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The Guns of August

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  31,203 Ratings  ·  1,451 Reviews
The Pulitzer Prize-winning classic about the outbreak of World War I

Historian & Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to WWI. With attention to fascinating detail, and an intense knowledge of her subject and its characters, she reveals just how the war started, why, and why it could have been stopped b
Paperback, 606 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published 1962)
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Michael Benjamin No,it explains a lot - but definitely not Pakistan. Sorry.
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Feb 16, 2016 Kalliope rated it really liked it

On the night of the 13th of August 1961 the Government of East Germany began to build the Wall that divided Berlin isolating its Western part within the Communist Eastern block.

In 1962, Barbara Tuchman published her Guns of August and the following year it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

As many years separate Tuchman’s book from the events she discusses as years separate us from the time its publication: about half a century.

Those two lots of five decades each may explain two different reactions
Oct 27, 2015 Lilo rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone who hasn't read it yet
“The Guns of August” is the first book I read about the Great War or, as I knew it, World War One. “The Guns of August” is also the first substantial information I obtained about this war.

I was born in Germany, in 1939. My family, then containing of my parents, my biological maternal grandmother, and my adoptive maternal grandmother (my biological grand-aunt), talked very little about WWI, probably because WWII was raging, food as well as all other supplies were scarce, and we were surrounded b
Paul Bryant
Well, how d'you do, Private Willie McBride, First Class - do you mind if I sit down down here by your graveside? It's so nice to rest for awhile in the warm summer sun... I've been walking all day and I'm nearly done in. Well. So, Willie - I see by your gravestone you were only nineteen when you joined the glorious fallen. 1916 - a long time ago now. Well I hope you died quick and I hope you died clean. But Private Willie McBride, it could have been slow and obscene. Let's not think of that. And ...more
May 06, 2009 Trevor rated it really liked it
Recommended to Trevor by: richard wood
Shelves: history
You could almost be excused for thinking that the highest praise one could give a work of non-fiction would be that it reads like a work of fiction. I haven’t looked at any of the other reviews for this book yet, but I would be prepared to bet that many of them say this read like a novel. And it is an incredibly dramatic story and some of the characters are larger than life – but this is no novel.

I say that because in a novel you expect at least some of the characters to develop during it – and
6.0 stars. WOW!! This book was AMAZING!! I have always been very interested in World War II and have read quite a few books on the subject. However, until reading THIS book I had never endeavored to learn anything more than the basics of World War I. With the reading of this incredible book, I have taken a tremendous step towards correcting that deficit.

Focusing on the first 30 days of World War I (hence the title), this beautifully written book addresses in great detail the causes for the conf
Apr 15, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
The Guns of August which I read in September


“Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.”
― Barbara W. Tuchman, The Guns of August

What an amazing piece of historical writing. Tuchman shows how August, 2014 was impacted by two failed plans (Plan 17 & the Schlieffen Plan), Generals and politicos who were either overly optimistic at the wrong time or overly pessimistic at the wrong time. She detailed how inadvertent acts by disgraced Generals might have saved
After reading this book 100 years, sometimes to the day, after some of the events happened, it is difficult to know what to say. Others have written so many excellent reviews. I believe that I will focus on reaction for my review---reaction 100 years after the fact to the apparent ease with which the European world, and then much more, slid into an horrific spilling of blood, the ease with which several leaders gave orders which condemned millions of people to death; cities, towns, even small na ...more
Jul 10, 2013 Chrissie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phew, this was a difficult book to digest in the audiobook format. Neither is it easy to digest in a paper book format. It is dense. It is detailed. Names and places and battles are thrown at you in rapid succession. You have to remember who is who, which corps is fighting where and its number, the title of each commander and more. You do not have time to stop and think and recall what was told to you minutes/pages or even hours/chapters before. You need more than a detailed map because you don’ ...more
howl of minerva
Apr 15, 2016 howl of minerva rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, ww1-ww2
I've been reading a fair bit about dubya dubya 2 recently but my knowledge of dubya dubya 1 consists of what I dimly recollect from school. That is: arms race, Franz Ferdinand, something something, the Somme, gas gas quick boys, Versailles. I also remember visiting the massive marble monument the Canadians built at Vimy ridge.

The 21 years separating 1918 and 1939 are not a great length of time. There's something to be said for the thesis that the two world wars should be understood as one exten
Jul 28, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Rafalca
Shelves: own, european-history
This is an excellent but somewhat odd book; odd because the emphasis is so much more on the military than the political that you're left wondering why, how, precisely, this war was so inevitable. Granted, the political leaders are discussed in the first few chapters, the German Kaiser and the Russian Czar more so than the French and the British. But the stress is on the generals, and the war planners, on Schlieffen, whose plan had been prepared in 1905-06 and seemed to be restlessly waiting for ...more
Evan Leach
"Dead battles, like dead generals, hold the military mind in their dead grip, and Germans no less than other peoples prepare for the last war."
Barbara Tuchman, The Guns of August.

img: German Cavalry

In her Pulitzer-Prize winning classic The Guns of August, the story of the first month of World War I, Barbara Tuchman argues convincingly that August 1914 was when the Gilded Age died and the modern era really began. The book opens with a famous depiction of Edward VII’s funeral in 1910, attended by all the kings a
Jul 01, 2012 Gadi rated it it was ok
I let go at around page 280 (out of 440 in my edition), when I started realizing that every paragraph is so chunked up with minute details about this general moving these troops out of this place and into this wing on this day because of these emotions and this miscommunication and this people's overconfidence that it just all became so trivial and so unbelievably lifeless--which in a weird way completely contradicts all of the GR reviews I've read about how this book brings life to the first mo ...more
May 07, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
I used to repeat the common wisdom that if only the WWI reparations hadn’t been imposed on Germany, there would have been no WWII. Now I understand that it would have been impossible to convince the Allies that the reparations weren’t necessary.

On August 25 the burning of Louvain began. The medieval city on the road from Liege to Brussels was renowned for its University and incomparable Library, founded in 1426...for the Germans burned Louvain not as a punishment for alleged Belgian misdeeds [de
Mark Mortensen
Oct 03, 2014 Mark Mortensen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: wwi
In the 19th Century Henry David Thoreau eloquently stated: “I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” In the 20th Century, Barbara W. Tuchman full of vision, passion, discipline and self confidence, pursued her American dream and found such success. The historian extraordinaire lacked a PhD but proved to critics that her ...more
Clark Zlotchew
Sep 16, 2011 Clark Zlotchew rated it it was amazing
As always, Barbara W. Tuchman delves deeply into the historical subject matter. This book is about the First World War, its causes, the conduct of it, and the results. I see that what I've just written in the preceding sentence doesn't sound inviting; it comes off as dry and uninteresting. But this book is anything but that. It is actually exciting in its description of the progress of the war, and the various armies. It is also fascinating to burrow into the causes and the intrigue involved. It ...more
Nope. Maybe it is this particular audiobook version, but I'm really not feeling the love for this book.

With The Guns of August, Tuchman wrote this incredibly detailed account of the first month of WWI - and the detail is staggering, so much so that it might even be somewhat overwhelming and that somehow this detail detracts a little from what otherwise looks like a one-sided portrayal. I mean the detail staggering (and the only aspect that kept me reading this far) and includes a lot of detail o
Sep 26, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Barbara Tuchman did not have a PHD, “It’s what saved me, I think” she said, believing that academic life can stultify imagination, stifle enthusiasm and deaden prose style. After all, Herodotus, Thucydides, Gibbon, Mac Cauley and Parkman did not have PhD’s.” Her dealings with the press and critics were cautious and in their reviews of this book described her as a fifty-year-old housewife, a mother of three daughters and the spouse of a prominent New York physician. More succinctly, how could she ...more
Aug 28, 2008 Gail rated it really liked it
I don't like technical books about military maneuvers--all that blather about Colonel Blimp, General von Bomb-them-all, and Prince Icantmakeupmymind, and the 5th Army Group attacks the XVI Corps on the right salient---yawn...
Welcome to a book that makes all this nearly understandable.

Tuchman gives a great picture of the men who made the fatal errors of judgement which led to the four years of hell known as WW I and then resulted in, twenty years later, the even worse agony known as WW II. She i
Jan 22, 2008 Charissa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: peaceniks, warmongers, history buffs, and everyone in between
Recommended to Charissa by: my ex-husband
This was the first non-fiction history book that read so much like a good novel that I screamed through it almost without pausing for breath. I knew bits and pieces about World War I before this... but the persistent idiocy of so many involved simply held me riveted to the pages. One of my favorite bits is how the French kept insisting on wearing their red uniforms as they charged through field and forest toward machine gun fire. They just couldn't wrap their heads around the idea that "elan" ju ...more
The Guns of August is the best researched book I’ve ever read so far with such poised and skillful narrative style. Tuchman managed to entertain her readers with vivid, incredible details about the prelude to the first thirty days of World War I. She never cease in captivating our minds with epic tales of bravery, cowardice and indecisiveness.

Did I say “entertain”? Ah indeed, this book is indubitably a remarkable form of entertainment. Battles, maneuvers, and actions in the field plus debates (
May 25, 2016 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a long while since I read a book about the First World War, but I've read many and was always going to find my way back to its histories in this Centennial period of the conflict. The one book I had long wanted to read but had never gotten around to was Barbara W. Tuchman's The Guns of August.

I have heard of its excellence from many folks I trust, and their praise was mostly borne out --especially when it came to The Guns of August's two major strengths.

First is Tuchman's decision to f
Jan 22, 2012 KF-in-Georgia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audible-com
The narration is excellent. And, of course, the book is a classic, with vivid, gorgeous writing. The opening paragraph is justifiably famous:

So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sa
Dec 09, 2015 Martin rated it really liked it
'Les pantalons rouges, c'est la France!'

I've read quite a few books dealing with World War I, from events leading up to it, right up to the aftermath and the many ramifications on today's current events. I'd been putting off reading this book, mostly because I thought there would be considerable overlap with those other books. Surprisingly, it wasn't the case. Sure, there was some overlap, but not as much as I'd anticipated, so reading this book ended up being enjoyable and informative.

I know th
"The Guns of August" gives an account of the events leading up to the outbreak of World War I, and the first month of battles in August 1914. The writing is colorful and very dense. Some basic knowledge of World War I is helpful since Barbara Tuchman throws out the names of the main players very rapidly in the initial chapters about the causes of the war. The black and white maps are helpful, but not spectacular. The author is an interesting storyteller, looking at many of the politicians and ge ...more
Aug 09, 2014 Cphe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, historical
Read this as part of the 100 year anniversary of the Great War. This was an intense and very dense read. Not a book you can sit down and just read. It needs to be assimilated. I had some trouble sorting all of the political and military leaders that were introduced. An interesting and well presented delivery of a profound and influential time in history.
Apr 30, 2010 AC rated it it was amazing
Excellent narrative.

Still listening, but much, much better than I had expected -- The comparison (in her foreword to the new edition) with Thucydides is ridiculous, of course. And this is not an academic history based on archival research. But her instincts are good, imo -- and it is a clear, and well-paced narrative. Perfect for an audible.
Undoubtedly the best book on the Great War, showing an extensive research work made by the author.

Aug 17, 2014 Jay rated it it was amazing
This 1962 Pulitzer Prize-winning book is a classic of political and military history, and just a few pages in it becomes obvious why. Tuchman is able to describe the far-off world of 1914, a hundred years ago (though only 50 to her, at the time), with its emperors and princes and populations for whom war meant glory, in ways that allow us moderns to comprehend it and feel familiar with it. To say there was a diverse and numerous cast of characters driving events in world affairs in those days wo ...more
Feb 23, 2016 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
The Guns of August is a class act, not only as a military history, but also as an analysis of human and organizational behavior. What drives us? What motivates us? Well, primarily an unwillingness to confront hard problems and the need to get promoted at our jobs. Maybe it's the same where you work.

The Guns of August explains how the First World War came to be as well as its first month, up to the Battle of the Marne. But Tuchman doesn't simply deliver facts—she gives razor-sharp insights into t
4 to 4.5 stars.

Thanks to Barbara, I now know more about the first month of World War I than all my previous half-century of accumulated, absorbed knowledge. Not only do I know more, but I understand the how. How Europe ended up in a terrible stalemate and war of attrition that lasted four more years. The why will have to wait until I can read her other history The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914.

On August 23rd, I attended a discussion of The Guns of August sponsor
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Around the Year i...: The Guns of August, by Barbara W. Tuchman 1 11 Jul 10, 2016 01:12PM  
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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author. She became best known for The Guns of August, a history of the prelude and first month of World War I.

As an author, Tuchman focused on producing popular history. Her clear, dramatic storytelling covered topics as diverse as the 14th century and World War I, and sold millions of copies.
More about Barbara W. Tuchman...

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“So gorgeous was the spectacle on the May morning of 1910 when nine kings rode in the funeral of Edward VII of England that the crowd, waiting in hushed and black-clad awe, could not keep back gasps of admiration. In scarlet and blue and green and purple, three by three the sovereigns rode through the palace gates, with plumed helmets, gold braid, crimson sashes, and jeweled orders flashing in the sun. After them came five heirs apparent, forty more imperial or royal highnesses, seven queens - four dowager and three regnant - and a scattering of special ambassadors from uncrowned countries. Together they represented seventy nations in the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.” 22 likes
“The muffled tongue of Big Ben tolled nine by the clock as the cortege left the palace, but on history's clock it was sunset, and the sun of the old world was setting in a dying blaze of splendor never to be seen again.” 20 likes
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