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The Guns of August (1962)

by Barbara W. Tuchman

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,6331031,433 (4.28)2 / 492
In this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, historian Barbara Tuchman brings to life the people and events that led up to World War I. This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war. How quickly it all changed--and how horrible it became. Tuchman masterfully portrays this transition from 19th to 20th century, focusing on the turning point in the year 1914: the month leading up to the war and the first month of the war. With fine attention to detail, she reveals how and why the war started, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't, managing to make the story utterly suspenseful even when we already know the outcome.… (more)
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» See also 492 mentions

English (102)  Catalan (1)  All languages (103)
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
Have this as book and audio ( )
  Carolien_S | Jan 4, 2022 |
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 month of the war. I also think the writing just slowly, gradually became less and less vigorous and more rote as the war left its initial stages and moved to the actual fighting of month 1.

I realized I didn't want to finish this book when it struck me that it's all just pointless military maneuvers, some of them more successful than others, almost all of them led by a bunch of overconfident idiots, and that I had nothing to gain from learning about these dumb poops and their meaningless military decisions.

I actually really liked the first part of the book, and liked the second part. It was the third part, "Battle", that just gutted me with its unbelievable tediousness. And I hate giving up on books, but there are only so many free seconds in my life to dedicate to things I don't enjoy. ( )
  Gadi_Cohen | Sep 22, 2021 |
The Senselessness Of War

Barbara Tuchman's classic history of the first month of World War I recounts the way nationalistic bravado and unrealistic expectations about quick victory enmeshed the world in savage bloodshed in August of 1914. Any story of the first half of the Twentieth Century would provide these facts, but Tuchman's work gives particularly sharp insight into the minds and characters of the men who made the fateful decisions to go to war and to continue the carnage.

Parallels with later leaders and later wars are inevitable, and probably the best reason for making the book required reading. The most stunning fact, to me, is that, despite the interminable years of deadly trench warfare that followed the events of August, the crushing economics of the cost of the war, and the millions of dead, Europe was back at it again twenty years later.

One of the great works of historical scholarship. ( )
  TH_Shunk | Jul 6, 2021 |
World War I was almost certainly the stupidest and most unnecessary war in history. Tuchman's decision to focus on the psychologies of the rulers involved in this farcical atrocity is brilliant, as it can only be truly understood by showing just how vain, ignorant, and blustering the rulers of the world were. Her prose is engrossing and even playful, so perceptive in explaining how the inevitable human failures in the slow slide towards war ratcheted towards the point of no return that this may be the only history to ever prevent a nuclear armageddon, as John F Kennedy reached back for its insights on negotiations and ultimatums during the doom-laden days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It's not a complete military history as it ends only a few months into the war, but as she so eloquently shows, once the grim logic of entangling alliances began to turn on the gears of folly and hubris, the rest of the war was merely predictable death and waste, as inevitable as it was once thought unthinkable. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
2014 (my brief comment can be found on the LibraryThing page linked)
https://www.librarything.com/topic/172769#4777528 ( )
  dchaikin | Sep 21, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 102 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbara W. Tuchmanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lee, JohnNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Massie, Robert K.Forewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
May, NadiaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The human heart is the starting point of all matters pertaining to war.
--Marechal de Saxe
Reveries on the Art of War (Preface), 1732

The terrible Ifs accumulate.
--Winston Churchill
The World Crisis, Vol. I, Chap. XI
Dedication
First words
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.
Quotations
Nothing so comforts the military mind as the maxim of a great but dead general.
Arguments can always be found to turn desire into policy.
To be right and overruled is not forgiven to persons in responsible positions…
BEST OPENING LINES OF ANY BOOK EVER
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.
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In this Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, historian Barbara Tuchman brings to life the people and events that led up to World War I. This was the last gasp of the Gilded Age, of Kings and Kaisers and Czars, of pointed or plumed hats, colored uniforms, and all the pomp and romance that went along with war. How quickly it all changed--and how horrible it became. Tuchman masterfully portrays this transition from 19th to 20th century, focusing on the turning point in the year 1914: the month leading up to the war and the first month of the war. With fine attention to detail, she reveals how and why the war started, and why it could have been stopped but wasn't, managing to make the story utterly suspenseful even when we already know the outcome.

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