Readers interested in more personal narratives about aspects of "the great war" have a number of titles to choose from, including travel narratives that take the authors to the war's battlefields many years after the conflict, memoirs about the war by those who experienced it first hand, and fictional accounts of those who fought in the war.
- In The Trigger: Taking the Journey that Led the World to War (2014), Tim Butcher follows the path of Gavrilo Princip, whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 was the event that set World War I in motion. Butcher covered the 1990s Balkans conflict for the Daily Telegraph and is best-known for his 2009 travel narrative about the Congo, Blood River: The Terrifying Journey Through The World's Most Dangerous Country. In The Trigger, Butcher not only follows the journey of the relatively unknown assassin from his birthplace in the in western Bosnia to Sarajevo, where the assassination took place; he also looks at the history of Bosnia and his own memories of the horrors that he witnessed there in the 1990s.
- In the summer of 1986, journalist and film critic Stephen O'Shea walked 450 miles of trenches from the seaside in Belgium to the border of France and Switzerland in order to discover the meaning of the First World War for himself and his generation. The result is an excellent book, Back to the Front: An Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I (1996). O’Shea's grandfather had fought in World War I, and O'Shea travels through the battlefields of Somme, Verdun, and Argonne and through lands dotted with cemeteries and monuments. His writing is poetic, descriptive, and sorrowful, as he contemplates the millions of lives needlessly lost through the incompetence of generals and poor battle planning and the deep scar left by the war on Western culture and the Western imagination.
- Tony Wright’s engaging and easy-to-read Turn Right at Istanbul: A Walk on the Gallipoli Peninsula (2004) combines travel narrative and practical travel guide with a look at the stories of the young Australians who participated in the disastrous attack on the peninsula in World War I. On his journey, Wright carries a diary written by his great uncle George, who had landed at Gallipoli in 1915 and whose spirit follows Wright as he pauses before the graves and interacts with Turkish hosts and Australian travelling companions.
- Nigel Jones, whose uncle was killed near Ypres during World War I, traveled to several battlefields in The War Walk: A Journey Along the Western Front (2004), a book that combines his own observations with anecdotes from some of the Great War’s last survivors. Jones does a particularly nice job of describing the major battles of the war as well as summarizing the strategies of the adversaries.
- Robert Graves’s Good-Bye to All That: An Autobiography (1929) is one of the best, if not the best, memoirs of World War I. Graves, who would eventually write I, Claudius and other well-known works, joined the service in 21 and served first as a lieutenant, then as a captain in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. His book offers detailed descriptions of the horrors of trench warfare. In addition to his memories of the war, Graves writes about his childhood and his early post-war life, when he bids "good bye" to a way of life, the pre-war "old order".
- The classic novel about World War I is Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), which tells the story of a German soldier at the front, but a more romantic novel related to “the war to end all wars” is Sebastian Japrisot’s engaging novel, A Very Long Engagement (2004), which involves a woman who refuses to believe that her fiancé has been killed in the war and searches for him through France in the 1920s. (The film based on the novel, which starred Audrey Tautou, is also called “A Very Long Engagement” and was nominated for a Golden Globe for best foreign language film.)
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