The Guns of August



Book: The Guns of August

Author: Barbara W. Tuchman

Publisher: Presidio Press, republished 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0345476098

ISBN-10: 0345476093

Related website: (publisher)

Language level: 3

(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)

Recommended reading level: Ages 16 and up

Rating: **** 4 stars (GOOD)

Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker

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Tuchman, Barbara W. The Guns of August (originally published in 1962 by The Macmillan Publishing Company; republished in 2004 by Presidio Press, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY).  This Pulitzer Prize–winning account covers the opening days of World War I.  Starting with the funeral of King Edward VII of England, renowned historian Barbara W. Tuchman traces each step in the month that led to the inevitable clash, with Germany on one side and France, Britain, and Russia on the other, and re-creates the first month of the war, from the German invasion of Belgium to the famous Battle of the Marne.  She describes in great detail those thirty days in the summer of 1914 that determined the course of the conflict, the century, and ultimately our present world.  Who wins?

To a lot of people, World War I seems like ancient history.  It’s now been over 100 years since it started.  And there is not nearly so much literature on it, especially as compared to the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War, or even World War II.  Yet, as Tuchman argues, World War I was when the nineteenth century actually ended and when the modern world began.  This book was recommended to me back in 2003 when a question was asked about good books for sixteen year old boys and someone responded, “I checked with my sixteen year old for suggestions.  He suggests The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman—it is about the beginning of World War I—as an excellent choice.”

The book is very detailed, with a lengthy list of sources, several pages of notes, and a complete index.  Yet, it is so masterfully written that more than one person noted how the author manages to make the story utterly suspenseful when we already know the outcome.  The “d” and “h” words appear in a few quotations.  It will be especially appreciated by history fanatics, people interested in World War I, and those who like to read about war in general.  The Proud Tower, The Zimmerman Telegram, and The Guns of August, which was selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, comprise Barbara W. Tuchman’s classic histories of the First World War era.

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