Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Guns of August” as Want to Read:
The Guns of August
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Guns of August

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  70,105 ratings  ·  3,007 reviews
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 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 how it could have been stopped but wasn't. A classic historical s ...more
Paperback, 606 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Ballantine Books (first published 1962)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Guns of August, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
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)
Michael Benjamin No,it explains a lot - but definitely not Pakistan. Sorry.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  70,105 ratings  ·  3,007 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Guns of August
Jun 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-i
“[General Joffre] signed the order that would be read to the troops when the bugles blew next morning. Ordinarily the French language, especially in public pronouncements, requires an effort if it is not to sound splendid, but this time the words were flat, almost tired; the message hard and uncompromising: ‘Now, as the battle is joined on which the safety of the country depends, everyone must be reminded that this is no longer the time for looking back. Every effort must be made to attack and t ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
“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
Jun 08, 2012 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
Paul Bryant
May 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: worldwar1
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
Apr 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 01, 2012 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
Perhaps you can forgive me for saying so (view spoiler) but on the one hand I feel conflicted about this book about the First World War, every opinion, it seems to me, from five star to throw the damned thing on the fire and never speak of it to me again, is entirely justifiable. On the other hand I am unconflicted, its strengths are its weaknesses (view spoiler).

This book to my mind is not popular history, because
Ann-Marie "Cookie M."
A truly remarkable account of the first month of WWI. If history were taught to high school students the way Barbara Tuchman presents it, perhaps we would not be doomed to repeat it so often.
"The Guns of August" is a very readable account of how the Allies almost lost the war in the first 30 days through the bungling due to ego, jealousy, misunderstanding and territorial disputes.
The Germans were not immune to senseless error, theirs resulting more from Teutonic belief in blindly following orde
Paul Haspel
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war-i, august
The guns of the "Great War" first roared to life on August 4, 1914, when Germany invaded Belgium; and in a way, those guns of mechanized modern war have never really fallen silent in more than a century since that day. Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August sets forth in a powerful and resonant manner the story of how the First World War began.

The roots of war, as Tuchman describes it, go back to the longstanding national rivalry between Germany and France. Frenchmen and Germans had met on many ba
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
Sep 22, 2014 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 Fra
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
howl of minerva
Aug 22, 2015 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
Michael Perkins
Before the outbreak of The Great War, there were two distinct competing forecasts represented by two new books.

In "The Great Illusion," author Normal Angell argued that because of the "interlacing" alliances formed amongst major powers there could be no new war. Because of this interdependence the victor would suffer equally as the vanquished. It could not be profitable, which turned out to be true.

At the same time, a German, General von Bernhardi, was writing his own book, titled "Germany and t
Aug 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
I understand why this is a classic. It's a clear, compulsively readible account of the convoluted politics and policies that led to the First World War. I also think this is why the book has proved to be so popular. Growing up in the early 60's, when the book was written, my contemporaries and I had some idea of what WW2 was about, through popular culture and the accounts of fathers, mothers, uncles, etc. WW1 was much more dim and distant, not to mention nebulous. Some Arch Duke guy got shot. So ...more
Lynne King
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant. There's no other word for it. ...more
robin friedman
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
For The Centenary Of The Great War

The year 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of WW I, and many books are being written in commemoration. I read Barbara Tuchman's famous book, "The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I" (1962) after reading some of the more recent histories and becoming interested. Her book remains an invaluable study. The book has attained a life of its own. Tuchman (1912 -- 1989) was a popular historian. She wrote for a broad audience in a way that emphasized character, de
Jan 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: european-history, own
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
Aug 05, 2022 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Witness the marriage of evocative writing and a problematic perspective. As popular histories go, Tuchman's own A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century is superior. As for books on the origin and opening of WWI: I'm no expert on the war but I think it's safe to conclude that the assassination of Franz Ferdinand warrants more than a single sentence. And wasn't there more to it all than Germany, France, Great Britain and (eventually) Russia? Reviewers who know more than me have called Th ...more
Jul 06, 2013 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
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a superb read. It is a tightly packed book, full of detail about arcane goings on in the corridors of power and on the battlefield. Europe in 1914 was divided into two armed camps, a rising power in Germany shackled to an Austro-Hungary about to succumb to the lure of nationhood amongst its subject peoples, and an encircling status quo alliance of France, Russia and probably perfidious Albion.

The murder of Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian empire, by uppity Serbs provided the spark f
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: european-history
The Guns of August is history that reads like a novel. This compelling read delves into personalities and connects them to events with skill and verve bringing alive what could easily be just dull recitation. I am not a war novel buff, but this detailed account of the first month of WWI maintained my interest throughout. Tuchman’s style kept it suspenseful even though I knew the final outcome.

Christopher Brassard of the National War College summarizing Clausewitz called war “a dynamic, inherent
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
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
Apr 28, 2015 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
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2008
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
Mark Mortensen
Jan 07, 2014 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
I usually don't like war books that describe battle after battle but this book was different. Maybe because it was written by a woman historian? She kept the human element and didn't just spew fact after fact. I honestly didn't know that much about World War I history (except that Franz Ferdinand got shot, that it took awhile for the Americans to join, and Germany eventually lost) so I was in suspense to see what happened during this first month. While reading I got mad at the English commander, ...more
Oct 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a really, really good read. It was so good, I wish Barbara Tuchman had carried on and covered the whole war and its aftermath, instead of "just" the first month. Very readable, detailed, and with vivid characterisation, it reads like a good novel (which I mean as a complement). I especially enjoyed the first section, covering the lead-up to the outbreak of war.

Although generally I thought Tuchman managed to explain events very clearly, when it came to the battles I occasionally found my
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany
  • The First World War
  • Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World
  • Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest
  • 1776
  • 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
  • Soul Cure: How to Heal Your Pain and Discover Your Purpose
  • SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome
  • A Bridge Too Far
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
  • The Local School
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin
  • Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln
  • Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege, 1942–1943
  • The Histories
  • A People's History of the United States
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Articles featuring this book

Where do you go for fantastical, must-read book recommendations? This summer we're turning to the experts of illusion,...
140 likes · 35 comments
“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.” 43 likes
“Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.” 33 likes
More quotes…