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The Guns of August

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  36,722 Ratings  ·  1,632 Reviews
"More dramatic than fiction...THE GUNS OF AUGUST is a magnificent narrative--beautifully organized, elegantly phrased, skillfully paced and sustained....The product of painstaking and sophisticated research."

Historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Barbara Tuchman has brought to life again the people and events that led up to World War I. With attentio
Kindle Edition, Reprint, 608 pages
Published July 20th 2009 by Random House (first published 1962)
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Michael Benjamin No,it explains a lot - but definitely not Pakistan. Sorry.
Toeknee There is a podcast called Hardcore History, by Dan Carlin. He's an amateur historian and has a multi-part series called Blueprint for Armageddon about…moreThere is a podcast called Hardcore History, by Dan Carlin. He's an amateur historian and has a multi-part series called Blueprint for Armageddon about WWI. If you want to actually hear about the war itself, and can listen (say, while commuting, like I do), it's a great option. I'm guessing it's 10 hours or so. I'd also recommend All Quiet on the Western Front if you want a taste of the life of the soldier.(less)

Community Reviews

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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
Jun 29, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
Let’s start with a couple items.

First, there is nothing left to be said about Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August.

Second, that is not going to stop me.

The Guns of August is not only the most famous book written about World War I, it is one of the most famous history books on any topic whatsoever. It won the Pulitzer, became a bestseller, was name-checked by politicians, and still provides a tidy sum to Tuchman’s heirs and designees. Even today, if you do a general search for “World War I” on
Apr 16, 2013 Lilo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 02, 2017 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an impressive work on the buildup to World War I and the first month of fighting. I wanted to read this book after a re-read of All Quiet on the Western Front, to better understand the war. I've heard The Guns of August described as one of the best books about WWI ever written, and while I haven't read enough to testify to that, I do think it was an interesting and insightful work, and I'd recommend it to history buffs.

I listened to The Guns of August on audio, and I enjoyed the narratio
Apr 25, 2009 Trevor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 24, 2013 Sue rated it it was amazing
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
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
Jul 06, 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
Jan 15, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
howl of minerva
Aug 22, 2015 howl of minerva rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 01, 2012 Gadi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 22, 2014 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mark Mortensen
Jan 07, 2014 Mark Mortensen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 28, 2015 Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Clark Zlotchew
Sep 05, 2011 Clark Zlotchew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2007 Charissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Aug 05, 2008 Gail rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 22, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 23, 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
Oct 09, 2013 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans and seekers of history
Recommended to Mark by: history buffs
My knowledge up to this year about WOI could be condensed in: my country was "neutral" in this conflict, it was trenchwarfare and in a sense the first act in the social change coming in the 20th century. When it came to content I really never learned anything about this period. While reading this book I did watch several documentaries by the BBC, the Great War & Royal cousins, and an earier documantary by the BBC about the Great War that won three emmy's.

Barbara Tuchman does have a very nice
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
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"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
Apr 14, 2017 Mark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read for the 2017 PopSugar reading challenge. This book is checking off the category "A book with a month or day of the week in the title."

From a poetic first paragraph that conjures up the last hurrah of the assembled European monarchies all the way to a simple note in an afterword that 1 in 28 French people alive at the start of World War I perished during the war, this 1962-published history of a war that was then still in living memory (even if it wasn't the most recent one) is simply brilli
Nov 09, 2013 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
'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
Apr 08, 2010 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Barbara Wertheim Tuchman was an American self-trained historian and author and double Pulitzer Prize winner. She became best known for The Guns of August (1962), 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 copie
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.” 29 likes
“Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” 23 likes
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