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A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918

4.33  ·  Rating Details ·  3,344 Ratings  ·  335 Reviews
The First World War is one of history’s greatest tragedies. In this remarkable and intimate account, author G. J. Meyer draws on exhaustive research to bring to life the story of how the Great War reduced Europe’s mightiest empires to rubble, killed twenty million people, and cracked the foundations of the world we live in today.

The First World War is one of history’s grea
Paperback, 816 pages
Published May 29th 2007 by Delacorte Press (first published 2006)
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Nov 30, 2011 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-i
My wife and I are expecting a baby any day now. Any moment, really. And I thought about that as I finished this book: how it might be the last book I ever read. Ever. At least the last book that doesn’t involve talking bears or talking cows or talking bean-pods or whatever talking creature populates the books that babies read these days.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with World War I. A few weeks ago, while at Barnes & Noble, I was looking for a good book on World War I, fully acknowledging tha
Jill Hutchinson
I keep reading WWI books, not necessarily to learn anything new but to get the perspective of the authors....and of course because I love them. This book jumps to the top of my list as a direct, unbiased look at the war and all that made it so horrific. And the author uses a device which I found quite novel. At the beginning of each chapter he places a "background" of two or three pages to discuss issues that would not usually get much attention in an overall history of the Great War. They range ...more
I admittedly read very little non-fiction, I unfortunately get bogged down in the detail and lack of story and thus restrict myself to specific subjects that I find fascinating. WWI is one of those.

I didn't realize that I knew so little about WWI until I read this book.
It seems impossible to understand WWII without knowing this war and the politics that started and ended it.
For a war that had and has so many repercussions for Europe, it amazes me that I didn't know more.

The author did a fantas
The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)
This is a great one volume history of The Great War. The author takes the time to fill in the background and uses quotes from soldiers on both sides that tell what life was really like in the trenches. If War is Hell, then this war, World War One, is the biggest hell of the mall. It started as a dysfunctional royal family feud and ended with millions dead.

As I listened to the numbers on the butcher's bill I remembered Carl Sandburg's "The Grass."

The Grass
by Carl Sandburg

"Pile the bodies high a
Jul 09, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A WORLD UNDONE. The Story of the Great War 1914-1918. (2006). G. J. Meyer. ****.
Of the many books I have read in an effort to understand the reasons behind WW I, this one has to be the best so far. The author has done his research well, and has presented the events of the period on an almost day-by-day basis. What stands out about this book, however, is the alternation of history chapters with “Background” chapters. These chapters tell the stories behind the story of the war. Simple recording of
May 31, 2017 Kate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war, wwi
World War I, keeps drawing readers back to texts and stories that cover this period, because it could have been easily prevented if only Europe hadn't bee ruled by so many unsuited, disengaged and self serving rulers trying desperately to keep hold of of a world view when the the entire world had already shifted. This was an excellent read because of the scope of the undertaking and the efforts to tell the backstory of not only the history of the countries and those who ruled them, but the backs ...more
Andy Gavin
Oct 29, 2011 Andy Gavin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Doing research for the sequel to my novel I started reading a number of histories of World War I. This is simply put: an amazing single volume history of the war, its causes, and course of events (but not the post-treaty fallout). I've read hundreds (or more) of history books, and as single volume war histories go -- this is excellent. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the world we live in, because the modern political arena was forged in World War I (far more than WWII). The of ...more
Aug 15, 2015 Siv30 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, ww1
בלתי אפשרי לסכם את הספר במספר שורות, אבל זה הספר השני של מאייר שאני קוראת והוא מעולה. מלווה במחקר מקיף ובכישרון חסר תקדים לארגן את המידע, הפרטים והרקע כך שהקורא יקרא את ההיסטוריה כתעלומה שמאייר מציג לה פתרון. לולאי חוסר הידע שלי בנושא אני חושבת שהספר היה מקבל 5 כוכבים, אבל בהעדר ידע מקיף וממצה, ההחלטה להכניס לכרך אחד את כל שנות המלחמה היא בעוכרי הספר במידה מסויימת כי בסופו זכרתי פרטים כאלה ואחרים אבל רק כאלה שקשורים לרקע ולא למהלכי מלחמה.

בכלל מלחמת העולם ה 1 לא זוכה לאור הזרקורים שזוכה לו מלחמת
Joyce Lagow
Apr 13, 2013 Joyce Lagow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m not sure precisely what fascinates me about military history. I really don’t need to continue to read it to be confirmed in my belief that the human race is capable of the most incredible stupidity; political evens suffice for that. But read it I do, and A World Undone is the latest in my efforts to understand why human beings continue to pursue such self-evidently destructive and almost always useless endeavors; wars usually do nothing more than pave the way for future wars.

I’ve read other
Susan O
Feb 26, 2017 Susan O rated it it was amazing
Excellent and very readable overview of World War I. I came in to this book with only bits and pieces of knowledge about the war which I had picked up from various other books such as biographies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and world history classes from many years ago. This was the perfect book to begin filling in those gaps. I think it lays a great foundation to build on in learning more about the war. Meyer has a very nice style of writing that made reading the book a pleasure. ...more
Apr 07, 2015 Marks54 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My wife and I drove the Western Front last fall - a trip I heartily recommend. To prepare, we read a lot about the Great War. The past few years have offered a rich feast of books about the war and while I have made great progress, I still have a few to go. After reading a lot, I have become very impressed when I run across exceptional one volume treatments of the war in its entirety. This was not only a hugely complex chain of events, but also a seminal event that seems to have influenced nearl ...more
Mar 21, 2013 Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly dense but amazingly clear and concise history. There is no filler, no vagaries of interest, no nonsense. The author states in the foreword that he felt there was never a singular and definitive tome on the first world war, that the subject was so vast that historians tend to focus on certain aspects of it; his goal, therefore, was to write this book for people who hope to know all of the war in one (giant) piece. Mission accomplished! Furthermore, the author knows so instinctively ...more
Jason Aldous
May 20, 2015 Jason Aldous rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As good as one volume can get for such a gigantic subject

World War 1 has always held a special fascination for me.for one thing Americans care to know little about it because American troops didn't get into the combat until the last 6 months or so of the war. Also, it was an era before TV and radio. I suspect even Americans living at that time must have understood little about it as well. Yet, it was the conflict that set in motion all the other conflicts of our time. It's causes were more inte
Lise Petrauskas
I'm really impressed with G.J. Meyer after having now read two of his histories. A World Undone is the devastating story of The Great War, the history of which I only cursorily knew until now. This is not an exhaustive work, but one for the general reader to understand the social forces, individuals, and ideas that made the war possible. I like the format Meyer used of interrupting the main narrative, which followed the war's timeline, with chapters that gave background information, such as a ch ...more
Matt Brady
This was so engrossing it made me wish the war went on for another 4 years!!!

Meyer takes on a monumental task - to tell a complete overview of the First World War from beginning to end, covering all theaters, in chronological order. He not only achieves this goal but makes it an excellent and informative read as well. Nothing is ignored, and if some things aren't given the full attention they might deserve, you still can't really fault Meyer for the sheer... comprehensiveness of it all I guess,
Feb 28, 2016 Jerry-Book rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwi
Having read other books on WW I, I was familiar with the subject before reading this book. Nonetheless, I found this book to be the best introduction to WW I. The author presents excellent background for each topic. For example, he shows: the origins of Serbian unrest that led to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, why the War was not confined to just the Balkans, the antiquated British military system that created inept military leaders such as Generals French and Haig, the French mi ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Esther rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, world-war-1
I don't generally write reviews on books, but this one thoroughly deserves a review [although I am not really the one to be writing it]. But here it goes…..

This book is very well written, incredibly dense but amazingly clear and concise history. There is no filler, no vagaries of interest, no nonsense.

I didn't realize that I knew so little about WWI until I read this book.
It seems impossible to understand WWII without knowing this war and the politics that started and ended it.
For a war that ha
Rebekah Courter
In order to truly understand WWII, the figures who "made" the modern world, military tactics, modern machinery, economics, politics, etc you HAVE to read this book. I'll admit it's long. But totally worth it!
The other human side of it, is learning about how humans handled themselves under stress and what their decisions did for generations to come. Are we peace makers/keepers? Can we discern between good and evil? How can we settle disputes?

I give it an A+++
Thanks Es for suggesting it! <3
May 24, 2012 Jerome rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
At just over 650 pages, the book reads smoothly and quickly. Meyer writes with a simple elegance, his words crisp with detail and easy to grasp. This is due in large part to his background as a journalist rather than a professional historian. The book's chapters structure lends well to his overall theme of understanding the war through gaining knowledge on its background. Each of the 36 chapters of detail are supported by a corresponding chapter of background information. For example, the book o ...more
Jul 10, 2013 Maureen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It still rattles me -- and it shouldn't by now -- how chronically and deeply governments lie to their people. Do you remember, maybe from high school history, being told that the US entered WWI because Germany sank the cruise ship, The Lusatania, with American passengers aboard? We like to think of ourselves as so much better than we are. We entered the war for economic reasons, not outrage that innocent lives had been lost. German U-boats made commercial trade dangerous. Freighters backed up i ...more
Jan 31, 2010 Tripp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
thought I was more or less done with single volume treatments of the First World War. I read Tuchman, Keegan and the Ferguson books and have I a few more specialized works on the shelves. Well, it seems there is room for another single volume treatment, namely GJ Meyer's A World Undone. For most readers, I think it is one of the best, if not the best book to read on the war.

Among it's great selling points is that the book assumes little to no knowledge of military affairs. While this may disappo
Dec 09, 2011 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is the first book I've read on World War I. Part One, on the events leading up to the war, is brilliant. When I finished the book I went back and re-read that part. The rest of the book is also very good, but a bit more tedious as names and dates begin to run together. After each chapter in the history is a short background section, which adds a great deal to the book. Part one contains background sections on all of the major nations and empires that had a part in the start of the war (Aust ...more
Feb 11, 2017 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent introduction to this world-changing war, with plenty of sections labeled "Background" to fill in those who have incomplete European History backgrounds.
Jul 25, 2015 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, wwi
When seeking out a book about WWI, I found many books out there covering either the start of the war, the end of the war, or individual battles. Very few cover the entire war, which is what I was looking for to get a sense of the entire picture of what happened. Not only did this book fit the bill, it exceeded my expectations. It is an extremely well written book that lays out the events in chronological order and stays at the 10,000 foot view instead of getting mired in too much detail. There a ...more
Adam Robinson
Nov 19, 2015 Adam Robinson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's hard to make history engaging. Especially when your topic is not a person, or even an event, but a complicated war that spanned multiple years, cultures, nations, and hundreds of notable figures. But Meyer has managed to do so! This book is long, but it doesn't feel needlessly so. And given the subject matter, I think that can be forgiven. Furthermore he gives just enough attention to the various subjects without laboring too long on any one of them. His choice to include a "background" sec ...more
I confess this was a bit of a slog--the longest 28 hours I've spent in a long time, even listened to off and on for over a year. The late Robin Sachs reads beautifully, but there's just too much information--facts, places, events, battles. I was looking for something that covered the whole war, but I think I'm better facing it in bits and pieces, by major battles or characters, perhaps. Still, thoroughly researched, interesting take on characters and events. It's a compelling book, just too much ...more
Hands down, this is the best single-volume history of World War I.
Finally a good single volume history of WWI, though as the narrative progressed he seemed to skim over topics more and more.

May 14, 2017 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Straight forward, very readable summary of WW1, focusing on the big picture. The author handles it all well, seamlessly switching between theatres without it all getting too confusing. Every other chapter is a short "background" section covering topics that might otherwise get overlooked - the royal families, new technology, poetry, women in the war, etc. which I thought worked really well. The evolution of infantry tactics is also well explained. This would probably make a good first book on WW ...more
Apr 29, 2014 Alvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first heard of this book via Dan Carlin's excellent hardcore history podcast. A world undone is a one volume narrative of the first world war. I use the word narrative on purpose - this is no dry recitation of troop movements, battles and lists of long forgotten generals. Instead G.J. Meyer has captured the turmoil and drama in gripping terms. And what drama! All the infighting, jealousy and dysfunction you may be familiar with at your place of work? Imagine this on a national scale, with pres ...more
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G. J. Meyer is a former Woodrow Wilson Fellow with an M.A. in English literature from the University of Minnesota, a onetime journalist, and holder of Harvard University’s Neiman Fellowship in Journalism. He has taught at colleges and universities in Des Moines, St. Louis, and New York. His books include A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, Executive Blues, and The Memphis Murders, winner o ...more
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“There arose in the aftermath of this battle the strangest and most beautiful legend of the war. It was said that, when the British peril was at its height, a majestic figure had appeared high in the sky with arm upraised. Some said it had been pointing to victory, others that it held back the Germans as the Tommies got away. It came to be known as the Angel of Mons. Even more colorful was the simultaneous legend of the Archers of Agincourt. In the late Middle Ages at Agincourt—not a great distance from Mons—English yeomen armed with longbows had won a great victory over a much bigger force of mounted and armored French knights. Four hundred and ninety-nine years later there were stories of German soldiers found dead at Mons with arrows through their bodies.” 0 likes
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