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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 (584 )
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4.2 (512 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Katherine 10-06-12
    Katherine 10-06-12 Member Since 2012
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    "History comes alive"
    What did you love best about The Guns of August?

    According to Robert K. Massie's excellent foreword, Barbara Tuchman described herself as a writer whose subject was history. Although she was certainly scholarly in her approach, and very well educated, she was not a professional historian. She was an outstanding writer, with the ability to make historical figures come alive on the page. Her work is very well served by John Lee's outstanding narration.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Foster Delahanty 10-03-12
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    "GOOD"
    Where does The Guns of August rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    YES


    What about John Lee’s performance did you like?

    EVEN


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    THIS REPRESENTS A RETELLING OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ERA IN RECENT HISTORY .... ALL ACTIONS RESOLVED FROM THE PREVIOUS CENTURY AND THE SETUP OF ALL ACTIONS IN THE FOLLOWING
    THE ACCENT OF MAN FROM SERF TO INDIDUAL, THE MECHANIZATION OF THE WORLD


    Any additional comments?

    A LOT OF PEOPLE TO TRY AND KEEP TRACK OF

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael L Krogh 09-03-12
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    "Excellent Summary of the War's Beginning"

    The reader provides a bit more drama to the work than I'd prefer for a work of non-fiction, but overall a good performance. The content, especially the detailed descriptions of the errors, miscommunications, and the way egos confused the war's beginning, is excellent.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Cedar Rpids, IA, United States 08-06-12
    William Cedar Rpids, IA, United States 08-06-12 Member Since 2006
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    "too much information. Good for scholars."
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    I needed an abridged version.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    Excellent research.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by John Lee?

    Yes. Narrator was good


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

    Over analysis. It may have been good at the time it was written. But it needs a synopsis now. If the focus was on what happened after, it would have held my attention more.
    It was a clear illustration of the need for war to make changes that can't be made otherwise.
    The tradgedy of the human condition is that we have a limited view of the consequences of our actions while we are living them. W.C. Jacobson


    Any additional comments?

    Barbara Tuchman writes well. Her analysis was good. I knew the outcome, which made it tedious to plow through. wCJ

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    robert United States 07-30-12
    robert United States 07-30-12 Member Since 2010
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    "In a word.... YAWN!!!"
    What disappointed you about The Guns of August?

    This book was read like a junior high text book. It was painful to endure. I cannot believe this book was a best seller.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ann Mount Martha, Australia 09-07-11
    Ann Mount Martha, Australia 09-07-11
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    "Recommended"

    six hours & 37 minutes well spent - tells a fascinating story of stupidity & valor

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ilana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 03-07-14
    Ilana Montreal, Quebec, Canada 03-07-14 Member Since 2015

    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 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodney Florida 09-26-12
    Rodney Florida 09-26-12 Member Since 2015
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    "Maybe it works better as book"

    I've listened to a ton of history books and for whatever reason I have time following this one. I don't really like the style of writing as it comes off, for lack of a better word, as being kind of flowery. It seems like the scene is always being set while nothing is being said. This might be one of those books that works much better in print, it certainly happens. Also take a listen to the reader, I think she is doing a good job and she seems like a very good reader, however the tone of voice just seems out of her place for this subject matter. I normally have a strong opinion one way or another on history books, but I'm kind of just stuck in the middle on this one as the book did not hold my attention to the end, which is extremely rare for myself.

    1 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben 10-19-11
    Ben 10-19-11 Member Since 2014

    Say something about yourself!

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    "Mind-numbingly boring"

    I listened to this with high hopes, but found it mind-numbingly boring. Tuchman bogs down in details and doesn't ever really present a good overview.

    3 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Cox 07-27-14
    Mark Cox 07-27-14 Member Since 2014
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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 1 people found this review helpful
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