ar is a big part of our history. It seems to have been a major event in all the civilizations we know about. In this article, I will provide you with a list of books on military strategy and tactics to help you learn more about it. Some of these books are classics while others are newer publications that have been recommended by other readers. All of these books are generally thought to be high-quality reads.
Best Books on Military Strategy and Tactics: THE LIST
1. The Art of War | By Sun Tzu
The definitive translation of Sun-Tzu’s timeless classic of military strategy, Art of War
Sun-Tzu’s Art of War is almost certainly the most famous study of strategy ever written. This treatise has been credited with influencing some of the most legendary military operations. Beyond the battlefield, people far and wide have long turned to Art of War for advice on how to succeed in various competitive situations, and companies around the world now make this book required reading for their executives.
In this translation, Chinese warfare scholar Ralph D. Sawyer places Art of War in its proper historical context, outlining several battles that Sun-tzu either conducted or that may have influenced him, and offers an edition that is uniquely accurate and accessible.
2. On War | By Carl von Clausewitz
Unabridged value reproduction of the most critical and thought-provoking first four books of “On War” by Carl von Clausewitz, translated by J.J. Graham, and including footnotes. These books give the theory and goals of war that can be applied to conquering meeting rooms and empires.
This volume of On War includes topics of the Nature, Theory, and Strategy of War and Combat.
These of Clausewitz’s four books in one volume allow the reader to review and contemplate Clausewitz’s teachings as it applies to their life.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE INTRODUCTION OF THE AUTHOR 3
BRIEF MEMOIR OF GENERAL CLAUSEWITZ 3
BOOK I. ON THE NATURE OF WAR 6
BOOK II. ON THE THEORY OF WAR 38
BOOK III. OF STRATEGY IN GENERAL 70
BOOK IV. THE COMBAT 98
3. The Book of Five Rings | By Miyamoto Musashi
It’s Japan’s answer to the Harvard MBA.
Written over three centuries ago by a Samurai warrior, A Book of Five Rings has been hailed as a limitless source of psychological insight for businessmen or anyone who relies on strategy and tactics to outwit the competition.
Miyamoto Musashi was renowned in his own time as an invincible warrior, a master artisan, an author, and a philosopher. Today, his philosophy is still revered by the Japanese and used as a guide for daily decision-making and business strategy. He wrote A Book of Five Rings not only as a thesis on doing battle but also as a way to approach all aspects of life: “any situation where plans and tactics are used”.
When A Book of Five Rings first appeared on North American bookshelves in 1974, its message took the business community by storm. It provided insight into the then-emerging Japanese influence and offered a new way to think about business. It instantly became a vital tool for assured success and has remained so ever since. The principles in this work are as true today as they were over 300 years ago, and are as valid for business negotiations as for hand-to-hand combat.
Based on the principles of Zen and advocating a hands-on approach to mastering the skills needed for winning, A Book of Five Rings is very likely the most perceptive guide to strategy ever written.
4. The 33 Strategies of War | By Robert Greene
Strategies of war—and the subtle social game of everyday life—by the bestselling author of The 48 Laws of Power
Robert Greene’s groundbreaking guides, The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and Mastery espouse profound, timeless lessons from the events of history to help readers vanquish an enemy, ensnare an unsuspecting victim, or become the greatest in your field. In The 33 Strategies of War, Greene has crafted an important addition to this ruthless and unique series.
Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Structured in Greene’s trademark style, The 33 Strategies of War is the I-Ching of conflict, the contemporary companion to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
Abundantly illustrated with examples from history, including the folly and genius of everyone from Napoleon to Margaret Thatcher, Shaka the Zulu to Lord Nelson, Hannibal to Ulysses S. Grant, as well as movie moguls, Samurai swordsmen, and diplomats, each of the thirty-three chapters outlines a strategy that will help you win life’s wars. Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars. The great warriors of battlefields and drawing rooms alike demonstrate prudence, agility, balance, and calm, and a keen understanding that the rational, resourceful, and intuitive always defeat the panicked, the uncreative, and the stupid. An indispensable book, The 33 Strategies of War provides all the psychological ammunition you need to overcome patterns of failure and forever gain the upper hand.
5. The Prince | By Niccolo Machiavelli
“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.” -Nicolò Machiavelli; The Prince
The Prince is sometimes claimed to be one of the first works of modern philosophy, especially modern political philosophy, in which the “effectual” truth is taken to be more important than any abstract ideal. It is also notable for being in direct conflict with the dominant Catholic and scholastic doctrines of the time, particularly those concerning politics and ethics.
Although it is relatively short, the treatise is the most remembered of Machiavelli’s works and the one most responsible for bringing the word “Machiavellian” into usage as a pejorative. It even contributed to the modern negative connotations of the words “politics” and “politician” in western countries.
A True Classic that Belongs on Every Bookshelf!
6. The Art of War | By Niccolo Machiavelli
Florentine statesman, writer, and political theorist, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) considered The Art of War his most important work. Five centuries later, after serving as a guide to Frederick the Great, Napoleon, and countless other military leaders, it remains an authoritative treatise on the fundamentals of warfare.
Best known as the political theorist who wrote The Prince, Machiavelli used this book to advocate strategies for Italy’s increased military prowess and political strength. Machiavelli was the first to propose a global context for the functional unity of war and politics, with the former serving as an instrument of the latter. Written in the form of dialogues, this 1520 work represents a humanistic treatment rather than a textbook approach. It clearly states and discusses the fundamentals of military organization and strategy: handling recruitment and weapons, motivating troops, demoralizing enemies, and achieving tactical and strategic advantages. Essential to the education of students of military history, strategy, and theory, The Art of War continues to inspire readers.
7. The Face of Battle | By John Keegan
In this major and wholly original contribution to military history, John Keegan reverses the usual convention of writing about war in terms of generals and nations in conflict, which tends to leave the common soldier as a cipher. Instead, he focuses on what a set battle is like for the man in the thick of it—his fears, his wounds and their treatment, the mechanics of being taken prisoner, the nature of leadership at the most junior level, the role of compulsion in getting men to stand their ground, the intrusions of cruelty and compassion, the din and blood.
Set battles, with their unities of time and place, maybe a thing of the past, but this anatomy of what they were like for the men who fought them is an unforgettable mirror held up to human nature.
8. Makers of Modern Strategy
The essays in this volume analyze war, its strategic characteristics, and its political and social functions, over the past five centuries. The diversity of its themes and the broad perspectives applied to them make the book a work of general history as much as a history of the theory and practice of war from the Renaissance to the present. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age takes the first part of its title from an earlier collection of essays, published by Princeton University Press in 1943, which became a classic of historical scholarship. Three essays are reprinted from the earlier book; four others have been extensively revised. The rest–twenty-two essays–are new.
The subjects addressed range from major theorists and political and military leaders to impersonal forces. Machiavelli, Clausewitz, and Marx and Engels are discussed, as are Napoleon, Churchill, and Mao. Other essays trace the interaction of theory and experience over generations–the evolution of American strategy, for instance, or the emergence of the revolutionary war in the modern world. Still, others analyze the strategy of particular conflicts–the First and Second World Wars–or the relationship between technology, policy, and war in the nuclear age. Whatever its theme, each essay places the specifics of military thought and action in their political, social, and economic environment. Together the contributors have produced a book that reinterprets and illuminates war, one of the most powerful forces in history and one that cannot be controlled in the future without an understanding of its past.
9. Boyd | By Robert Coram
John Boyd may be the most remarkable unsung hero in all of American military history. Some remember him as the greatest US fighter pilot ever – the man who, in simulated air-to-air combat, defeated every challenger in less than 40 seconds. Some recall him as the father of our country’s most legendary fighter aircraft – the F-15 and F-16. Still, others think of Boyd as the most influential military theorist since Sun Tzu. They know only half the story.
Boyd, more than any other person, saved fighter aviation from the predations of the Strategic Air Command. His manual of fighter tactics changed the way every air force in the world flies and fights. He discovered a physical theory that forever altered the way fighter planes were designed. Later in life, he developed a theory of military strategy that has been adopted throughout the world and even applied to business models for maximizing efficiency. On a personal level, Boyd rarely met a general he couldn’t offend. He was loud, abrasive, and profane. A man of daring, ferocious passion, and intractable stubbornness, he was that most American of heroes – a rebel who cared not for his reputation or fortune, but for his country.
10. Infantry Attacks | By Erwin Rommel
Field Marshal Erwin Rommel exerted an almost hypnotic influence not only over his own troops but also over the Allied soldiers of the Eighth Army in World War II. Even when the legend surrounding his invincibility was overturned at El Alamein, the aura surrounding Rommel himself remained unsullied. In this classic study of the art of war, Rommel analyzes the tactics that lay behind his success. First published in 1937, it quickly became a highly regarded military textbook and also brought its author to the attention of Adolph Hitler. Rommel was to subsequently advance through the ranks to the high command in World War II. Though most people immediately connect Rommel with the African campaigns of World War II, he made his initial legendary giant steps during the First World War. In this 1935 title, he recalls his greatest battles, outlines how he won them and provides his strategies on the use of armor in the field lessons ultimately used by Patton and other Allied tank commanders to defeat him.–Library Journal As a leader of a small unit in the First World War, Rommel proved himself an aggressive and versatile commander, with a reputation for using the battleground terrain to his own advantage, for gathering intelligence, and for seeking out and exploiting enemy weaknesses. Rommel graphically describes his own achievements, and those of his units, in the swift-moving battles on the Western Front, in the ensuing trench warfare, in the 1917 campaign in Romania, and in the pursuit across the Tagliamento and Piave rivers. This classic account seeks out the basis of his astonishing leadership skills, providing an indispensable guide to the art of war written by one of its greatest exponents.
11. Strategy | By Lawrence Freedom
In Strategy: A History, Sir Lawrence Freedman, one of the world’s leading authorities on war and international politics, captures the vast history of strategic thinking, in a consistently engaging and insightful account of how strategy came to pervade every aspect of our lives.
The range of Freedman’s narrative is extraordinary, moving from the surprisingly advanced strategy practiced in primate groups, to the opposing strategies of Achilles and Odysseus in The Iliad, the strategic advice of Sun Tzu and Machiavelli, the great military innovations of Baron Henri de Jomini and Carl von Clausewitz, the grounding of revolutionary strategy in class struggles by Marx, the insights into corporate strategy found in Peter Drucker and Alfred Sloan, and the contributions of the leading social scientists working on strategy today. The core issue at the heart of strategy, the author notes, is whether it is possible to manipulate and shape our environment rather than simply become the victim of forces beyond one’s control. Time and again, Freedman demonstrates that the inherent unpredictability of this environment-subject to chance events, the efforts of opponents, the missteps of friends-provides strategy with its challenge and its drama. Armies or corporations or nations rarely move from one predictable state of affairs to another, but instead, feel their way through a series of stages, each one not quite what was anticipated, requiring a reappraisal of the original strategy, including its ultimate objective. Thus the picture of strategy that emerges in this book is one that is fluid and flexible, governed by the starting point, not the endpoint.
A brilliant overview of the most prominent strategic theories in history, from David’s use of deception against Goliath, to the modern use of game theory in economics, this masterful volume sums up a lifetime of reflection on strategy.
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12. Guerrilla Warfare | By Che Guevara
Guerrilla Warfare by the revolutionary Che Guevara has become the guidebook for thousands of guerrilla fighters in various countries around the world. Guevara intended it to be a manual on guerrilla warfare, as inspiration for revolutionary movements in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, stressing the need for an underpinning political motivation to guerrilla methods, organization, and supply. Guevara emphasizes that guerrilla warfare is a favorable method against totalitarian regimes, where political opposition and legal civil struggle are impossible to conduct.
13. The History of the Peloponnesian War | By Thucydides
Written four hundred years before the birth of Christ, this detailed contemporary account of the struggle between Athens and Sparta stands an excellent chance of fulfilling the author’s ambitious claim that the work “was done to last forever.” The conflicts between the two empires over shipping, trade, and colonial expansion came to a head in 431 b.c. in Northern Greece, and the entire Greek world was plunged into 27 years of war. Thucydides applied a passion for accuracy and a contempt for myth and romance in compiling this exhaustively factual record of the disastrous conflict that eventually ended the Athenian empire.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
14. The Transformation of War | By Martin van Creveld
At a time when an unprecedented change in international affairs is forcing governments, citizens, and armed forces everywhere to re-assess the question of whether military solutions to political problems are possible any longer, Martin van Creveld has written an audacious searching examination of the nature of war and of its radical transformation in our own time.
For 200 years, military theory and strategy have been guided by the Clausewitzian assumption that war is rational—a reflection of national interest and an extension of politics by other means. However, van Creveld argues, the overwhelming pattern of conflict in the post-1945 world no longer yields fully to rational analysis. In fact, strategic planning based on such calculations is and will continue to be, unrelated to current realities.
Small-scale military eruptions around the globe have demonstrated new forms of warfare with a different cast of characters – guerilla armies, terrorists, and bandits—pursuing diverse goals by violent means with the most primitive to the most sophisticated weapons. Although these warriors and their tactics testify to the end of the conventional war as we’ve known it, the public and the military in the developed world continue to contemplate organized violence as a conflict between the superpowers.
At this moment, armed conflicts of the type van Creveld describes are occurring throughout the world. From Lebanon to Cambodia, from Sri Lanka and the Philippines to El Salvador, the Persian Gulf, and the strife-torn nations of Eastern Europe, violent confrontations confirm a new model of warfare in which tribal, ethnic, and religious factions do battle without high-tech weapons or state-supported armies and resources. This low-intensity conflict challenges existing distinctions between civilian and soldier, individual crime and organized violence, terrorism, and war. In the present global atmosphere, practices that for three centuries have been considered uncivilized, such as capturing civilians or even entire communities for ransom, have begun to reappear.
Pursuing bold and provocative paths of inquiry, van Creveld posits the inadequacies of our most basic ideas as to who fights wars and why and broaches the inevitability of man’s need to “play” at war. In turn brilliant and infuriating, this challenge to our thinking and planning current and future military encounters is one of the most important books on war we are likely to read in our lifetime.
15. On Guerrilla Warfare | By Mao Zedong
On Guerrilla Warfare is Mao Zedong’s case for the extensive use of an irregular form of warfare in which small groups of combatants use mobile military tactics in the forms of ambushes and raids to combat a larger and less mobile formal army. Mao wrote the book in 1937 to convince Chinese political and military leaders that guerilla style-tactics were necessary for the Chinese to use in the Second Sino-Japanese War.
16. Supplying War | By Martin van Creveld
Drawing on a very wide range of unpublished and previously unexploited sources, Martin van Creveld examines the “nuts and bolts” of war. He considers the formidable problems of movement and supply, transportation and administration, often mentioned (but rarely explored) by the vast majority of books on military history. By concentrating on logistics rather than on the more traditional tactics and strategy, van Creveld is also able to offer an original reinterpretation of military history.
17. Strategy | By B.H. Liddell Hart
“The most important book by one of the outstanding military authorities of our time.”—Library Journal
Strategy is a seminal work of military history and theory, and a perfect companion to Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War and Carl von Clausewitz’s On War.
This is the classic book on war as we know it. During his long life, Basil H. Liddell Hart was considered one of the world’s foremost military thinkers. In his writing, he stressed movement, flexibility, and surprise. He saw that in most military campaigns, it was vital to take an indirect approach. Rather than attacking the enemy head-on, one must dislocate their psychological and physical balance. With key examples from World War I and World War II (think trench warfare vs Blitzkreig), Liddell Hart defines the practical principles of waging war—“Adjust your end to your means,” “Take a line of operation which offers alternate objectives”—and proves they are as fundamental in the worlds of politics and business as they are in warfare.
18.The Utility of Force | By Rupert Smith
From a highly decorated general, a brilliant new way of understanding war and its role in the twenty-first century.
Drawing on his vast experience as a commander during the first Gulf War, and in Bosnia, Kosovo, and Northern Ireland, General Rupert Smith gives us a probing analysis of modern war. He demonstrates why today’s conflicts must be understood as intertwined political and military events, and makes clear why the current model of total war has failed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other recent campaigns. Smith offers a compelling contemporary vision for how to secure our world and the consequences of ignoring the new, shifting face of war.
19. Command in War | By Martin va Creveld
Many books have been written about strategy, tactics, and great commanders. This is the first book to deal exclusively with the nature of command itself and to trace its development over two thousand years from ancient Greece to Vietnam. It treats historically the whole variety of problems involved in commanding armies, including staff organization and administration, communications methods and technologies, weaponry, and logistics. And it analyzes the relationship between these problems and military strategy.
In vivid descriptions of key battles and campaigns―among others, Napoleon at Jena, Moltke’s Königgrätz campaign, the Arab–Israeli war of 1973, and the Americans in Vietnam―Martin van Creveld focuses on the means of command and shows how those means worked in practice. He finds that technological advances such as the railroad, breech-loading rifles, the telegraph, and later the radio, tanks, and helicopters all brought commanders not only new tactical possibilities but also new limitations.
Although vast changes have occurred in military thinking and technology, the one constant has been an endless search for certainty―certainty about the state and intentions of the enemy’s forces; certainty about the manifold factors that together constitute the environment in which war is fought, from the weather and terrain to radioactivity and the presence of chemical warfare agents; and certainty about the state, intentions, and activities of one’s own forces. The book concludes that progress in command has usually been achieved less by employing more advanced technologies than by finding ways to transcend the limitations of existing ones.
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Military Strategy and Tactics
War has always been an inevitable part of human history. From the beginning of time, people have found themselves fighting each other to survive. For this reason, military strategy and tactics have been developed to help us in combat. However, different wars require different approaches. This is why military professionals know a lot about a variety of conflicts and strategies in addition to their own expertise in battle tactics. If you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, then read on to find out what books are best for military strategy and tactics.
Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.