All Quiet on the Western Front

By Erich Maria Remarque, Arthur Wesley Wheen (translator),

Book cover of All Quiet on the Western Front

Book description

The story is told by a young 'unknown soldier' in the trenches of Flanders during the First World War. Through his eyes we see all the realities of war; under fire, on patrol, waiting in the trenches, at home on leave, and in hospitals and dressing stations. Although there are…

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Why read it?

8 authors picked All Quiet on the Western Front as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Volunteering to join the British Army as I did and consequently serving with The Parachute Regiment, it would have been very easy as a young man to be wrapped up in the reputation, tradition, glory, and ceremony of that unit and to forget what duties you might be called upon to perform. Similar in fact to the character of Paul Baumer, the young idealistic German soldier, full of patriotism and eager to fight the foe in the trenches of WW1. The reality is horrifyingly different, as superbly described by the author from his own harrowing experiences on the Western Front.…

I’m interested in the history of twentieth-century Germany and the effect on ordinary Germans of both World Wars. Some of my north German relatives fought in and survived the First World War, and Rilke’s poignant viewpoint touches me greatly. I found this book to be a winner, even as the German soldiers lost everything.

Learning as much as possible about the feelings held by the “other side” of a conflict is fascinating and personally expanding. Remarque's novel is not about dates and battles, but rather presents sensitive views of the feelings and reactions of those caught in any War and…

It’s always good to see a story told from both sides, to look at the tragedy and futility of war from every point of view. This book is a poignant and true psychological insight into the mind of a man who holds tight to his vow to fight against the principles of hate and the farce of young men of one mind, yet in different uniforms, pitting themselves against each other for no real reason at all.

By the time I read this book, I was pretty much set on my path of writing books about various wars and the…

I discovered this classic First World War novel in a bookcase in our crowded basement rec room when I was eleven. I read from it anytime I went down there, and it really impressed itself upon my consciousness and helped inspire me to (eventually) write my own modern war story. In it, Paul Baumer, a sensitive German high school student and patriot, joins the German Army at the behest of a patriotic teacher, and he soon finds himself embroiled in the chaos and carnage of the Western Front. There is no plot, really, just the story of a young man…

In spare prose, Remarque delivers a portrait of a young German, Paul Baumer, who is dehumanized by modern mechanized combat; not only is Baumer changed forever by the death and carnage he is forced to endure but by the way in which that experience profoundly alienates him from “home” and “self” — family, culture, memory. 

In one of the book’s unforgettable scenes, Paul and his comrades hear a wounded man calling for help from somewhere out in No Man's Land. But no matter how hard they try to find the man they can’t; all the while the man’s pitiable calls…

I have always been passionate about history. As one who believes we can’t understand where mankind is going if we don’t understand where we’ve been this work found me in my teens and is one I’ve never been able to shake. Based on his years as a German soldier in the trenches of World War I, Remarque’s novel is a masterpiece on the realities of war. Inside its pages you will find a vivid, incredibly realistic tale, compelling characters, and a gut-wrenching story.

While all the books I am recommending are works of fiction, each provides compelling insights into the…

The first book I ever read about WWI, this is a classic not to be missed. It’s of particular interest because it’s from the viewpoint of a conscripted German boy (so often novels are from the Allied perspective). It really cuts deep, with a strong anti-war message, and pulls no punches in its vivid descriptions of the physical and emotional conditions of the boys who fought. 

I was sixteen when I read this anti-war masterpiece. Till then I had entertained a romantic view of warfare; all the deaths were clean and each death full of pathos and meaning. But as I followed Paul’s journey from naïve youngster to hardened, cynical veteran, I learnt of war’s true horror...and its utter futility. The cemetery scene still lives with me. And the final scene…talk about a climax!

From Philip's list on wartime historical fiction.

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