time and until today.
If you look it through another prison and depending on the order of the state, they are challenging levels of seizing it and sustaining your power as a ruler there. So they’re the states which have always been having a strong leader. There will be a prince, a royal family with a bloodline. So these are notoriously hard to crack. So people don’t question it anymore. They don’t want to live in freedom or a republic.
The author does not justify unnecessary violence, and he hates and consults in his book that they should not allow any meaningless violence and cruelty amongst people. Also, he emphasizes that a good prince will allow people to continue their trade and agriculture. Most importantly, they should not be afraid to accumulate wealth because of taxes or because they believe he will seize it from them.
According to Machiavelli, nothing is more important than getting true respect, not respect by flatterers, but only being respected as a person. He talks a little bit about how to achieve the effect of respect. So you get to see the shortcut to making yourself believably respectful and lovable by most people. People of power have loved this book. Some famous examples of people who took a lot of inspiration from it are Benito Mussolini, who wrote his dissertation on Machiavelli, also Adolf Hitler.
There is a strong influence on Nazism from Machiavellian theory. Then you have people like Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, and big generals from the American and the U.K. Army. They believe this is the guide to running an organization correctly to being in a position of power. If you want to understand the world and politics, check this out.
Author: Niccolò Machiavelli
Narrator: Douglass Scott
Publisher: Strelbytskyy Multimedia Publishing
Tropes: Theory, Politics, Italian culture, Ancestry
Number Of Pages: 170
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback
Republic is immensely readable. It’s not that Plato did not write philosophy as a dry textbook. He wrote it like a living conversation. The whole of the republic, a fairly fat book, is a live conversation written in short, almost sound bite-type answers but developing some essential ideas. There’s also obviously the thoughts and the content of the book. He’s asking the fundamental question. Why should we bother to be good? What’s in it for us? Effectively, when we look at the world, injustice pays, crime pays, whereas the good people get trodden down.
So Plato addresses the fundamental question Why should we be good? I’m not going to tell you his answer. Read the book, which is a thought-provoking book. He gives a surprising answer, and that’s bound to make anybody think because it doesn’t frame the answer in terms that we would expect or how you deal with other people around you. Moreover, Plato frames an answer regarding how you should structure the different parts of your mind to become a person within yourself and act out that justice in the outside world.
Narrator: Ray Childs
Publisher: Agora, New Internet Technologies
Tropes: Ancient Literature, Sociology, Ancient-Greek
Number Of Pages: 206
Available: Audiobook | Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle | Mass Market Paperback
Some books that are similar to “The Art of War” in terms of theme and subject matter:
The Analects by Confucius: A ancient Chinese philosopher, shows insights into leadership, ethics, and strategy. His wisdom widely applies to many areas of life, as in The Art of War.
The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius: The ancient Roman emperor explains insights into the nature of leadership and self-awareness.
The Bhagavad Gita: The warrior prince Arjuna and the god Krishna guide the nature of duty, action, and morality.
The Thirty-Six Stratagems: An ancient Chinese text provides short and memorable strategies.
Those are my favorite philosophical must-read books related to The Art of War. These books are considered classic works in their respective fields and wisdom. If you have any similar book, mention it in the comment section. I love to add books to my TBR from recommendations. So I’m waiting for your response.
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