Books about World War I help to capture the senseless nature of war and illustrate the despair and hopelessness that gripped many of the soldiers who fought in the war.
World War I was the first modern war; it was fought in an unfortunate time when the tactics and strategies of warfare had not caught up with the technology of warfare. The evolution of effective tactics and new weapons to defeat the stalemate of trench warfare is a common subject for books about World War I.
World War I had a wide impact on the world, inspiring many different types of books about World War I. The war was the setting for many books of anti-war literature; the experiences of common infantry, drafted into a miserable war of attrition, helped to illustrate the dehumanizing nature of warfare. The history of the war, including its causes and many of the important battles, fills many books about World War I. Other books about World War I trace the influence the war has had in shaping the modern world, such as the partitioning of the Middle East after the end of the war.
#1 – Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
This nonfiction book about World War I details the events surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania, a civilian cruise ship, as it crossed the Atlantic Ocean from New York. This book examines the sinking from the perspectives of the Lusitania’s passengers and the sailors in the German submarine who sank the ship. In the aftermath of the tragedy, the course of the war was altered.
#2 – Lawrence in Arabia
Lawrence in Arabia is largely a book about the Middle East and its role in World War I. The book examines four men who played significant roles in the shaping of the Middle East, including T.E. Lawrence. The author also shows how mistakes made during that era continue to play out today through continued conflicts in the Middle East.
#3 – The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman and Robert K. Massie
This book about World War I focuses solely on the first month of the war, beginning with the funeral of Edward VII in Britain. The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that triggered the war, also receives a brief discussion. However, the majority of the book focuses on the opening battles of the war.
#4 – The Sleepwalkers: How Europe Went to War in 1914
As with many books about World War I, this book focuses on the complex history that ultimately resulted in the war. In the years before the war, a web of alliances and treaties sprang up between the major nations of the world. The author carefully traces the actions of the leaders of these nations and details the misunderstandings between them that led to disastrous consequences.
#5 – The First World War
The First World War is one of the most detailed books about World War I, covering both the military and human aspects of the war. Much of the book is devoted to the failed diplomacy that created the conflict. The author also spends considerable time detailing some of the most horrific battles in the conflict.
#6 – A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918
This book aims to transform the enormous magnitude of World War I into a personal experience by clearly explaining the tragedy that befell millions of people during that time. The book broadly views the war from all of the important angles, including the military and political aspects, but it also examines other tragic events, including the genocide of Armenians during the war.
#7 – To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918
Many books about World War I focus on the battlefield clashes between the Allies and the Central Powers. However, this book instead examines the conflicts between the supporters and critics of the war. The author details the experiences of many of these critics, including several journalists who were arrested for voicing their opposition to the war.
#8 – The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East
The fate of the Ottoman Empire, one of the major players in the war, is ignored in many books about World War I. The author describes the role the Ottoman Empire played in the war and explains how the war ultimately resulted in the demise of the nation. The winners of World War I redrew the lands that the Ottoman Empire had once ruled, setting the stage for the conflicts still occurring today in the Middle East.
#9 – All Quiet on the Western Front
Erich Maria Remarque
This novel, written by a veteran of World War I, describes the difficulties and obstacles faced by many German soldiers during the war. The book’s main character, Paul Bäumer, details these struggles, including the lack of food and the constant threat of death. Even small moments of hope do not allow Paul to forget that he is just one faceless individual trapped in a tragic war, a common theme in many books about World War I.
#10 – A Farewell to Arms
Set during World War I, this classic novel begins with the meeting of Fredric Henry, an expatriate American serving in the Italian Army, and Catherine Barkley, a British nurse. After Fredric is wounded, Catherine tends to him, and the two eventually fall in love. As with many fictional books about World War I, the couple’s happiness is short-lived as the war continues to rage on.