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Ten Days that Shook the World by John Reed

Ten Days that Shook the World (1919)

by John Reed

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I just finished this one, after meaning to check it out since college.

Sometimes you know a book is great even if you yourself have a hard time reading it. That was the case for me in the very well written and detailed personal account of the October Revolution in Russia, as experienced by American reporter and Communist sympathizer, Jack Reed.

The excellent movie Reds is based in large part on the accounts in this book. (Warren Beauty producing, directing, writing, and starring as the author, Reed.) I love that film, and assumed I would love the book. I certainly admire the book, and can see why a movie was made of it; Reed's descriptions of moods, sights, sounds and smells, his overall description of environment is immpeccable. The reader feels as if they are right there with Reed as he surveys the war front, walks dark streets, and experiences the unspecified yet palpable unrest that was so pervasive in all parts of Russia during that historical time. I loved these parts of the book.

But the book is just as much, if not more, Reed's account of the literally scores of factions, political parties, armies, navies, congresses, and commititees. Man alive, were there committees in revolutionary Russia! Hundreds! Everywhere! Even in the Army. There was even a Commitee of Commitees, and a Union of Unions.

So horribly complex were the struggles of these inummerable political/governmental groups that one could very easily get lost trying to remember who was who, and who was against what, etc. There is a brief description at the front of the book for each of the parties, but flipping back and forth grew tedious, so I gave up. A reference card as one reads is required for most people not well versed already in Russian history of the early 20th century. While I am sure Reed breaks it down better than most, the chunks are still hard for a novice to swallow sometimes.

He is also a victim of his meticulous collecting, whole pages sometimes being dedicated to verbatim accounts of speeches and articles and pamphlets set out all over Russia. Makes one's head spin.

Yet even then, I admired the passion with which he wrote those part of the accounts. Not exactly as moving or intriguing as the mood pieces spread throughout the pages, Reed certainly leaves no stone unturned. Unfortunatley, one has to be a geologist to keep some of them straight.

I will, in all liklihood, read the book again one day, when more of it has time to process. For though Reed himself confessed that he failed to be 100% objective, his first hand account of one of the most important social shifts in world history is invaluable to historians. And his prose, (and even some poetry) is a very rich feast for any wordsmith, such as myself.

A book to be admired and remembered, even when confusing. Not for everyone, and sometimes, not for me. But when it did hit with me, I was quite glad to have finally, after about eight years, picked it up and read it. ( )
  TyUnglebower | Jun 28, 2014 |
This book is definitely worth the read as it provides a unique view of events written as they were happening by a witness. Though the whole book feels like one very, very long newspaper article it is interesting to get a peak into a particular time and place guided by someone who does not yet have the power of hindsight to inform the text.

That being said it is important for anyone reading this book to be aware of the fact that while Reed was in Russia and a witness to the Bolshevik revolution, this book is neither an insider account nor a neutral account of events. Reed obviously supports the Bolshevik cause and makes very little attempt to understand the other side. Reed is also a foreigner, on the outside looking in. He only communicates with Russians in French. For all the power to the people jargon thrown about, it is clear that Reed can only communicate with the intellectual elite; as a result it feels as if whole groups of people were left out of the dialogue.

Despite its flaws, "Ten Days That Shook the World" is at various points and in varying degrees emotional, tedious, irritating, infuriating and enlightening. I expect nothing less from a book about a revolution. ( )
  Maryk205 | May 21, 2013 |
A good historical account of a momentous period in history, but heavy going at times keeping track of who's who in the multitude of political factions. Reed always seems to be in the right place at the right time to gather material for his book. It's not difficult to figure out what his political persuasions are as he frequently refers to "we" when in the company of the revolutionaries. It's a credit to the author that he seemed to maintain a firm grasp of the situation when many of the participants had little idea of what was going on! ( )
  snowman | Jan 23, 2011 |
The deifinitive, first hand account of the Bolshevik Revolution. ( )
  Borg-mx5 | Apr 1, 2010 |
867 Ten Days That Shook the World, by John Reed (read 7 Sep 1966) This is a famous book, but it is not really well-written. It jumps around a lot and is not a good account of the Bolshevik Revolution. ( )
  Schmerguls | Mar 18, 2010 |
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» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Reed, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Krupskaya, N. K.Prefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lawson, HowardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lenin, V. I.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, A. J. P.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wolfe, Bertram D.Editor, Introduction & Notessecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Preface: This book is a slice of intensified history - history as I saw it. It does not pretend to be anything but a detailed account of the November Revolution, when the Bolsheviki, at the head of the workers and soldiers, seized the state power of Russia and placed it in the hands of the Soviets.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140182934, Paperback)

The situation in St. Petersburg was growing more and more tense. The People's Revolution had begun by overthrowing the corrupt Tsarist regime in March 1917, but the workers and the peasants felt the revolution had much farther to go. Tired of fighting a war that meant little to them, the soldiers also grew restless: "When the land belongs to the peasants, and the factories to the workers, and the power to the Soviets, then we'll know we have something to fight for, and we'll fight for it!"

Lenin pressed the Bolsheviks to seize power. On the night of October 24, an organized mass of workers, soldiers, peasants, and sailors stormed the Winter Palace. On the following day, at the opening of the second Congress of Soviets, Trotsky announced the overthrow of the provisional government. Counterrevolutionary forces marched on the capital, but the Revolutionary Army triumphed. After all, "[t]his was their battle, for their world; the officers in command were elected by them. For the moment that incoherent multiple will was one will."

In Ten Days That Shook the World John Reed tells the story of Red October and the Russian revolution from a unique, firsthand perspective. Reed, an American journalist, was on assignment in Russia for The Masses--then the principal radical journal in the United States--and spent his days walking the streets, reading and collecting handbills, newspapers, and posters, and talking to people. As a result, Ten Days crackles with energetic immediacy. At its best moments it reads like a novel: Reed recounts conversations and arguments, details political machinations, and speculates on personal motives. Though this is no mere piece of propaganda, Reed's enthusiasm for the revolution infuses the text (some readers may be put off by Reed's florid prose), casting each counterrevolutionary act in a negative light. Helpful notes flesh out the background for those less familiar with the preceding events and render this a solid work of history. Ten Days That Shook the World is a stirring account of a stirring event. --Sunny Delaney

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:00 -0400)

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This book is the author's eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution. Writing in the first flush of revolutionary enthusiasm, he gives a gripping account of the events in Petrograd in November 1917, when Lenin and the Bolsheviks finally seized power. Containing verbatim reports both of speeches by leaders and of the chance comments of bystanders, and set against an idealized backdrop of soldiers, sailors, peasants, and the proletariat uniting to throw off oppression, his account is the product of passionate involvement and remains an unsurpassed classic of reporting. --Back cover.… (more)

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