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Old 07-01-2014, 03:45 PM   #1
AnemicOak
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World War I

The upcoming 100th Anniversary (July 28th) of the beginning of World War I has me looking for some books on the conflict once thought of as the war to end all wars.

I've read a few books on the subject such as The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, some of Peter Kilduff's books on various German aviators and a few others. I've also read some fiction such as The Blue Max by Jack Hunter, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

I've not read anywhere near as much as I have about World War II or the US Civil War and would like to explore further. So I'm looking for recommendations, primarily nonfiction, and am interested in all theaters (Western, Eastern, Italian, Middle Eastern, war at sea, etc.). Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom is on my list for books I'll get to eventually. My deepest knowledge of the conflict is the air war and I'm always on the lookout for something new & interesting in that area as well and while I'm open to the one volume books giving an overall general history of the entire war (although I've got a good general knowledge) I generally find those kinds of books lacking and prefer more detailed writings of more limited scope.
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Old 07-01-2014, 04:08 PM   #2
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I'm in the process of reading an excellent book: Catastrophe, by Max Hastings. It deals with the July 1914 crisis and the events leading up to the war, as well as the opening months of the war itself. It's not just about the western front; it also has a lot about Russia, Serbia and Austria.

Max Hasting is undoubtedly the best war historian I have read. I would trust his books over almost anyone else's.

That said, you'll find any book on World War I easier to understand if you know a little of 19th Century European history, and especially the rise and decline of the great European empires. In that regard, I would recommend A History of Modern Europe, by John Merriman.

Whatever you end up reading, I hope you enjoy learning more about this period as much as I am.

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Old 07-01-2014, 04:10 PM   #3
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Thanks Mike. I've read some of Max Hastings' WWII stuff which was quite good, I'll take a look at Catastrophe.
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Old 07-01-2014, 06:11 PM   #4
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Take a look at Dreadnaught and its sequel Castles of Steel. Despite their titles, they are not strictly about naval warfare in WW1 as much as how the arms race played a large part in the start of the war. I also enjoyed The Sleepwalkers, How Europe went to war in 1914 by Christopher Clark. Hew Strachans The First World War is the book I'm currently reading and I'm enjoying it so far. Here's a list I looked at when I first started trying to learn more about World War 1.

https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/world-war-1
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Old 07-01-2014, 09:21 PM   #5
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I'm also reading on WWI at the moment (and have been reading about the history of the middle east generally in a very sporadic way over the last year or so).

I had a serendipitous moment on Sunday when I read Christopher Clark's 'The
Spark in the Tinderbox'
on the same day that the events he described occurred 100 years previously. (And hadn't realised until after I'd finished it that it was the same date!). It's about the events of that fateful day in Sarajevo, and starts with Franz Jospeh arriving at the train station and finishes with some of the aftermath investigation. There were so many stuff ups in coordination from the point of view of the assassins as well as the 'minders' and bureaucracy that it seems 'fate' did play a part ....

This publication is sold as a 'book' but it's really an essay and is only 49 pages, and without a bibliography and references. Which is really very odd and clearly must relate to the publishers whims because Clark is a historian of note, and I have read several of his books on the history of the middle east which do all have references and a bibliography. He is an author whose opinion I admire. (PS if you get the book from Kobo India you'll be able to use a discount voucher)

Another essay sized book I read was Bill Price's 'Spies of the First World War', and it's 78 pages and again without references or a bibliography. The writing is nowhere near in the same league as Clark, and appears to be gossipy in part, rather than merely factual. Still, reading it has given me some appreciation of who was spying, their country of origin, and some of their methodology.

I am currently reading Margaret MacMillan's 'The War that Ended Peace' and she is an excellent researcher and writer. (I previously read her 'Peacemakers' and by golly she puts across a zillion facts but she adds humour and the who's up who and who's paying the rent factor as well!!)

So far I'm about 75 pages in and I have the feel for the era from say 1890 forwards, however there will be later chapters which go back further and so one gets the world environment from different time spans, which to my thinking is essential.

I also have Christopher Clark's 'The Sleepwalkers' and two of Sean McMeekin's, 'July 1914 Countdown to War' and 'The Berlin Baghdad Express' which I will read in due course.

Over the course of the next few years I intend to read a number of WWI books, and leading up to April 1915 those particularly dealing with Gallipoli where Churchill stuffed up and sent many Aus, NZ and UK men to their deaths. (April 25 is regarded our National Day of Mourning for soldiers of all wars as a result of the catastrophe at Gallipoli)

Anyway, I would be interested if over time people kept updating this thread as to what they're reading/have read on WWI. Thanks for starting it Anemic Oak

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Old 07-01-2014, 09:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AnemicOak View Post
The upcoming 100th Anniversary (July 28th) of the beginning of World War I has me looking for some books on the conflict once thought of as the war to end all wars.

I've read a few books on the subject such as The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman, some of Peter Kilduff's books on various German aviators and a few others. I've also read some fiction such as The Blue Max by Jack Hunter, All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque and A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway.

I've not read anywhere near as much as I have about World War II or the US Civil War and would like to explore further. So I'm looking for recommendations, primarily nonfiction, and am interested in all theaters (Western, Eastern, Italian, Middle Eastern, war at sea, etc.). Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom is on my list for books I'll get to eventually. My deepest knowledge of the conflict is the air war and I'm always on the lookout for something new & interesting in that area as well and while I'm open to the one volume books giving an overall general history of the entire war (although I've got a good general knowledge) I generally find those kinds of books lacking and prefer more detailed writings of more limited scope.
RE Lawrence's 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' this is public domain in Aus and Canada at least.
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Old 07-02-2014, 03:07 AM   #7
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I would suggest 'Paris 1919' by Margaret MacMillan. It uses the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as the framework, but it delves into the details of the War to explain how they got to where they were and provide a rationale behind the positions the various countries took at the peace table. It also goes into the consequences of the peace conference throughout the world. The decisions made there had lasting consequences that extended far beyond the rise of Hitler & the Nazis and the Second World War. In places like the Balkans, the Middle East, and Africa the impact of this peace conference are still reverberating today. Note: I listened to the audiobook version of this book.

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Old 07-02-2014, 06:06 AM   #8
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I enjoyed Ken Follet's Century Triology. Book one was basically early 1900s through WW1. A broad spanning epic. Book three WW2 scheduled for this year.
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Old 07-02-2014, 06:20 AM   #9
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(I previously read her 'Peacemakers' and by golly she puts across a zillion facts but she adds humour and the who's up who and who's paying the rent factor as well!!)
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I would suggest 'Paris 1919' by Margaret MacMillan. It uses the 1919 Paris Peace Conference as the framework, but it delves into the details of the War to explain how they got to where they were and provide a rationale behind the positions the various countries took at the peace table. It also goes into the consequences of the peace conference throughout the world. The decisions made there had lasting consequences that extended far beyond the rise of Hitler & the Nazis and the Second World War. In places like the Balkans, the Middle East, and Africa the impact of this peace conference are still reverberating today. Note: I listened to the audiobook version of this book. Duane
Duane we've both mentioned the same book but it's known by different titles according to the publisher or ??

Yep, I agree with you - the book provides a fantastic knowledge base for not just the build up to the why's and wherefore's of WWII, but also it's like a dictionary of geography with numerous peoples and countries getting on the bandwagon and politicking for change or being changed whether they want it or not!!

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Old 07-02-2014, 06:25 AM   #10
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Another book people may be interested in is Wilfred Owen's 'Selected Poems'.

I got it earlier this year when NedC started a thread in the Freebies section, here.

It may still be free.

I've been dipping into it but I'm not great at understanding poetry so whilst I can imagine or relate generally to the material, I do find it a bit incomprehensible. (That just shows my ignorance of course, because Owen's is claimed as one of the best poets of his generation.)

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Old 07-02-2014, 06:27 AM   #11
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Some nonfiction books on WWI or the war and its aftereffects not previously mentioned that are well worth reading include:
  • A Scrap of Paper: Breaking and Making International Law during the Great War by Isabel V. Hull
  • The Embrace of Unreason: France, 1914-1940 by Frederick Brown
  • A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 by G.J. Meyer
  • Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson
  • The Kaiser's Holocaust: Germany's Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen
  • The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Alistair Horne
  • The First Day on the Somme 1 July 1916 by Martin Middlebrook
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:06 AM   #12
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Two more books on aspects of WWI and the Middle East:

James Barr 'Setting the Desert on Fire'.
Blurb:
Spoiler:
It is 1916. The Allies are struggling in the Great War. The Ottoman Sultan calls for a pan-Islamic jihad against all non-Muslims except Germans. But Sharif Husein, ruler of the holy city of Mecca, is smarting under Turkish rule, fomenting Arab nationalism and lobbying the British to support him. It seems to the British a good idea secretly to encourage an Arab revolt.

Setting the Desert on Fire is a masterly account of this key moment made legendary by T. E. Lawrence, but here filled with a wide range of characters including the British Prime Minister Lloyd George, whose desire to capture 'Jerusalem by Christmas' had consequences that reverberate to this day


James Barr 'A Line in the Sand'
Blurb:
Spoiler:
In 1916, in the middle of the First World War, two men secretly agreed to divide the Middle East between them. Sir Mark Sykes was a visionary politician; Francois Georges-Picot a diplomat with a grudge. The deal they struck, which was designed to relieve tensions that threatened to engulf the Entente Cordiale, drew a line in the sand from the Mediterranean to the Persian frontier. Territory north of that stark line would go to France; land south of it, to Britain.

Against the odds their pact survived the war to form the basis for the post-war division of the region into five new countries Britain and France would rule. The creation of Britain's 'mandates' of Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq, and France's in Lebanon and Syria, made the two powers uneasy neighbours for the following thirty years.

Through a stellar cast of politicians, diplomats, spies and soldiers, including T. E. Lawrence, Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle, A Line in the Sand vividly tells the story of the short but crucial era when Britain and France ruled the Middle East. It explains exactly how the old antagonism between these two powers inflamed the more familiar modern rivalry between the Arabs and the Jews, and ultimately led to war between the British and the French in 1941 and between the Arabs and the Jews in 1948.

In 1946, after many years of intrigue and espionage, Britain finally succeeded in ousting France from Lebanon and Syria, and hoped that, having done so, it would be able to cling on to Palestine.

Using newly declassified papers from the British and French archives, James Barr brings this overlooked clandestine struggle back to life, and reveals, for the first time, the stunning way in which the French finally got their revenge.


(I've yet to read either book, but I'm getting there!! )
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:15 AM   #13
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Have a look at the Literary Book club here.

The June selection was about women and World War I and we chose "Testament of Youth" by Vera Brittain, last year we've read "All quiet on the Western Front" by Remarque.
In the discussion and nomination threads you will find further links and recommendations, too.
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Old 07-02-2014, 07:19 AM   #14
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Movie and book of Will Davies 'Beneath Hill 60'. I saw the movie and it was very very good!!

blurb:
Spoiler:
'Ten seconds, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one - fire! Down goes the firing switch. At first, nothing. Then from deep down there comes a low rumble, and it as if the world is spliting apart...'

On 7th June 1917, nineteen massive mines exploded beneath Messines Ridge near Ypres. The largest man-made explosion in history up until that point shattered the landscape and smashed open the German lines. Ten thousand German soldiers died.

Two of the mines - at Hill 60 and the Caterpillar - were fired by men of the 1st Australian Tunnelling Company, comprising miners and engineers rather than parade-ground soldiers. Drawing on the diaries of one of the key combatants, Benealth Hill 60 tells the little-known, devastatingly brutal true story of this subterranean war waged beneath the Western Front - a stygian battle-ground where men drowned in viscous chalk, suffocated in the blue gray clay, choked on poisonous air or died in the darkness, caught up up in vicious hand-to-hand fighting...

Over 4,585 Australian miners took part in this secret subterranean war, fighting under stress and conditions that terrified even the most hardened infantryman on the surface. They were led by Captain Oliver Woodward who had started his mining career in Charters Towers, Queensland and went on to head BHP in Australia. His bravery and that of his men in guarding those underground mines and their subsequent massive explosions broke the gridlocked trench warfare that had continued for three years.

Through exhaustive research, Will Davies has uncovered first-hand accounts of life for the tunnelers and soldiers at the front. In sharing their hopes, dreams, victories, and disappointments he tells the broad story of day after day in the mud at the front line and uncovers the glorious spirit of these men who fought and died for their countries.
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Old 07-02-2014, 09:33 AM   #15
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My all-time favorite book about the war is Paul Fussell's seminal The Great War and Modern Memory.

Another really terrific book about the Great War, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age is currently up for vote at the book club for discussion later this month.

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=241936

The lit book club has just read Vera Brittain's devastating memoir, The Testament of Youth. The discussion is ongoing, so there's plenty of time to catch up!

http://www.mobileread.com/forums/sho...d.php?t=240621

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