Monthly Archives: May 2012

Battling “The Art of War”: How NOT to write a book

Terracotta warriors at Xian, China

A bunch of guys who really need to smile: Chinese terracotta warriors at Xian Terracotta Warriors Museum, Xian, China. Image courtesy of Miguel A. Montas, Wikimedia Commons.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about reading one of the books on my literary bucket list: Sun Tzu’s classic book of military strategy, The Art of War. I’ve got to tell you, people: Reading this book was a struggle. I feel that I deserve a Olympic medal after fighting my way through this one.

The first 90 pages were the hardest. And THAT was just the introduction.

There was a foreword, a preface, acknowledgements, an introduction and a biography of Sun Tzu before I got to the good stuff. I innocently read the foreword, thinking it wouldn’t last long, and then there was the preface … and the acknowledgements … and everything else. I read it all because I didn’t want to miss anything interesting. Oh, boy.

After that, there were Sun Tzu’s 13 chapters about waging war, determining the enemy’s weaknesses and strengths, observations of terrain and so on. It’s easy to see from these chapters why the book is such a classic on military strategy, but I was led astray by being drowned in zillions of footnotes.

At the end of the book are some notes about another person called Wu Ch’i, another military strategist whose name is always associated with Sun Tzu. It’s almost like reading the entire book over again.

Overall, it was not an easy read, even though several packets of chocolate pretzel M&Ms and two Diet Pepsis bravely sacrificed their lives in order to assist me in my literary quest. I did find the book to be pretty good, though. Warning: If you are intrepid enough to attempt this classic book, I strongly recommend that you choose a version where footnotes have been shifted to the back and with a short introduction.

Also, you’d better have a supply of restorative chocolate or your favorite beverage nearby. You may need it.


Filed under Writing