I’m looking for books about World War I. I’d prefer original source books, ones written at the time by the people who were there, but any good book will do. I’m especially interested in the use of motorcycles during the war.
I’ve already read:
The Daredevil of the Army: Experiences as a Buzzer and Dispatch Rider by Austin Patrick Corcoran and
A Motorcycle Courier in the Great War by W. H. L. Wilson
I’d like Kindle versions if I can since that’s how I do most of my readings.
ETA: I’m also looking for a good overview of the war since I don’t know a whole lot.
Not a book but the Imperial War Museum has 20,000 hours of first hand oral accounts of the war from many nationalities. They are presenting podcasts every few weeks leading up to the centenary. There are 23 so far here. They are 10 minutes long and each has a specific theme. They all make interesting listening.
I read that a while back - it was strikingly macho. At one point he comes down with the influenza epidemic which hit the Germany army in 1918 and went on to kill millions, but he fights off by literally fighting it off, e.g. he burns it off during an assault on the British lines. And yet, from what I remember he never once admits to killing anyone; or at least when he does, it’s euphemistic. He presented a curious bloodless, emotionless view of the war.
Martin Gilbert’s “First World War” is a very good single-volume history; I remember Lyn Macdonald’s “Somme” as a humbling read as well. Neither had much to say about motorbikes. “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” is one of my beside-the-toilet never-reads, and it might have something about motorbikin’, but probably not much (“after the war I went for a motorbike ride on my motorbike, but unfortunately I crashed and was killed. Now I’m dead. In a way, I died once before, and was reborn; now I’m really dead”). The book seems to have more sodomy than the film, which only had a little bit, and it was implied. Can’t remember any sodomy in “Storm of Steel” or “Somme”.
My favorite general history of the war is James Stokesbury’s A Short History of World War I.
Another good book is The World Crisis, 1911-1918 by Winston Churchill. Churchill was a great writer and he was directly involved in the events he’s writing about. But that’s a flaw as well as a virtue - Churchill sometimes writes history as his version of what happened.
Other classics about particular aspects of the war are Dreadnought and Castles of Steel by Robert Massie (Castles of Steel is about the naval war itself but you should read Dreadnought first because it tells you about the pre-war naval race and it’s a really good book) and A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin, which outlines the war in the Middle East and the political maneuvering that went on there.
The Guns of August and The Zimmerman Telegram by Barbara Tuchman are must-reads, as is John Keegan’s The Face of Battle (though only about a quarter of the book deals with WWI, specifically the Somme).
Many years ago, I got some books on WWI from my dad for Christmas. While they were for a younger audience, at least one was by the respected historian Edward Jablonski, and I would still enjoy reading them today. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the titles, but one was on the air war (I particularly remember the chapter on the Red Baron) and the other told the stories of Lawrence of Arabia, Felix von Luckner, Billy Bishop, Alvin York, et al.
An Internet search should turn something up, I would think.
The Price of Glory: Verdun 1916 by Sir Alistar Horne is the best book about the battle, and one of the best war history books about any battle, other than several of Horne’s others. It’s 50 years old now, and no one’s topped it.
I always find myself touting John Keegan’s works on the SDMB. While his turns of phrase can be a little highfalutin’ by American standards, he does a great job of boiling things down to essentials and following cause-and-effect.
He has a book on this topic – The First World War. But the first chapter of his book on The Second World War, “Every Man a Soldier,” does a great job of setting out the root causes of how Europe came to be “pregnant with war.” It’s enlightening, and I recommend it in addition to any general blow-by-blow text on the course of the war.
As I said in the thread corresponding to Elendil’s Heir’s third link above, I can’t say enough about To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild (of King Leopold’s Ghost fame). It’s a magnificent book focusing on those who opposed ‘The Great War’ (and who usually suffered greatly for doing so).
I can recommend a book called Somme Mud. It chronicles the experiences of an Australian solider Edward Lynch and his time on the Somme. He wrote down his experiences in exercise books in 1921. Apparently he sought to publish a book in the 1930’s but found no interest. The original diaries and a manuscript typed by Lynch were found by his family in 2006 and published.
I’m in the middle of The First World War right now. It is a bit impenetrable at times (I’m not a geography buff, and it really, really helps to have Google Maps next to me while I read, because the author basically assumes you know where everything is). However, I totally agree that it does a great job of breaking down the essentials, and describing strategies and battles in a way that’s fairly easy to grasp and very informative.
This is the first book of his that I’ve read, and I’ll almost certainly follow up with the WW2 volume.