Some Great Reads on the Great War

Hello! Hope you’re having a good Sunday. Now as many of you may know, today marks the centenary for Armistice Day and in honour of the occasion, I thought it would be good to share some books and poems that bring the memory of the war to life. While I am not necessarily well versed in a lot of books on the subject, I do think it’s an important part of history and that honouring the dead is something we can all do with a simple moment of remembrance.

Poets

To start off, I just wanted to share a couple of poems that particularly move me:

when you see millions of the mouthless dead.png

in flanders fields.png

Fiction

The Duration

birdsong

Birdsong– I really love Faulks’ evocative writing style and Birdsong is one of his best works in that regard. Stunningly written, I love how this reflects on the war, managing to reflect on both before and after.

private peaceful

Private Peaceful– I have always loved this moving, beautifully written book. As much as it is a fantastic book for children, I still believe that it’s a profound indictment against the horrors of this particular war.

war horse

War Horse– I’m putting two Morpurgo books on here simply because they’re both such worthwhile reads. And, unique to this list, it’s also written from the perspective of a horse.

flambards series.png

Flambards– This is a really old, but romantic story, spanning the years before and after the war. Why I think it’s great for this list is because it deals with love and loss and the tremendous impact of the war on individuals.

shell house

Shell House– another romance, but with a fairly obvious twist. I do believe this is an interesting and worthwhile take on the war. While I don’t think all the parts of this book totally gel, the reason I’ve included it is because the comparison to modern day and history is rather different. I also think that the best part of this book are the flashbacks and that these parts particularly capture the tragedy of the war.

The Aftermath

blood red snow white

Blood Red, Snow White– while not strictly speaking about the trenches or the war directly, this colourful read follows Arthur Ransome’s journey as a spy as Russia fell to communism. It captures a completely different side to this period in history, focusing on fallout in Russia from WW1 and the ripple effect of that. It’s also written in a fairytale-esque voice, which made it a captivating read from start to finish.

the waste land

The Waste Land– while not strictly speaking about World War I, I think this book is permeated with the shadow of the war. Its vivid descriptions and hidden depths make it a thoroughly worthwhile read.

secret countess

The Secret Countess– I actually mentioned this favourite earlier today when I quoted its opening. Not only does this have the interesting perspective of Russian exiles, one amazing thing about this book was how it deals with the aftermath of the Great War and exists very much in its shadow.

So there you go. What is your favourite World War I poem or book? Let me know in the comments!

55 thoughts on “Some Great Reads on the Great War

  1. I forgot about Blood Red, Snow White being set around WWI! (Well, it’s more about the Russian Revolution, but that’s almost the same thing.)

    And the In Flanders Fields poem. Being from Canada, I’ve had that one memorized since I was a kid. (John McCrae was Canadian if you didn’t already know that.)

    I will have to check out some of these other books…

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  2. Not read the Michael Morpurgo books… I should get round to it. I studied Great War literature at A-level and read a variety of novels (both from around the time and later on), plays and poetry. All Quiet on the Western Front was striking as it’s from a German perspective and wasn’t allowed to be published in Germany at the time.
    Everyone seems to love Birdsong but I really didn’t like it 🙂

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  3. I would also suggest Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy and the classic All Quiet on the Western front by Erich Maria Remarque. And if I may add some nonfiction, I can’t recommend enough Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, G. Meyer’s A World Undone and also Christopher Clark’s The Sleepwalkers and Robert Gerwarth’s The Vanquished.

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    1. Ah that’s definitely going on my list- so many people have suggested it! I have been planning to read All Quiet on the Western Front. And these are such brilliant suggestions- I’m very open to reading non fic on WW1, so these are all welcome suggestions- thank you! 🙂

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  4. I must admit I haven’t read many WWI books and am grateful for your list as I can see enjoying quite a few of the books there. War Horse and Blood Red, Snow White are definitely something I want to read.

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  5. My favorite is “My Dear I Wanted to Tell You” by Louisa Young. It was fascinating as it highlighted how the first world war also enabled plastic surgeons to improve their techniques.

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  6. I haven’t read many WW1 books, granted historical fiction isn’t really a genre I pick up at all but on rare occasions I have I’ve read WWII books. I’ll definitely be coming back to this list when I’m next in the mood for some historical fiction, some of these sound like books I’ll really enjoy.
    Great post. 🙂 ❤️

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  7. Those poems are very moving – I’d never read them before so thanks for sharing them. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read any of these books, but they all sound really good. It feels like all the war books I’ve read are about WWII… but I have seen a lot of great films about The Great War.

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  8. Beautiful poems indeed! Birdsong was the first book come to mind too, that and a book by Erich Maria Remarque of which I only know the title in Germany unfortunately (‘Im Westen Nichts Neues’) that has also been adapted into a film.

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  9. Great post and I really liked the poems you included.
    I have read a Faulks book before but it wasn’t Birdsing… sadly, I cannot remember the title of it, but I do know it was really-really good!
    The fiction list has titles that I will definitely check out- thanks!

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