This week marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, when the Austro-Hungarian Empire invaded Serbia in retaliation to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28. By the end of the war in 1918, some 16 million people had been killed and the maps of Europe and the Middle East were redrawn. To help commemorate one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, Shelf Awareness has compiled, guided by several booksellers with a deep interest in the subject, a selective list of titles about the Great War.
Many thanks to Mark LaFramboise, head buyer at Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C.; Margaret Brennan Neville, bookseller at the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah; Tom Gartner, senior book buyer for Books Inc. in San Francisco, Calif.; and Shelf Awareness's own Marilyn Dahl. This is the second of two parts (see part one here) and focuses on nonfiction and children's titles. --Alex Mutter
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis (Vintage, $16.95, 9780375708152).
In his 2011 book, Wade Davis recounts the three British expeditions that set out to climb Everest between 1921 and 1924. Those expeditions consisted of 24 men, all but six of whom had served, either as soldiers or medics, in World War I. Davis describes the horrors of trench warfare in as much detail as the attempts on Everest that occurred less than a decade later. For a country and generation ravaged by World War I, these Everest expeditions were an attempt to restore a shattered sense of pride and place.
A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East by David Fromkin (Holt, $22, 9780805088090).
In A Peace to End All Peace, Fromkin examines how and why the Allied powers divided up the Middle East after the end of World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Fromkin contends that this redrawing of the map set the stage for the next century of political, ethnic and religious conflict in the region. Said Tom Gartner: "Anyone interested in the Middle East should read this, to understand the roots of so many problems."
Good-bye to All That by Robert Graves (Anchor, $16.95, 9780385093309).
Tom Gartner called Robert Graves's autobiography "the book that got me interested in World War I." Graves provides a devastating picture of what the war was like, and what it did to himself and his generation. "It just knocked me out," continued Gartner. "It's so well written."
To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 by Adam Hochschild (Mariner Books, $15.95, 9780547750316).
To End All Wars is a sweeping, elegantly written history of World War I by the author of King Leopold's Ghost that pays as much attention to conscientious objectors and suffragettes on the home front as it does to front line heroics and vicious battles. "It's a little different because it focuses on some of the unlikely relationships," said Mark LaFramboise. "One of the leading suffragettes and anti-war voices, in fact, was a sister of John French," the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force for the first two years of the war.
Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph by T.E. Lawrence (Wilder Publications, $14.99, 9781617201813).
Seven Pillars of Wisdom is Lawrence's classic autobiographical account of his time as a liaison officer during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, when he became known as Lawrence of Arabia. His extraordinary life and adventures would make great reading in their own right, Tom Gartner said, but Lawrence "was a brilliant writer. The language in it is so beautiful. It's an amazing read."
Enduring Courage: Ace Pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and the Dawn of the Age of Speed by John F. Ross (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250033772).
Eddie Rickenbacker, the subject of Enduring Courage, was not only the U.S.'s first ace fighter pilot but also one of the nation's first star race car drivers. On his way to becoming a squadron commander and later a Medal of Honor recipient, Rickenbacker had to overcome a handicap, accusations of being a German spy and his family's impoverished circumstances. "To be a flier, you had to be a college graduate and an officer," Mark LaFramboise explained. "Rickenbacker was kind of the lone non-Ivy Leaguer among them. And he turned out to be the greatest of all them."
The Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman (Presidio Press, $7.99, 9780345476098).
Tuchman's exhaustive reconstruction of the first month of World War I won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction in 1963 and became an immediate bestseller. The narrative begins with the funeral of Edward VII of the United Kingdom in 1910, followed by the pre-war military planning of various great powers. After a discussion of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Tuchman recounts the battles of the first month of the war in incredible detail.
Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach (Anchor, $17, 9781400096190).
During World War I, Gertrude Bell was recruited by British intelligence not only to gain the loyalty of Arab leaders against the Ottoman Turks, but to provide T.E. Lawrence with crucial intelligence for his military campaigns. After the war, she played a huge role in dividing territory lost by the Ottoman Empire and creating the modern Middle East. At one time, according to Wallach, Bell was considered the most powerful woman in the British Empire. "People like Lawrence and Bell don't even seem like real human beings," Tom Gartner said. "Bell did so much and led such an amazing life. And she did it all in a time not particularly friendly to women."
Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne, illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (Holt, $16.99, 9781627790314).
Alfie Summerfield's father goes to war when World War I breaks out. Four years later, after the war is over, Alfie's father is still gone. He knows that his father isn't dead, but otherwise he has no idea what happened to him. One day, he realizes that his father is actually quite close by, being treated for shell shock in a London hospital, and resolves to save him.
Lord of the Nutcracker Men by Iain Lawrence (Laurel Leaf, $5.99, 9780440418122).
In Lord of the Nutcracker Men, Johnny's father goes to war in 1914. He promises to send Johnny, who loves to play war games with toy soldiers, a hand-whittled wooden soldier with each of his letters home. At first, the letters and soldiers are relatively normal. But with each letter, the toy soldiers become more scarred, disfigured and horrific, and Johnny begins to fear that his toy soldier battles predict what happens to his father in real life.
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (Scholastic Press, $6.99, 9780439796644).
Joey is the beloved colt of a young English farm boy named Albert. After war breaks out, Albert's father sells Joey to a cavalry captain. Joey is marooned on the front lines, captured and recaptured by English and German soldiers. Albert, meanwhile, travels to mainland Europe to find him. Said Margaret Brennan Neville: "It portrays the war in such a personal way."