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The Guns of August (Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books) Paperback


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Product Details

  • Series: Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reprint edition (March 8, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034538623X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345386236
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (465 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“A brilliant piece of military history which proves up to the hilt the force of Winston Churchill’s statement that the first month of World War I was ‘a drama never surpassed.’”Newsweek
 
“More dramatic than fiction . . . a magnificent narrative—beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained.”Chicago Tribune
 
“A fine demonstration that with sufficient art rather specialized history can be raised to the level of literature.”The New York Times
 
“[The Guns of August] has a vitality that transcends its narrative virtues, which are considerable, and its feel for characterizations, which is excellent.”The Wall Street Journal


From the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

To many people, W.W.I seems like ancient history. To me, it is the most fascinating of wars. It is when the modern world began, or, in Barbara Tuchman's opinion, when the 19th Century ended. My late Great Uncle Jimmy, a Brit, joined the Army at the age of 16 by lying that he was 18 after being encouraged to do so by a recruiter. Where did they send him? To Ireland, to train horses for the cavalry! This was the same war that saw the debut of the airplane, submarine, tank, poison gas, machine gun, flamethrower, and hand grenade!

In this Pulitzer Prize-winning history, Tuchman writes about the turning point of the year 1914--the month leading up to the war and the first month of the war. 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 is masterful at portraying this abrupt change from 19th to 20th Century. And how she manages to make the story utterly suspenseful, when we already know the outcome, is the mark of a great writer, and a classic volume of history.

Doug Grad, Editor

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Customer Reviews

As always with Tuchman, it is a readable and very well researched book.
R.J.
Nothing explains the modern world without the context of the first great war that forever changed it at the turn of the 20th century.
Stratiotes Doxha Theon
If you are looking for a book to start your study of the first world war i would highly recommend The Guns of August.
Mystikeye

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

326 of 340 people found the following review helpful By Linda Linguvic HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written in 1962, this is a fascinating history of the beginnings of WW1 and is the result of a vast amount of research. It's all true, and all documented, and even though it's a dense read, the huge cast of characters springs to life. This is the story of a war that changed the course of history. And it's also a story of the men who make the war. The reader gets to see the blunders and the madness and the personal feuds. And the humanity of the imperfect human beings who make the decisions that result in slaughter.
There are maps in the book describing the battles. There are also photographs. But I must admit that I barely looked at the maps. And I found all the photos of the elderly generals very similar. What I did love though was the sweep of the story as well as the many details that go into waging a war. Previously, most war books I've read had to do with the experience of the soldiers. But this book is about the experience of making decisions, often based on folly. And it opened my eyes to how vulnerable the ordinary person is to the whims of the generals and the forces of pure chance. Ms. Tuchman also had a sense of irony and humor and sometimes I found myself laughing out loud.
The narrative of the month of August 1914 is described hour by hour. Belgium has to make a decision to accept an awful defeat or willingly allow the Germans to march through their neutral territory. There are alliances in place that are just waiting to be broken. The Russians come into the war. So do the British, even though it is with much reluctance. The basic war is between France and Germany, almost a continuation of the defeat the French suffered at the hands of the Germans during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870.
Before I read this book, I didn't know much about WW1. Now I do.
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147 of 157 people found the following review helpful By T. Parry on January 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
What Barbara Tuchman has done here is something precious few historians are able to do. With her stunning prose and fathomless knowledge, she brings to life that first fateful month of World War One. The historical figures she describes seem more like a collection of characters from an action novel. More than once I found myself saying "Did they really do that?" Ordinarily I can only read about 75 pages at a time before I start to lose interest and need a break. This book I began one morning and didn't put it down until I finished it. Tuchman kept my interest throughout and at times, though I knew the outcome, I found myself sitting at the edge of my chair wondering what would happen next. Even some of the best novels do not have this kind of power.
As for the book itself, it covers only the first month of the war. Though it does go into some depth of the war's origins, the main focus is on the movement and action of the armies from mobilization day until stalemate is reached. Tuchman's research is exhaustive, and this is the definitive work on that period. When the book was finished, I was disappointed only because she didn't continue. I wish I could give this more than five stars. If you have any interest in history whatsoever, regardless of your field, you must read this book, because this is what history should be!
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115 of 131 people found the following review helpful By A. J. Lerner on August 5, 2008
Format: Mass Market Paperback
First, I really enjoyed this book. I believe Tuchman did a masterful job of giving life to the people and events that led to WWI. This book is well worth reading, but only for what it is: half-history, half-literature.

This is not the place to start if you want to understand what led to WWI. The author does have a distinct anti-German bias that glosses over most of the complexities that influenced Germany's actions. Given when the book was written, this bias is understandable, but it does affect its historical value. Moreover, Serbia and the Hapsburgs are essentially footnotes in this book when in reality, they are essential for understanding the causes of the war. When you ignore Serbia and Austro-Hungary, well, all you're left with is Germany acting like a belligerent punk under the hand of the man-child Wilhelm II.

Also, Tuchman definitely prefers some individuals over others. For example, she gives Sir French pretty short-shrift in comparison to Lord Kitchener when in reality, there was more than enough incompetence to go around (not that I would have done any better than they).

I do whole-heartedly recommend this book, but only as a halfway step from history to fiction, perhaps sandwiched between A World Undone and All Quiet on the Western Front.
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55 of 61 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 14, 1999
Format: Paperback
Although we think of the First World War in terms of the stalemate and carnage of the trenches, for the first few weeks of combat, it was a war of movement. The battlelines shifted daily and the British and French came closer to disaster than I realized before I read this book. It's a gripping story, which Tuchman tells superbly. The political and military leaders come alive, the maps are clear, and even though you know how the story ends, you can't put the book down. Tuchman is also a reliable: I didn't find any factual errors. My complaints are minor. I agree with the previous writer who thought that the book ended too early: the war of movement in the west really ended with the French counterattack on the Marne, which is not discussed in the same detail as the campaign that led to it. Also, while Tuchman, presumably legitimately, dismisses the story of the angels of Mons as a legend, she should have told us what the legend was. Overall, however, I thought that the book was great, and I strongly recommend it even to those readers who think they know the story after reading such popular histories of the First World War as those by John Keegan or Martin Gilbert. You'll be surprised how you learn.
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