Required Reading: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns Of August

by Randy Murray on March 19, 2012

There’s a special pleasure that come from reading very good books. I can feel myself grow smarter, better, as I read them.

I rarely feel smarter than when I read Barbara Tuchman.

I recently received the newly released Barbara Tuchman: The Guns of August & The Proud Tower (Library of America). I have both books in my library already, but I wanted this particular edition as well. I also wanted to reward the excellent Library of America for selecting Ms. Tuchman and committing to keeping her work in print.

I’ve read these works before, but when I opened the beautiful new book and started reading The Guns of August once again, I was struck with just how wonderful a writer and storyteller Tuchman was. She was, without question, one of our finest historians and writers.

And one of our most important.

I spoke of feeling more intelligent, smarter, when I read her books and I think that this is a clear fact. We all need to know what she has to tell us. You may not realize just how important a book The Guns of August is. It changed the course of history itself and quite likely prevented a global nuclear war.

You read that right: President Kennedy reflected on the lessons in this book during the Cuban missile crisis and insisted that his cabinet and military leaders read it. Kennedy refused to make the same mistakes as the Germans in 1914 and helped walk us back from the brink of Armageddon. We all owe an eternal debt of gratitude to Barbara Tuchman.

Kennedy couldn’t read what I feel is her most important work, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam, but you can. It is absolutely required reading for all leaders and politicians. It is for you, too.

But first read The Guns Of August so that you will better heed her advice. Then read A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century and be dazzled by her depth of vision and learn that the world isn’t nearly as simple as you thought (and we humans make the same mistakes over and over again).

Then read The First Salute for a stunning view of America’s history and learn that you didn’t know as much about the American Revolution as you thought you did. Then you can read the benefit from The March of Folly. Trust me, you need to know what this book contains.

Read all of her work, but don’t deny yourself the lessons of The March of Folly or the stunning story of The Guns of August.

You’ll feel smarter, be smarter, if you just open these books and read.

The Required Reading: Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns Of August by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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