The 33 Strategies of War Book Summary - The 33 Strategies of War Book explained in key points
Listen to the Intro

The 33 Strategies of War summary

Robert Greene

A Comprehensive Guide to the Subtle Social Game of Everyday Life

4.1 (201 ratings)
16 mins
Table of Contents

    The 33 Strategies of War
    Summary of 4 key ideas

    Audio & text in the Blinkist app
    Key idea 1 of 4

    Section 1: We realize the value of life when death is close.

    December 22, 1849. It’s a bitterly cold morning in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s imperial capital.

    It’s also the morning of an execution. Shackled convicts are led from their cells into a cobbled square lined with carts carrying coffins. Soldiers load their rifles and a priest performs last rites for the condemned. Finally, an officer reads the verdict: death by firing squad.

    As the officer announces his fate, one of the convicts, a 28-year-old novelist, looks up. His name is Fyodor Dostoevsky. His gaze falls on the golden spire of a nearby church. It glitters in the sun. Then a cloud passes, extinguishing the gleaming light. The thought crosses his mind that he’s about to pass into darkness just as quickly – and forever.

    Dostoyevsky hadn’t reckoned with death. A few years earlier, in 1845, his first novel, Poor Folk, had been published. It had earned him critical acclaim. As he put it in his diary that year, the whole of Russia was talking about it. Dostoevsky’s interest in the empire’s poorest subjects wasn’t just literary. A political radical, he looked forward to a day when they’d rise up and overthrow the monarchy and its aristocratic supporters.

    In 1848, that day had seemed close at hand. A wave of uprisings had swept across Europe. Rebels called this continent-wide assault on conservative monarchies the “springtime of peoples.” The mood had been infectious. Dostoevsky had attended meetings and called for revolution. It was time to topple the tsar and liberate the empire’s long-suffering peasants. But there’d been no uprising in Russia. The tsar’s spies had also attended the meetings and they’d given the list of names they’d gathered to the police. Dostoevsky had duly been arrested and thrown in jail.

    Political dissidents were usually sentenced to hard labor in Siberian work camps. Dostoevsky had expected a similar punishment. But then, eight months after his arrest, he’d been taken from his cell on this cold morning and led into a square where he can now see empty coffins and soldiers loading their rifles. As he looks at the church spire, a second thought goes through his head. If he somehow escapes death, he thinks, his life will seem endless. It’ll be as if he has an eternity ahead of him. Each minute will feel like a century. 

    Luck’s on his side. A carriage comes flying into the square. A messenger passes an envelope to the officer. The tsar has commuted the convicts’ death sentences; there’ll be no executions. Instead, the convicts will be sent to Siberia for hard labor. That’s nothing compared to death. Later that evening, Dostoevsky writes to his brother. Looking back at all the time he has squandered, he says, is torture. Now, though, it’s as if he’s been reborn. He vows never to waste another second.

    When Dostoevsky returned from Siberia in 1854, he got to work. Writing had been a painful process before his imprisonment. Every sentence was a struggle; it took him months to complete a single page. Now, though, it was effortless. The words poured out of him. He maintained that frantic pace until his death in 1881. In just over 25 years, he wrote a series of epochal novels that included Crime and Punishment, The Possessed, and The Brothers Karamazov.

    Dostoevsky’s peers sometimes said that they pitied him for hardships he endured in Siberia. But Dostoevsky felt no bitterness. He was grateful. As he saw it, he’d have wasted his life if it hadn’t been for that morning when he felt death looming over him.

    Want to see all full key ideas from The 33 Strategies of War?

    Key ideas in The 33 Strategies of War

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    What is The 33 Strategies of War about?

    The 33 Strategies of War (2006) distills the essential lessons of military strategy into a series of memorable vignettes. Drawing on ancient and modern sources, this wide-ranging study of tactical masterstrokes and follies offers fascinating insights into human psychology and motivation.

    Who should read The 33 Strategies of War?

    • Thinkers and doers
    • History buffs
    • Psychologists

    About the Author

    Robert Greene is an author, playwright, and editor based in Los Angeles. He studied Classical Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Greene is the author of six best-selling books including Mastery, The 48 Laws of Power, and The Art of Seduction.

    Categories with The 33 Strategies of War

    Books like The 33 Strategies of War

    People ❤️ Blinkist
    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    People also liked

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    27 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 7,000+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial