Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reading List: World War One

Welcome to this week's installment of our newest feature here at The Blue Bookcase: Reading Lists. Every week one of us (or a guest blogger) will post on one of his or her favorite topics and provide a list of books he or she is familiar with on that topic. At the end of each post we will invite you to throw out any suggestions of books, fiction or non-fiction, that you have read or know about on that topic and we will add them to the list on that post.

These lists are not comprehensive by any means, but may be useful in helping you find your next read. Enjoy!

This week, Meagan is compiling a list of books about World War One

I've been interested in WWI ever since I was a young girl living in England. The way The Great War was so completely woven into the fabric of British culture was fascinating to me as an American ex-pat as it seems to be barely a thread in American history.  When I was in college I spent a semester back in London and took a class called "The Great War and Modernism" which involved a study of the various cultural and social elements of the war and its aftermath and included several visits to various battlefields and memorials throughout Europe which only made my interest all the more intense. I returned to England yet again for Grad School and yet again WWI and the aftermath of the interwar years claimed much of my attention. I'd be hard pressed to name another event or time period that was so drastically formative to the years--even decades--that followed, and that fact continues to draw me in to examine facet after facet of WWI.

My interest in WWI literature is more focused on the experience of war rather than straightforward military histories so while I have read a lot about the various battles and campaigns in detail, I'm only including one general survey of the war that I found particularly helpful in gaining a general sense of events. The rest of the list is a pretty random sampling of some of my favorite reads on the subject. The encompass poetry, memoirs, studies, facts, and fictions. Many were written during the war or shortly thereafter, but there are several with much more recent publication dates which only goes to show just how strong the pull to understand this tumultuous time period still is.

I can't wait to hear your suggestions!

My List
The First World War - John Keegan
"The First World War created the modern world. A conflict of unprecedented ferocity, it abruptly ended the relative peace and prosperity of the Victorian era, unleashing such demons of the twentieth century as mechanized warfare and mass death. It also helped to usher in the ideas that have shaped our times—modernism in the arts, new approaches to psychology and medicine, radical thoughts about economics and society—and in so doing shattered the faith in rationalism and liberalism that had prevailed in Europe since the Enlightenment. With The First World War, John Keegan, one of our most eminent military historians, fulfills a lifelong ambition to write the definitive account of the Great War for our generation." (Goodreads)

Remembering War
 - Jay Winter

"This is a masterful volume on remembrance and war in the twentieth century. Jay Winter locates the fascination with the subject of memory within a long-term trajectory that focuses on the Great War. Images, languages, and practices that appeared during and after the two world wars focused on the need to acknowledge the victims of war and shaped the ways in which future conflicts were imagined and remembered. At the core of the “memory boom” is an array of collective meditations on war and the victims of war, Winter says." (Goodreads)

A Testament of Youth - Vera Brittain
"Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain’s elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman. Abandoning her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front. By war’s end she had lost virtually everyone she loved. Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation. Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a book that helped “both form and define the mood of its time,” it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war." (Goodreads)

Good-bye To All That - Robert Graves
"The quintessential memoir of the generation of Englishmen who suffered in World War I is among the bitterest autobiographies ever written. Robert Graves's stripped-to-the-bone prose seethes with contempt for his class, his country, his military superiors, and the civilians who mindlessly cheered the carnage from the safety of home. His portrait of the stupidity & petty cruelties endemic in England's elite schools is almost as scathing as his depiction of trench warfare. Nothing could equal Graves's bone-chilling litany of meaningless death, horrific encounters with gruesomely decaying corpses & even more appalling confrontations with the callousness & arrogance of the military command." (Goodreads)

All Quiet On The Western Front - Erich Remarque
"This 1929 novel served as Remarque's attempt to confront and ultimately rid himself of the graphic and haunting memories of his time serving in World War I. A novel with autobiographical overtones, "All Quiet on the Western Front" traces the evolution of one man's powerful antiwar sentiments. " (Goodreads)

 A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
"In 1918 Ernest Hemingway went to war, to the 'war to end all wars'. He volunteered for ambulance service in Italy, was wounded and twice decorated. Out of his experiences came A Farewell to Arms. Hemingway's description of war is unforgettable. He recreates the fear, the comradeship, the courage of his young American volunteer and the men and women he meets in Italy with total conviction. But A Farewell to Arms is not only a novel of war. In it Hemingway has also created a love story of immense drama and uncompromising passion. " (Goodreads)

The Wordsworth Book of First World War Poetry - VariousThe First World War was one of seemingly endless and unremitting waste and sacrifice. "Who will remember, passing through this Gate, The unheroic Dead who fed the guns? "was Siegfried Sassoon's anguished cry for those whose sacrifice seemed futile. Yet eighty years later it is because of Sassoon and his fellow poets - Owen, Rosenberg, Sorley and many others - that we do remember. This new anthology will serve as an introduction to the poetry of that great conflict, and the inclusion of a number of rarely anthologised poets, many from the ranks, as well as anonymous poems and songs, serves to bring a quality of freshness to the selection." (Goodreads)

Rilla of Ingleside - L.M. Montgomery
"Anne's children were almost grown up, except for pretty, high-spirited Rilla. No one could resist her bright hazel eyes and dazzling smile. Rilla, almost fifteen, can't think any further ahead than going to her very first dance at the Four Winds lighthouse and getting her first kiss from handsome Kenneth Ford. But undreamed-of challenges await the irrepressible Rilla when the world of Ingleside becomes endangered by a far-off war. Her brothers go off to fight, and Rilla brings home an orphaned newborn in a soup tureen. She is swept into a drama that tests her courage and leaves her changed forever." (Goodreads)

 - Sebastian Faulks

"The book's hero, a 20-year-old Englishman named Stephen Wraysford, finds his true love on a trip to Amiens in 1910. Unfortunately, she's already married; the wife of a wealthy textile baron. Wrayford convinces her to leave a life of passionless comfort to be at his side, but things do not turn out according to plan. Wraysford is haunted by this doomed affair, and carries it with him into the trenches of World War I. Birdsong derives most of its power from its descriptions of mud and blood, and Wraysford's attempt to retain a scrap of humanity while surrounded by it." (Goodreads)
War Horse - Michael Morpurgo
"Joey is a warhorse, but he wasn't always. Once, he was a farm horse and a gentle boy named Albert was his master. Then World War I came storming through and everything changed. Albert's father sells Joey to the army where the beautiful, red-bay horse is trained to charge the enemy, drag heavy artillery, and carry wounded soldiers not much older than Albert off of battlefields. Amongst the clamoring of guns and slogging through the cold mud, Joey wonders if the war will ever end. And if it does, will he ever find Albert again?" (Goodreads)

 Maisie Dobbs - Jaqueline Winspear
"Maisie Dobbs isn't just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence--and the patronage of her benevolent employers--she works her way into college at Cambridge. When World War I breaks out, Maisie goes to the front as a nurse. It is there that she learns that coincidences are meaningful and the truth elusive. After the War, Maisie sets up on her own as a private investigator. But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind." (Goodreads)

Your Recommendations:
Tell me in the comments. And please provide links to your own reviews!

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