Author Topic: What are we reading?  (Read 572336 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline ArizonaTank

  • Man-at-Arms
  • *****
  • Posts: 1702
  • Honus Wagner - "The Flying Dutchman"
Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5190 on: September 16, 2020, 10:41:20 PM »
Just finished “No Man’s Land” by John Toland

This is a “popular” history of WWI that covers the key combat and political events of 1918. It is a good read because the author uses first hand accounts to tell much of the story. At points I felt almost like I was reading one of those “grand historical sweep” novels, following multiple characters through parallel story threads. Except the characters of “No Man’s Land” were real people. Most of the voices are British, American or German.

The skillful use of these voices pulled me into their world, with the sights, sounds and smells of these long ago events. For example, the narrative did a great job in showing the Allied armies' near panic during the German’s Michael offensive in March, 1918. This was just after Russia’s surrender, but before the Americans were ready to fight. The Germans were able to redeploy a million men from the Eastern Front. These fresh troops slammed a wedge between the British and French, pushing the British towards the sea. For a brief moment, the French and British began to talk of collapse.

The book has a bit of an uneven approach to what it covers. Emphasis is on the Western Front, the rise of the Bolsheviks, and the Allied intervention in Russia. The Middle East and Italian Fronts are only mentioned in passing. Also, in the last few weeks of the narrative, the focus moves away from the military side of the war. The focus is then on the political machinations leading to the Armistice; this leaves a bit of a hole in the military narrative.

Despite a its blind spots, I found the book to be interesting, and entertaining. I enjoyed the first hand accounts and found myself looking forward to reading about how their stories would unfold.

If you are looking for a relatively light read, that is entertaining and puts the experience of the war front and center, I recommend this book.       

Is this book primarily focused on the events of 1918, or is it looking at the entire war in equal weight?

The book only covers 1918. And IMHO this is a good thing. Combined arms and new tactics broke the armies free from trench warfare and much of the fighting was over open ground. The narrative takes off in March 1918 with the start of the German Michael Offensive. So the book really only covers about 8 months.

The fighting was very dynamic in this period. Sometimes the battle lines moved 20 miles in a day, something unimaginable in 1917. Spring and early summer saw the Germans push hard, since they were flush with troops released from the Eastern Front. At one point, the Germans threatened Paris. By August, a complete reversal occurred. The weight of American troops was being felt, the British and French executed some brilliant combined arms battles, while the German home front began to collapse.

IMHO, the two most interesting periods of WWI are 1914 and 1918. Both periods saw large armies maneuvering over open ground. But 1918 holds a special place since the fortunes of both sides swung so wildly over a short period of time. 

But if you are looking for a general history of the entire war, Toland's book is too focused.

IHMO A good general history of the entire war is: "A World Undone" by G. J. Meyer
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 02:57:50 PM by ArizonaTank »
Honus Wagner
"The Flying Dutchman"
Shortstop: Pittsburgh Pirates 1900-1917
Rated as the 2nd most valuable player of all time by Bill James.

Offline airboy

  • Crossbowman
  • *
  • Posts: 6055
    • averysgameblog
Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5191 on: September 17, 2020, 03:20:58 AM »
I prefer Keegan's WW1 book.

No Man's Land is interesting enough to put on my wishlist.  But the price of $12 seems pretty high for a book first published sixteen years ago.

Offline Gusington

  • The Jewish Missile
  • Global Moderator
  • Tercio
  • *****
  • Posts: 44195
  • You must be at most 'this tall' to ride the Gus.
Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5192 on: September 17, 2020, 06:49:14 AM »
^I just put it in my cart for about 8.00 with shipping. Thanks Tank!
"I'm not even dead and I'm rolling over in my grave."

- Toonces

Offline solops

  • Man-at-Arms
  • *****
  • Posts: 1042
  • Woof!
Re: What are we reading?
« Reply #5193 on: Yesterday at 02:36:14 PM »
I am reading "The Wandering Inn" by Pirateaba. I highly recommend it. The Wandering Inn is a FREE fantasy web serial book located at :

It is actually seven books, the seventh book being the current one that is updated twice a week. While all of the books are free to read online, they are also available to purchase for Kindle or other readers. They are packaged in Volume I (books 1-3) for $0.99 and volume 2 (books 4-6) for ? I read two or three books a week. So I have absorbed a lot of mediocre to awful SF and fantasy garbage. This particular series is a step above the average. I like it enough to $5/month to get to read each chapter a few days earlier than the free version is posted.
« Last Edit: Yesterday at 02:37:54 PM by solops »
"I could have conquered Europe, all of it, but I had women in my life." - King Henry II of England
I may be drunk, Miss, but in the morning I will be sober and you will still be ugly. - Winston Churchill
Wine is sure proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. - Benjamin Franklin