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The Guns of August | [Barbara W. Tuchman]

The Guns of August

Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman here brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, The Guns of August will not be forgotten.
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Publisher's Summary

Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman here brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, Ms. Tuchman reveals, for the first time, just how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical survey of a time and a people we all need to know more about, The Guns of August will not be forgotten.

©1962 Barbara Tuchman, Renewed 1990 by Lester Tuchman (P)2011 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Fascinating.... One of the finest works of history written.... A splendid and glittering performance." (The New York Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (457 )
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4.1 (396 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Andrew Boulder, CO, United States 06-21-12
    Andrew Boulder, CO, United States 06-21-12
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    "Brilliant history"

    You already know how good the writing is, so I'll just gripe about John Lee. None of his accents are particularly good, but the French ones are so thick it's hard to understand what he's saying. The German and Russian ones aren't as bad, and the British are nearly passable. That the few Americans all sound like cowboys is moderately annoying, but they are few and far between.

    The biggest problem I have is that while the plural of "corps" is spelled the same it is pronounced "cores", NOT "core" like the singular.

    Still a great book, get it anyway, Etc. Etc.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Roy BOISE, ID, United States 08-10-11
    Roy BOISE, ID, United States 08-10-11 Member Since 2011

    Roy-in-Boise

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    "History repeats itself?"

    In reading The Guns of August one must ask questions about the world past and present. The fact that the Allies let Germany rise again so soon after "The Great War" is amazing. The Germans were horrendously aggressive in the first WW and every one knew it.
    As incomprehensible as the outcome of this history seems it should give us pause about the current situation today and the parallels developing in the 21st century.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan 08-28-14
    Ryan 08-28-14 Member Since 2014
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    7
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    "Really good book, excellent narration"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    The book itself was very interesting. It covers the events and circumstances leading up to the war, along with the first month of the war, prior to the stalemate trench warfare on the Western front. It was a bit more difficult than other audiobooks, in that there were so many names and details to keep track of. I really had to focus at times, and used the "skip back" feature quite a lot.

    The narration was excellent. I couldn't quite place the narrator's native accent, but he would seamlessly go between British, French, German, Russian, and American accents when quoting people. In the back of my mind, I know that the real persons would have been speaking their own languages, but it added a subtle cue that helped me to keep track of the many persons and their respective nationalities.

    If you are deciding between this audiobook and the other version on Audible, definitely go with this one.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Cox 07-27-14
    Mark Cox 07-27-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Brilliant book, unlistenable reading"
    Would you try another book from Barbara W. Tuchman and/or John Lee?

    Love Barbara Tuchman, and I'd say this is the pinnacle of her work. Unfortunately John Lee does a horrible narration. I ultimately had to stop listening. It's the bizarre accents he shifts into, sometimes multiple times in a sentence. I guess he's trying to do French and then "stiff" French for the non-French parts of the story. But it is very random and completely ridiculous. Ruins the flow of the story and is just too distracting...because it's bad! Seriously, I love this book but could only make it 1/4 of the way through. Wish I could return!


    What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?

    Disappointment


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David United States 07-19-14
    David United States 07-19-14 Member Since 2012

    Hellicopter Man

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    "Guns of August v A World Undone"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    Nothing at all. It is flat out tripe.


    Would you ever listen to anything by Barbara W. Tuchman again?

    Yes. Simply to find out if she is consistently this obtuse.


    Have you listened to any of John Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    Very Very Very few.


    Any additional comments?

    Guns of August v A World Undone

    I recommend you listen to both of these in the order I present them to fully appreciate the contrast. My first listen was A World Undone and though I am not a military afficianato it was so compelling I found myself pouring through battlefield maps. And even ordered another audio book "The Sultans" which I give two thumbs up.

    Undone is so easy, so simple, so comprehensive and concise on the entire war that I was appalled with my listen to Guns of August. Putting asside guns covers only the first six weeks of the War, it rises to little more then a thrilling costume drama. And in my opinion a dime store costume drama at that.

    Her discussion of mobilization is an actual travesty and more then likely has adversely effected entire generations of readers.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    glenn YORK, PA, United States 07-15-14
    glenn YORK, PA, United States 07-15-14 Member Since 2012

    Glenn Anderson

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    "Unless you are a diehard WW1 buff, beware"

    I'm interested in WW1 and the factors that caused the war to happen, but this is very complex and over the head of most casual readers. I found it very boring and way to complex to what I was looking for. I did not finish the book, did not keep my interest.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patrick Murphy 05-31-14
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    "Unparalleled"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Absolutely. I have done. In the year that's in it, I think everyone should listen to it. It's a stark reminder of what went before ... and an education in the frailty of man. History can sometimes glorify war. Not this time. Superbly researched and brilliantly narrated.


    What other book might you compare The Guns of August to and why?

    Endurance by Alfred Lansing. Incredibly, they were contemporaneous. They have everything - and nothing - in common.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Belgium.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. I found it draining. I re-listened to bits of it - it was so hard to believe. I tried to pace it so as to make it last. In fact, I wanted to time the end so that I could listen to it on the train on my way into Sarajevo ... but the recent floods (as opposed to “some damned foolish thing in the Balkans”, as Bismarck put it) meant the train from Zagreb wasn't operating last weekend.


    Any additional comments?

    Listen to it in 2014. Note that it only covers the first month of the war ... Read Birdsong, a novel by Sebastian Faulks, if you want to imagine how the rest of it was like!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 04-27-14
    Scott Santa Clara, CA, United States 04-27-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Awesome writing, weird narration"

    This is a great book—a great read for history buffs, and essential for students of military history. The writing is crisp, intelligent, and insightful. This book is everything you could want in a telling of the events and politics leading up to the Great War, and of its first two years—inclusive of the battles that made Germany's defeat inevitable.
    Barbara Tuchman's research is flawless. Every aspect of the military planning—on all sides—leading up to the conflict and into the fray, are covered in spendid detail. And the philosophies and motives that drove the major players are brilliantly brought to life in her clear and wonderful telling.
    This is a tragic tale. History is gifted with this concise recounting of the madness, the chaos, and the ignorance that brought it about. Thank you, Ms. Tuchman, for your insights—hopefully, we will all benefit from it.
    As a companion piece to this masterwork, consider "Catastrophe 1914" by Max Hastings. It brings a different—yet equally valid—perspective to the beginnings of WWI, one I would characterize as deeply human, with nuanced insights into the characters and politics of the time.
    As to the narration, John Lee is a competent narrator, yet I must protest the silliness of his portrayal of French, German, and Russian protagonists. When he quotes historical figures, he affects accented English to represent them. I found this strange, comical, and after a while, annoying.
    What—are we to believe that Germans and Russians would speak to one another, not in their native language, but in some weird approximation of English? For me, it would have strained the limits of credibility far less, and been much less distracting had he stuck to un-affected English.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joseph Somerset, Kentucky, United States 04-11-14
    Joseph Somerset, Kentucky, United States 04-11-14 Member Since 2011

    Tell us about yourself! Lifelong reader and passionate pursuer of knowledge. I love Audible because I never have to stop reading.

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    "Almost too well detailed"

    I learned a significant amount about early 20th century world history, and just how asinine human behavior can be. Almost too much information, but still am very glad I listened.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 03-07-14
    Ilana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 03-07-14 Member Since 2011

    Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A History Course on WWI"

    One of my reading goals this year is to mark the centenary and include at least one book per month on the theme of Word War I, in a mix of genres and approaches. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning work of non-fiction, Barbara Tuchman set out to describe the events which led up to the onset of the Great War and walk us through that first month, during August 1914. Focusing primarily on the heads of state and government, she describes what the dynamics were in the early years of the 20th century, in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war from which Germany emerged victorious and hungered for world domination. Until reading this book, I had always believed that the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28th, 1914 was the spark that suddenly started it all. I had also been under the impression that the war could have been averted, but the picture Tuchman paints of those years leading up to August 1914 seems to show that the Germans were bent on invasion and domination and in effect forcibly provoked it’s enemies to retaliate. I had not known the history of Belgium, nor that it was, up till the German invasion in August 1914, a neutral country as determined by a treaty which had been signed by Prussia in 1839. Tuchman describes how the Germans deliberately invaded Belgium and proceeded to brutalize the local population with the excuse that they were meeting violent resistance from the civilians, in what came to be known as the Rape of Belgium. Here, the assassination of Ferdinand is barely mentioned. In this version of events, it seems that the allied forced of France and Britain on the Western front, and Russia on the Eastern front, had no choice but to retaliate to stop the German forces from proceeding on to their targeted invasion of France and onward.

    I can’t say this is the kind of book I normally gravitate to. It’s focus is on the military strategies, plans of action and commands, which is an aspect of war which is not of great interest to me. I am more interested in the human element, which is usually to be found in fictional novels, or stories about individual experiences, but it seemed to me important to read about the major forces which led to the onset of war so I could gain a bit more understanding of the political aspects which influenced an entire generation and were then responsible for tens of millions of casualties in that other war just a couple of decades later. I was quite fascinated with the first chapter, describing the pomp and ceremony of the Funeral procession of King Edward VII in May 1910, which presents all the major world-wide players of the day, at what was reportedly one of the largest gatherings of European royalty ever to take place, and one of the last before many royal families were deposed in World War I and its aftermath. Later on, I was much less enthused with the focus remaining on strategy and troupe movements, but instead of abandoning ship (so to speak) as I was tempted to do, decided to keep listening in a similar spirit in which I would have continued attending a lecture series in hopes of bettering my general knowledge, even if this meant listening distractedly at best though long bouts of the narrative.

    It’s hard for me to say whether Tuchman’s is a biased view of events or not, as I have not yet read anything else comparable about WWI, but I did get the strong impression that the blame as to who was responsible for causing the war lay strongly on German powers. There followed detailed descriptions of decisions by the allied forces which might have turned things around, so the blame does not solely rest on the Germans, but one can hardly read this book and walk away feeling much sympathy for them, and for this reason I think I will have to make a point of reading works where the focus is quite different so I can form a more balanced view. As it is, I walk away quite angry, thinking that all this massacre could have been avoided had the Keiser and some of the ‘great German intellectuals’ not been obsessed with world domination. In other words, my prejudices are more or less intact thus far.

    This is a rare case when I’ve decided to rate the book more on it’s own merit than to reflect my private appreciation of it. As a history course, I think it is to be highly recommended. Those who tend to read non-fiction regularly and are comfortable in the realm of power plays and politics will definitely find full satisfaction here. For those like me who only occasionally read non-fiction and prefer to read about the day-to-day realities of living through war, this may seem too dry, but then there is a time and place for everything, and I thought 2014 was a good year to make room for reading the kinds of books about war I would not normally gravitate to. A last note about this particular audio version; I was very annoyed with John Lee, who insisted on adopting the various accents of whoever was being quoted. He is no Meryl Streep and his accents were far from convincing, besides which it took away from the serious tone of the work and was not at all appropriate. I know there is another audio version narrated by Nadia May, though I do not know whether or not she puts in a similar type of performance.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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