This was the first serious book on WWI that I read. It should be made clear, as I think another reviewer bemoans, that this is not a chronological military history, but rather a 'meta'-historical account that examines the war from various perspectives running orthogonal to the timeline. So we come to understand the social, economic, industrial and political dimensions of the war.
I give it five stars because it exploded so many of the pre-conceptions I had held about the war. In the 60s & 70s when I was doing my O-level history at school the wisdom imparted was that WWI was a misery inflicted upon the masses by an uncaring ruling class. I now understand that none of the belligerent populations (with the complex exception of Russia) would have tolerated capitulation by their governments. I learned how Lloyd George as minister of munitions transformed Britain's munitions industry (that was making more duds than effectives) from a haphazard and rather ineffectual club of gentleman industrialists into a unified system of mass production that put Britain back into the fight. We learn about decisive technological and strategic failures and the decisive strategic and technological successes.
One of the most interesting chapters is the final one that deals with the history of Germany's war guilt. Once more the wisdom taught in my schooldays was that Germany was the unequivocal villain in the whole tragedy. But we find in this chapter that there was a long and complex story that lead up to Germany accepting this mantle that was actually encouraged by its more straightforward culpability for WWII. And that the story might yet take another twist as modern Germany starts to examine the origins afresh.
One thing I must say is that I now have read several detailed accounts of the beginnings of the war and how it escalated from the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand, and there are as many interpretations of what happened and where the blame lies, as there are accounts. Counterfactual aguments abound - if Russia had not mobilised so early against Austro-Hungary, and so on, and most controversially perhaps, would it truly have just been a replay of the Franco-Prussion war and over by Christmas if Lord Grey had not committed Britain to the fray. So, caveat emptor, take no single account of the origins of the war as definitive. I think it was Hugh Trevor-Roper that said that the final cause of WWI was that an intricate system of checks and balances that had given general peace in Europe for a hundred years, just suddenly went off the rails, as it was sooner or later bound to do. In the end it was everybody's fault and nobody's.