This is one of the best books for beginners wanting to know about the origins, diplomacy, combatants, battles and military strategies of World War I. I have it in book form and audiobook form.
The author's writing is concise but not dense. It's not a difficult book to read. However, the wording is such that the reader is given an enormous amount of information on each page.
One thing I especially like and is unique in my experience, is how the chapters are divided. After every chapter on the war there is a chapter called "Background." Some examples of these Background chapters are: The Hapsburgs, The Serbs, The Romanovs, London in 1914, The Machinery of Death, The French Commanders. These chapters allow one to read about what's going on in the war without detailed background information being interwoven into the text, thus making the text too dense.
The audiobook is read by Robin Sachs. I like him to listen to; however, he makes more than a few mistakes. He misreads the text. I only know this because I have the actual book and usually read the book while listening to the audiobook. It would take too long to list every example of a misread, so I will give just one: On page 250 of the paperback book, the first sentence starts with, "Early in January, French went to London . . . ." Robin Sachs reads this sentence as: "Early in June, French went to London . . . ." I think if you don't have a copy of the book these misreads can lead to confusion. FYI: This sentence is read in Part 2, Chapter 6 of the audiobook, (Chapter 13 - The Search for Elsewhere - in the book.)
One of the best parts about this book is the fact that Meyer gives not only every necessary detail to understand what is happening but he gives the background of many events and histories on all the key players to make ensure you understand their motives. Being new to studying world war 1 this book was the perfect way for me to become introduced to many of the complex reasons behind the conflict as well as the simple reasons Amazing book and well narrated
I read widely in military history and politics of war. This is one of the most readable and comprehensive history of WWI I have read. Like Barbara Tuchman, Mr. Meyer has a gifted pen.
Comprehensive, Thorough, Somewhat Dry
The author does an excellent job of detailing the war, and I especially enjoyed the "background" segments, giving the reader a back-story to recent history of a nation-state, current or relative past events in that state or before a battle, helping set the stage for the complexities of the war. Too many facts, dates, technical details often resulted getting caught up in minutia, neglecting the human side of the story.
The narrator had a very flat tone, and this resulted in a somewhat dry, difficult to follow story. I'm an avid fan of military history and WWI, so I did appreciate the details and back-stories, but again, it probably would've been better to read in book format. I may rent a book from the library to re-read it because it was very interesting.
No. I have a 1-hour commute to work and even at 2 hours a day, it took me awhile to complete. I'd often have to repeat segments to catch names and events again.
This book may have been more enjoyable in a text format, allowing the reader to visually see dates, names, places, rather than having to hold all of these things in a memory bank as the story progressed. Rather dry and overall didn't express enough of the human toll, of suffering of soldiers and nations.
Well read, easy to follow narrative, despite the numerous stops for background chapters. These never disturb the flow, and add significantly to the understanding of the war.
I thought this a digestible yet complete overview of the First World War. It was free from predetermined perspectives and took a balanced approach towards participants and causes. It avoided nationalistic preferences or latent prejudices. It was not scholarly, so I did not read it for new insight, but it seemed accurate without forcing new theories just to establish contemporary relevance. The use of anecdotal sub chapters to provide background was useful if a bit thin. I appreciated attention to some of the underrepresented figures of the war, such as Gen. John Monash who commanded ANZAC forces. I thought it was commendably restrained in the avoidance of excess battle detail, bit unfortunately not as critical of many of the military leaders as they deserved (at least with the perspective of 100 years). The performance was solid.
I have to caveat this review by saying it followed my reading of the "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", which, in my humble opinion is one of the best written books on history. Although covering different wars, I found that this book did not weave the story together as coherently as the Rise did.
Also the reading left a lot to be desired. It was so flat and unemotional that it would have put me to sleep had I been disinterested in the topic.
Meyer bleeds passion, with the writing clearly udisplaying his obsession, respect, and care for the subject.
One passage in the introduction stuck: 'I had the great fortune of reading about the Great War without the polluting thought of hoping to write a book myself later' (paraphrased). Its a complete and masterful work, created from the heart and shaped by an expert.
The narration feels slow to begin with and Sachs almost sounds drone like until suddenly I found the pace he set to be appropriate to the content. It quickly got better.
Very good narration of a text that expresses the tragic inevitability of conflict and steep learning curve negotiated by the participants in what some call the first modern war. Covers the "great man" perspective but tempers it with plenty of material about the populations at large and many colorful outlying issues that are usually glossed over. Disturbing but highly satisfying as a primer on the war to end all wars.
I wouldn't, because none of my friends are as hardcore about history. If you're a fan of Hard Core History by Dan Carlin, you'll love this
The descriptions of the Sultans
His gravitas is addictive
The idiocy of the leaders made me chuckle