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
"Fascinating.... One of the finest works of history written.... A splendid and glittering performance." (The New York Times)
I have loved this book since I first read it many years ago and was not expecting any surprises. Nonetheless, I was surprised in the best possible way.
This is a complicated book with many different players, from the the British High Command to the Czar and the Kaiser. The narrator managed to bring them to life and because of the very high quality of his reading, it was actually easier to keep track of the various personalities.
As well as I know this book from previous reading, it was like reading it for the first time. It was, in short, great.
This is a classic. It is brilliantly written, highly entertaining, detailed, and wonderfully well read. In my opinion, this is the best book ever written about the origins of the first world war. It explains so much and so well that anyone who has any interest in history should read it. If you have, as I have, read it before, listen to it again because you will be delighted with this production. It's great.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Ever since I was a kid, I've been fascinated with World War One and the huge transition point it represented in history. Despite knowing a good bit about the subject, I was still very impressed with The Guns of August. Tuchman accomplishes what few history writers pull off, which is to make readers forget what they know about history and see its drama unfold through the eyes of people at the center of events, who didn't know what would happen next. The book’s very detailed, but has the sense of narrative of a novel.
Tuchman opens, with a fitting sense of moment, at the 1910 funeral of King Edward of Britain, where the heads of future belligerent states gather on still-cordial terms. From there, she sets the stage with a portrait of Europe as it stands in the early 20th century, and the policies, mindsets, histories, and cultural attitudes that shape each country's leaders, as they look towards a war that everyone is certain will come. She captures the relationships and self-fulfilling expectations that drive those leaders towards fateful decisions, like players in a Shakespearian tragedy, and the gears and wheels of military plans inexorably grinding forward while diplomats search in vain for the "halt" button. Then comes the tremendous drama of the war's first weeks, when vast armies are in motion, the fate of nations hangs in the balance, and choices are made that will come back to haunt both sides. While there are probably better "academic" works on the war and books that better capture the horrors of trench warfare, I don't know of any that so well explains the key players and the flow of events, while conveying the excitement, fear, hope, and desperation that gripped each country as the crisis exploded. It was hard not get a little caught up in the emotions of events, such as the brave defense of Belgian forts, even knowing that initial success wouldn’t last against overwhelming forces.
Is Guns of August a perfect work? Probably not. Like all historical writers, Tuchman has her biases, and seems to put primary blame for the war on Germany. In her version, they’re aggressors who blindly refuse to put aside preset invasion timetables, even when the option of avoiding war with a less menacing France seems at hand. Other historians probably have more subtle pictures. Also, Tuchman covers politics and battles in equal levels of detail and some readers might get bored with the play-by-play descriptions of maneuvers and clashes that fill the latter half of the book (though I enjoyed that part myself).
However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. As a chronicle of a crucial forty days in human history, The Guns of August remains fresh and alive even half a century after its first publication (when much was still in living memory). On the audiobook experience, I thought that the narrator did a good job with French, German, and Russian accents. Apparently, there’s another audio version out there, but I don’t know how that compares.
PS. If you enjoy this sort of narrative history, I recommend seeking out Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, which is more informal, but driven by a similar enthusiasm for recreating the moment of decision.
What an extraordinary piece of writing. I am so glad that I got to listen to this wonder piece of non-fiction. Narration is wonderfully delivered to summarize one of the 20th centuries’ greatest follies. If you are history fan, like my-self, this book cannot be missed. To think that the entire war, in the first month of conflict could have ended in so many different ways, will simply astonish you. One day I will have to listen to it all over again. Thoroughly recommended!
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
From its opening chapter describing the funeral of King Edward of England, Barbara Tuchman???s The Guns of August grabbed me and elegantly thrust me into its world of Europe on the brink. I had to concentrate to learn the different German, French, Russian, and British names of leaders and places, and, not having maps with the audiobook I could only vaguely envision where the action occurred, but Tuchman???s clear prose was so understandable and her history-telling so suspenseful, that I listened to her accounts of the sieges, battles, retreats, and counter-attacks and even of the endless (and often flawed) politicking, strategizing, and communicating on the edge of my seat.
Tuchman is so good at weaving into her story vivid details of character and culture that I empathized with the main players and countries as she rotates chapter by chapter through their different points of view through that fateful August in 1914. She objectively displays the folly of war, the blindness of leaders who warp reality to fit their set plans, the capacity of common soldiers for endurance and sacrifice, the military proclivity for destruction and waste, and the human potential for envy or admiration, prescience or obtuseness, bravery or cowardice, and magnanimity or brutality. And she writes with wit and style, as when she says of the doctrine of ???continuous voyage??? that, ???Prematurely buried by the Declaration of London before it was quite dead, it was now disinterred like one of Poe???s entombed cats with similar capacity for causing trouble.???
John Lee???s reading is flawless. I had to get used to him speaking the quotations in German, French, Russian, British, or American accents, and I almost wish he had just read everything in his usual brisk British voice, but perhaps it helps the listener follow the changing characters and countries.
If you like detailed, absorbing, and witty history books that evoke a particular historical moment and also transcend it, you should try The Guns of August.
A lover of good stories and intelligent non-fiction.
This is one of the best audio books I've ever listened to. If you think that the assassination of an Austrian Duke was the spark that lit the fires of WW I, then think again. The truth is much more complex and, as described in this book, much more fascinating.
This is a book that doesn't just describe actual historical events. It imbues them with life, action and suspense. Yes, even though we all "know" what happened at the beginning of WW I, Barbara Tuchman manages to keep us in suspense.
Her descriptions of the characters involved in these world shattering events brings them vibrantly to life in the mind of the reader.
I would compare this book in terms of the quality of writing and it's ability to keep an iron grip on your interest, to "Guns, Germs and Steel" by Jared Diamond and "The Zimmerman Telegram" also by Barbara Tuchman.
The narrator was brilliant. He could do convincing accents from every part of the world: British, German, French, Japanese, American, you name it, he could do it.His narration was crystal clear but never monotone or boring. He had a great flow.
If you think that any leader we have in the world today is somehow above human frailties, errors and idiosyncrasies, then you need to listen to this book. You will see just how human they really are and just how susceptible to imperfection they are.
If you want to learn something about humanity and how not to fall into the same traps that humanity has in the past then listen to this and other books like it.
If you want just a good read to pass away the time, whether commuting or otherwise, then listen to this book. It presents history, historical players and historical facts with the excitement, suspense and entertainment of a novel.
Yes. This book is an important historical account of events in 1914 that shattered the world of that time and for the decades which follow down to this day. The author presents a complex thread of events from the perspective of various major players in a well detailed, clear and interesting manner. She also puts the events into context to help explain what happened and why. An audio page turner!
John Lee's reading made this history come alive. His interpretation and rendering makes it seem like he was describing events as an eyewitness. Certainly not a dry account that keeps moving and makes you wish it wouldn't end. He is a clear and easy to listen reader.
As an observer of history, the point that struck me most in this book is how the events of this time are a product of inept decisions, self-delusion, stupidity, pride, jealousy, greed and hubris to name a few qualities in play here. And at what cost? History proves true that nothing has changed...except the cost.
Highly recommend to anyone interested in modern history.
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.
Tuchman is a fine writer, and the narration is very good. The most impressive feature of the book to me is the depth of her research; she really seems to know exactly what was happening at all times in all places during the summer of 1914. I must admit, though, I found the narrative, while compelling, difficult to follow at times just because of the number of characters involved. I do like her caustic wit, though; she's great at exposing the pretensions and follies of the people in charge.
The Germans' repeated justification for initiating the war and for the mass killing of civilians in Belgium is remarkable.
John Lee is, in my opinion, just about the perfect narrator. This performance did not fail to impress as usual.
As my first book on WW1, I found it very informative. I plan on reading more, but this was a good starting point as it delves into the politics leading up to the war and through the critical early battles. It does not describe the fighting in any great detail, but focuses more on the movement of the armies and the strategic decisions made along the way.
I would suggest opening a few maps of the early stages of WW1, particularly the Map of the Battle of the Frontiers and the Map of the Tannenberg Campaign. I found them online.
Really enjoyed this one.
Finding out who started the war.
Good reader, did a great job
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