Tuesday, September 23, 2014

"American Chronicles World War I" by National Public Radio

I selected this audiobook because I am a regular listener of NPR and generally curious about World War I (partly because of watching Downton Abbey and partly because of an amazing history teacher in high school who made the class play a complicated homemade game which demonstrated quite effectively how the Great War began. 

Summary: This is an audio collection put together by the NPR staff. As far as I can tell, this is only available as an audiobook, which kind of makes me feel like it's not a "real" book, but whatever.

This collection is made up of a series of interviews with journalists, historians, authors and WWI veterans, each talking about some aspect of the war, or its legacy. They cover a wide range of topics including the Battle of the Somme, outbreaks of peace, airplanes, the sinking of the Lusitania and the Bonus Army in Washington, DC. The interviewers are all regular journalists or hosts found on NPR shows, which made me sometimes forget if I was listening to the radio or a CD.

WWI is such a strange war because it is a clash of the old and the new. The soldiers seem to be from an older age, but their weapons are entirely modern. When I think about it, I imagine Civil War soldiers with machine guns and 1400 pound artillery shells. Whole cities were wiped off the map and tens of thousands killed in astonishingly short battles. And this mass combat has left its mark on the world today.

As a side note, I want to say this book inspired me to watch the 1916 propaganda film The Battle Of The Somme which includes over an hour of genuine footage from the battle, mostly from the artillery units. I gave me a haunting feeling to stare into the faces of young men who lived (and many died) nearly 100 years ago. 

What I Liked: I learned a lot from this audiobook and felt that the interview method was a very effective way to present this information.

What I Didn't Like: They did not make much of an effort give a comprehensive timeline or overview of the war. They highlighted interesting parts of it, but assumed the listener would be able to look up whatever additional information they wanted.

Rating: This is a perfect example of why I love NPR. I am going to check out their other American Chronicles collections.

Also Read by this Author: None.

Reviewed by: Nick

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