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The Guns of August | [Barbara W. Tuchman]

The Guns of August

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, historian Barbara Tuchman brings to life the people and events that led up to World War I. This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war. How quickly it all changed...and how horrible it became.
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Publisher's Summary

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, historian Barbara Tuchman brings to life the people and events that led up to World War I. This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war. How quickly it all changed...and how horrible it became.

Tuchman masterfully portrays this transition from 19th to 20th Century, focusing on the turning point in the year 1914: the month leading up to the war and the first month of the war. With fine attention to detail, she reveals how and why the war started, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't, managing to make the story utterly suspenseful even when we already know the outcome.

©1990 Dr. Lester Tuchman; (P)2005 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"More dramatic than fiction...a magnificent narrative┬┐beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced...The product of painstaking and sophisticated research." (Chicago Tribune)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Mike From Mesa Mesa, AZ 10-28-08
    Mike From Mesa Mesa, AZ 10-28-08 Member Since 2003

    MikeFromMesa

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderful"

    Occasionally I come across a book that is so good that I don't know if I should keep listening or turn it off for fear of finishing too quickly. This book is one of those.

    I think that Nadia May, who narrates this and other Barbara Tuchman books, does a wonderful job. Descriptions and events are clear and largely riveting. I have only 2 complaints. One is that not all of the French is translated into English and the other is that there are no maps. I had to get my John Keegan book on the First World War and look at the maps to understand exactly what was happening. However the first complaint is problably a lack in the original printed form of the book and the second is a drawback of narrated books in general. One would hope that given the new visual capabilities of todays devices the producers would find some way to include maps.

    I gave this book 5 stars and think it is worth every one. In my view it is better than either of the other of her books (The Proud Tower and The Distant Mirror) that I have listended to. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the events leading up to the First World War.

    23 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    IRP Falmouth, ME United States 06-06-08
    IRP Falmouth, ME United States 06-06-08 Member Since 2006

    IRP

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    "A Great Book-One Of My Alltime Favorite Books"

    I first read this book years ago when I was teenager and found it be so fascinating and well written that it stimulated my interest in history (especially World War One) which I have maintained to this day. Although she went on to write several other excellent books , I believe that this was Barbara Tuchman's best book. This audiobook has reinforced my opinion. By listening to the audiobook, one really acquires a great understanding of just how August 1914 transformed the world. Up until that point, the old order (monarchs and aristocracy) held strong in Europe and Europe controlled the world. After 1914, things would never be the same. Although the war lasted until 1918, by the time it ended, nothing was left of the old order and it was really the personalities of the new order (Lloyd George, Clemenceau and Wilson) who brought about the peace. What makes the book great is the manner in which the author takes the historical figures of that time period (such as the Kaiser, Foch, Joffre, Churchill, French, Kitchner, Von Moltke, Poincare) and paints a very human portrait of all of them through short biography of their pre 1914 lives and how these pre war events shaped the decisions that they made during the first month of the war. The narration is quite good as the narrator does her best to put foreign accents on all of the French and German personalities (I actually think it might have worked better if a man had narrated the book- namely because all of the main characters were men-but Ms. May does a very good job). I also believe that listeners will enjoy the chapter that chronicles the flight of the German cruiser Goeben during the first month of the war. I would strongly recommend this audiobook to anyone who is interested in history and to anyone who has never been interested in the subject, because they found history to be boring when they studied it in school. It is very well done- a good recording

    37 of 38 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Drew houston, TX, USA 09-23-08
    Drew houston, TX, USA 09-23-08 Member Since 2008
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    "One of the Greatest history Books ever"

    If you want an exellent book about the political and military situation at the start the first world war, then there is no better opition. Even if you don't think you are interested in the first world war i guarantee you will enjoy this book and it will make you interested in the war. After reading it you will want to know more and more about the conflict. I personally had focused on WWII as my main focus, but this book was recommended to me and after reading it (i read it before i bought the audio book). I will probably read this book a half dozen time before in my life because there are unexplainable thing about the time period and and the way it is described in this book that makes me never want to forget it. The author maybe a little "baised" as other have said but this "baise" was devolped from a close studying of the facts. She doesn't just tell you what happened and what the generals decided, but rather throws her own well informed opinion into the matter as well. Not only does this help to give the reader/listener perspective on the matter, but it makes the story interesting and allows the reader figure out easily who is a genious and who is a fool.

    17 of 17 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jack Mobile, AL 10-24-08
    Jack Mobile, AL 10-24-08 Member Since 2002
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    "Narrator very good"

    I enjoy Barbara Tuckman books and, for some reason put off reading this one. I decided to try the audiobook. Unlike one of the other reviewers, I thought the narrator was very good. She did the best possible job in my opinion. I do have to say however that I think this type of book with so many historical characters and events is better read than listened to.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Milford, ON, Canada 06-24-08
    Andrew Milford, ON, Canada 06-24-08
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    "The definitive work"

    If you're a student of WWI you already know that this is the definitive work. There is no University History or Political Science Course that does not start with the opening paragraphs of Guns of August.

    If you are NOT a student of the era and wish an introduction there is no better.

    An enduring work that is of interest to both the scholar and novice.

    25 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bryan Monument, CO, USA 11-04-08
    Bryan Monument, CO, USA 11-04-08 Member Since 2005
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    "If Only All History Could Be Done Like This"

    You already know the outcome of the war, or you should unless you went to a public school in the US. The personalities and decisions made in the course of one month still affect us today. Having this come alive in this wonderful story gives everyone the opportunity to understand what kind of impact one person can have on the whole of world history.

    We are treated to some of the most compelling history, not written for idiots but for thinking adults. Barbara Tuchman is certainly on her game, and this is a must hear for everyone.

    The production is wonderful, the energy of the narration and the presentation in total make this a wonderful addition to your audiobook library.

    24 of 25 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Fresno, CA, United States 08-04-08
    Mary Fresno, CA, United States 08-04-08 Member Since 2001
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    "Guns of August is Magnificent"

    Tuchman's history of the people and circumstances leading to WWI, and the first month of that war, is a vibrant and compelling story that reads like a great novel. I'm always looking for history books that clearly describe important events in world history, and this one is now at the top of my list!

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    P. Johnson Savannah GA 06-04-08
    P. Johnson Savannah GA 06-04-08 Member Since 2008

    Savannah J

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    "Everybody knew, and everybody was wrong."

    As the world threw themselves into World War I, everybody was convinced that they could win the war in six weeks, or perhaps as much as six months. Everybody was certain that their own plans would be the one that won the day, and everybody was wrong.

    Listen along as you see the end of the old world, the Victorian age of mankind, and are brought lurching into the modern twentieth century. Exceptional detail and insight into the events that literally reshaped the world for the rest of the century.

    11 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carolyn Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 01-13-13
    Carolyn Ottawa, Ontario, Canada 01-13-13 Member Since 2012

    I am a bilingual high school teacher. I mostly read non-fiction, especially history, but I am also a sucker for science-fiction and fantasy novels.

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    "Truly Excellent"

    It's no surprise that this book is widely thought of as the definitive work on the critical first month of the First World War. I listened to Tuchman's The Proud Tower first and it was immeasurably helpful in following the people and the references to events leading up to 1914. I highly recommend doing the same - it makes this book much easier to follow and the motives and perspectives of the people much clearer.

    Like in The Proud Tower, Nadia May does excellent narration. After listening to two (and currently listening to a third - The Zimmerman Telegram) books narrated by her, I wish all the books I listen to were done by her. The pace is excellent, the accents are spot-on, foreign-language words are pronounced expertly, and it is easy to follow dialogue versus narration and speaker versus speaker within dialogue.

    If, like me, you have only a long-ago high school history class level of knowledge about the First World War, be prepared to learn a lot. This book is extremely well-researched and detailed - literally day-by-day and from British, German, French, and (though not as completely) Russian perspectives. It covers both the German fronts on land as well as the naval perspective and is as complete as you could ever ask for in covering all the key events that created the war of attrition that lasted until the Americans got involved in late 1917.

    However, by far the best part was the coverage of the perspectives of individual actors in the events. You really feel like you know the personalities of the people, particularly (but not exclusively) those at GQG and OHL making the decisions and the most important commanders of the armies in the field. Tuchman does an excellent job of evaluating the actions of all the players fairly and, in the end, few of the highest decision-makers (especially in France and Germany) come out looking like they had their heads on straight. It gave me a whole new and deeper understanding of why things turned out the way they did. Between The Guns of August and The Proud Tower, my perspective on how and why the First World War began has changed completely. Forget the assassination of the Archduke - it's practically a nonevent. Often history books used in school make it sound like that event was the key and the war only happened because of it. It is so much more interesting and complex than that, and, as a teacher, after reading these books I wouldn't even simplify it down that way at all for students. Even the concept of the Triple Entente was not anything like how it was portrayed when I learned about it in high school. Now I feel like I really knew nothing about the war before I read these books and suddenly it is clear.

    My only complaint about the book is that you do need to read The Proud Tower first. So much of what goes on in this one makes more sense and so many briefly-mentioned characters are familiar because I listened to that one first that I can't even evaluate how it would be to listen to this one without that one. I suspect I got a lot more out of this because I listened to both.

    I never used to think the First World War was as interesting as the Second and so although I love to read about history, I kind of ignored it. Now I am sorry I did. I can't recommend this book enough - it is obvious why it is considered a classic, and it is just as relevant and useful today as it was when it was first written.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Rochester, NY USA 12-28-09
    Andy Rochester, NY USA 12-28-09 Member Since 2004
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    "A Great Men of History view of war"

    Overall: a great way to learn some basics about WWI from a certain narrow perspective. I'm generally interested in broader social aspects of history but this is great for what it is.
    Content: This is about the dozen or so generals and heads of state who got the world into WWI and all the messes that followed. Given that, I felt that there was surprisingly little about the Austrian Kaiser and what led to the decision to invade Serbia after the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. This was the key decision that started the cascade but we don't really get to know Franz Josef and his entourage or hear anything about the world trying to get him to take back his move. I don't usually think of history this way, but if that is what the book is about then it seems like this would be the key plot point but it's more of a footnote. ???
    One reviewer said it was anti-German. I'm not sure how. All the leaders come off as lunatics willing to kill hundreds of thousands of soldiers (including their own) for nothing. Under the Kaiser's orders, the German army did invade neutral Belgium and commit atrocities there against civilians.

    Narrator: WIth regards to the previous reviews I have to agree that doing foreign voices in English with a funny accent is silly, but a common Hollywood device. The pronunciation of foreign names was was excellent compared with most Audible narrators. Overall, I thought she did a very good job.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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  • Kirstine
    Bonnyrigg, United Kingdom
    5/22/14
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    "Not a good choice for an audio version"

    This is a book of highly detailed scholarship that lays out all the factors and players that led to the start of the First World War. However, I found it too densely packed with facts, lists and characters to work well as an audio-book.

    This audio version is an anniversary edition 25 years after the first publication and opens with a self-congratulatory introduction by the author who also felt no changes were necessary, which I found ironic as the first sentence of the book refers to Edward the Seventh as the King of England. Time and time again she refers to England and the English when it should have been Britain/United Kingdom and British. Particularly ironic, for example, when in one instance the Gordon Highlander Regiment is referred to within a few sentences. I acknowledge that many foreigners refer to the England when meaning the UK but an historian should know better.

    I enjoy history books but gave up on this one after a few hours. I have been listening to a series of war novels recently and found part one of Ken Follett's Century Trilogy "Fall of Giants" a moving account of World War One that was also informative about the factors that led to the start of that war but in a more digestible form.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Jim
    Twickenham, United Kingdom
    10/25/11
    Overall
    "Completely gripping"

    The reviews for this book tempted me to get it despite a feeling that there surely couldn't be anything new to say about the first world war. However; it grips from the start to create a clear picture of what was driving the seemingly non-sensical start of world war one and how the first few months of the war unfolded. If all of that sounds a bit dry there are a sequence of gloriously bonkers characters amongst the ranks of Europe's nobility and military class which add fascinating human colour to the epic historical sweep

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Tom
    West Wickham, United Kingdom
    11/10/11
    Overall
    "A fine and interesting book"

    Barbara Tuchman won a Pulitzer Prize for this book and it is easy to understand why. She deals with a massively important turning point in history and writes in such an uncluttered and interesting style, and strikes a nicely judged balance between the historical narrative and comment. But you do need to concentrate to keep a grip of the huge cast of characters and the foreign names!

    Superbly well narrated.

    The only problem with listening to audio history books with a military them is that unless your grasp of of the geography is very good, you occasionly need to resort to a map to keep track of what's going on. But this does not detract from the enjoyment of the book.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
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