Sun Tzu
The Art of War
The title is misleading:  Sun Tzu's famous work is so much a
compendium of military tactics, as a guide to navigating through
are Machiavellian, for example Sun Tzu's advocacy of employing
spies and spreading disinformation.  Yet the methods of conflict
resolution most highly prized here are those that are least violent
and destructive   In a famous passage, we read:

One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful.  
Subduing the other's military without battle is the most skillful.

This work has perhaps become all too trendy, embraced by
managers, politicians, and New Age fuzzy thinkers.  When my son
asked me about the work, I suspected that he wanted its help to
improve his score in video game combats.   Others read it for
assistance in negotiating a deal or improving their marriage.   More
power to them!  Yet Sun Tzu retains its profundity despite the
popularizers.  Its incisive, sometimes ambiguous language resists
formulaic simplifications, and serves as a spur to deep thinking.  In
particular, the work's constant advocacy of self-examination --
know thyself as well as know the enemy -- gives it a richness lost
in most accounts of pure military strategy.  

When my son
expressed interest in
Sun Tzu, I gave him
a copy of James
Clavell's prose
version.  But adult
readers would do well
with a more poetic
version that retains
the ambiguity of the
original text.  I
prefer the Denma
translation, which
does not simplify the
text or patronize the