The best T. E. Lawrence books

4 authors have picked their favorite books about T. E. Lawrence and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of Seven Pillars of Wisdom

This is a brilliant autobiographical account of the astonishing experiences of British Army Colonel T.E. Lawrence ("Lawrence of Arabia") as he served as a military advisor to Bedouin forces during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks, 1916-1918. With the support of Emir Faisal and his tribesmen in Wadi Rum, he helped carry out attacks on the Ottoman forces from Aqaba in the south to Damascus in the north. Many sites inside the Wadi Rum area have been named after Lawrence, including the rock formations near the entrance now known as "The Seven Pillars."

Seven Pillars of Wisdom

By T.E. Shaw,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Seven Pillars of Wisdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an Introduction by Angus Calder.

As Angus Calder states in his introduction to this edition, 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom is one of the major statements about the fighting experience of the First World War'. Lawrence's younger brothers, Frank and Will, had been killed on the Western Front in 1915. Seven Pillars of Wisdom, written between 1919 and 1926, tells of the vastly different campaign against the Turks in the Middle East - one which encompasses gross acts of cruelty and revenge and ends in a welter of stink and corpses in the disgusting 'hospital' in Damascus.

Seven Pillars of…


Who am I?

From a young age, I have been obsessed with the Arabic language and culture. In 1959, I studied this language at Durham University, graduating Summa Cum Laude – including living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem for a number of months. Then moving on to further studies in Arabic at Cambridge University, graduating with a First Class Honors degree. Over the next decades, I have made many trips to the Middle East, working on a number of projects, including stints in North Africa, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jerusalem, Kuwait, and the Persian Gulf. Most recently, I served as the Arabic consultant on the Netflix TV series House of Cards.


I wrote...

The Making of a Suicide Bomber

By David Stansfield,

Book cover of The Making of a Suicide Bomber

What is my book about?

A couple of months ago, my wife stumbled on a notebook I’d kept while living with a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in the summer of 1961 to brush up my colloquial Arabic as part of my studies in that language at Cambridge University. I’d completely forgotten about this notebook and was amazed when I read it 60 years later and realized that it was a book waiting to be written.

Hence The Making of a Suicide Bomber, my attempt to put you, the reader, into the shoes of one particular people, some of whose members have been driven to such an extreme of pain and desperation they are prepared to do the unthinkable. This personal Odyssey proceeds through half a lifetime of experience with the Arab world that ends – well, but for the grace of God, it could well have ended very much as described in my book.

Assignment

By Walter Henry Thompson,

Book cover of Assignment: Churchill

It will take some digging, but do try to hunt this down. Thompson was assigned as Churchill's bodyguard just a week before the 1921 Cairo Peace Conference began. His account of his boss's attitudes and habits is refreshingly irreverent. (While smoking a cigar, Churchill “looked like an upholstered toad, slowly incinerating himself.”) Thompson also provides an important contemporaneous description of how T. E. Lawrence was regarded by Arabs in 1921, before either he or Churchill became enveloped in mythology.

Assignment

By Walter Henry Thompson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Assignment as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

AN UNIQUE, INTIMATE VIEW OF WINSTON CHURCHILL BY THE MAN WHO GUARDED HIM NIGHT AND DAY FOR 20 MOMENTOUS YEARS.

When Tommy Thompson as assigned to guard Winston Churchill by Scotland Yard he shuddered. Churchill was considered a tough assignment and Thompson had had his share of tough ones. From Lloyd George to King Alexander of Yugoslavia. But he did it for almost 20 years.

Here is a delightful intimate view of the great statesman and his contemporaries—Lawrence of Arabia, F.D.R., Joseph Stalin, seen with the well-trained eye of a Scotland Yard man.

“As intimate a portrait of Churchill as…


Who am I?

Mary Doria Russell is the New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of The Sparrow, Children of God, A Thread of Grace, Dreamers of the Day, Doc, Epitaph, and The Women of the Copper Country. Widely praised for her meticulous research, fine prose, and compelling narrative drive.


I wrote...

Dreamers of the Day

By Mary Doria Russell,

Book cover of Dreamers of the Day

What is my book about?

A novel about the making of the modern Middle East. A schoolteacher still reeling from the tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic travels to the Middle East in this memorable and passionate novel. With prose as graceful and effortless as a seductive float down the Nile, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidates a few pivotal days in Cairo that changed the world.

Hero

By Michael Korda,

Book cover of Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

This wasn't available to me when I was writing Dreamers of the Day, but it deepened my compassion and respect for Lawrence, despite and because of his complexity. IMO, this is the best and most complete biography with much detail not available to prior biographers, particularly about Lawrence's later work as a marine engineer and technical writer.

Hero

By Michael Korda,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Hero as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'This magnificent, monumental portrait at a stroke makes all others redundant, and re-establishes Lawrence as one of the most extraordinary figures of the 20th century' Sunday Times

Michael Korda' s Hero is an epic biography of the mysterious Englishman whose daring exploits made him an object of intense fascination, known the world over as Lawrence of Arabia.


An Oxford Scholar and archaeologist, one of five illegitimate sons of a British aristocrat who ran away with his daughters' governess, T.E. Lawrence was sent to Cairo as an intelligence officer in 1916, vanished into the desert in 1917, and re-emerged as one…


Who am I?

Mary Doria Russell is the New York Times best-selling and award-winning author of The Sparrow, Children of God, A Thread of Grace, Dreamers of the Day, Doc, Epitaph, and The Women of the Copper Country. Widely praised for her meticulous research, fine prose, and compelling narrative drive.


I wrote...

Dreamers of the Day

By Mary Doria Russell,

Book cover of Dreamers of the Day

What is my book about?

A novel about the making of the modern Middle East. A schoolteacher still reeling from the tragedies of the Great War and the influenza epidemic travels to the Middle East in this memorable and passionate novel. With prose as graceful and effortless as a seductive float down the Nile, Mary Doria Russell illuminates the long, rich history of the Middle East with a story that brilliantly elucidates a few pivotal days in Cairo that changed the world.

The Odyssey

By Homer, T. E. Lawrence (translator),

Book cover of The Odyssey

I think, in truth, that while I love the translation, it is really Homer and the understanding he has given me of the society that came to create all we think of as “Western Thought.” Odysseus was a man from whom I have learned much about being a man. Alone, cut off from all his companions he struggled for ten years and against obstacles thrown at him by the gods – ok, one god – armed with only his wit, cunning, and courage. And no matter what was thrown at him, he struggled and never gave up. And in the end his perseverance led him to be wrapped in the arms of all his loved and held dear.

The Odyssey

By Homer, T. E. Lawrence (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Odyssey as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Homer's great epic, The Odyssey, is perhaps Western literature's first adventure story, and certainly remains one of its finest. It describes King Odysseus of Ithaca's epic, ten-year quest to return home after the Trojan War. He encounters giants, sorceresses, sea-monsters and sirens, while his wife Penelope is forced to resist the suitors who besiege her on Ithaca. Both an enchanting fairy tale and a gripping drama, The Odyssey is immensely influential, not least for its rich complexity and the magnetism of its hero.

This Macmillan Collector's Library edition uses a translation by T. E. Lawrence, now remembered as 'Lawrence of…


Who am I?

I heard a Jordan Peterson interview in which he boiled down my entire life’s struggle in a single phrase.  The interviewer was pushing Jordon on the subject of male toxicity. Jordon said something like, “If a man is entirely unwilling to fight under any circumstance, he is merely a weakling. Ask in martial arts trainer and they will tell you they teach two things – the ability to fight and self-control. A man who knows how and also knows how to control himself is a man.”


I wrote...

Non-Semper Fidelis

By Sam Foster,

Book cover of Non-Semper Fidelis

What is my book about?

Non-Semper Fidelis is set in the USMC during the Vietnam era. The novel is about race in the USMC during a period when all of America was in flames after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  

The Marine Corp is an organization run, and run with the efficiency of a precision machine, based on adherence to a strict code of conduct enforced by not only demanding leadership but the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The code is not designed to flex with the morality of the moment, even when that moment is one of the greatest social changes in American history. The struggle is reflected in two men’s attempt to maintain a personal code of honor and still adhere to the UCMJ. 

Jerusalem

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Book cover of Jerusalem: The Biography

For those curious about whether there is a God (or not), a good place to sit and think about it is Jerusalem, which three major religions consider to it be a very sacred place: Jews, Christians, and Muslims (plus the Armenians, for added value). A place with an extraordinary history of conquest and religious fervour.

Jerusalem

By Simon Sebag Montefiore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Jerusalem as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A new, updated, revised edition of JERUSALEM: THE BIOGRAPHY, the wider history of the Middle East through the lens of the Holy City, covering from pre-history to 2020, from King David to Donald Trump.

The story of Jerusalem is the story of the world.

Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today's clash of civilisations. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the 'centre of the world' and now the key to peace in the Middle East? Drawing…


Who am I?

I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 40 years and now pass on that knowledge to mentees and university students. The key to success in business is being able to attract and then learn from mentors, who, in my opinion, always should provide their knowledge, wisdom, and connections free of charge. As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to go down ‘The Dark Side’, especially if the pursuit of money and power becomes overwhelming. Many famous billionaires are not especially nice people. But there are many nice businesspeople out there and I aspire to be one of those, hence my pursuit of a daily advancement in esoteric, hermetic, and other knowledge.


I wrote...

The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

By Mike Southon, Chris West,

Book cover of The Beermat Entrepreneur: Turn Your good idea into a great business

What is my book about?

The Beermat Entrepreneur helps you convert your jotted notes about your business idea into a big and successful business. With wit and humour, this quick-to-read and simple-to-use book could turn your beermat inspiration into reality.

You’ve got a bright idea. An idea that you think maybe, just maybe, could become a brilliant business. But what next? The Beermat Entrepreneur is the answer. It takes you through all the crucial stages between those first notes on a beermat and a business that is sound, lasting, and profitable. It tells you what the other books don’t – the lessons that most people have to learn by bitter experience; the tricks that all entrepreneurs wish somebody had told them before they set out. From testing your idea and finding a mentor, through selecting and motivating the right people and securing your first customer, to deciding when to ‘go for growth’ – this is the guide to turning good ideas into real businesses.

Lawrence in Arabia

By Scott Anderson,

Book cover of Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

T.E. Lawrence, best known from David Lean’s monumental film, is the centerpiece, but this book goes well beyond biography. It has the pace and feel of a thriller, but the research and analytical thinking of a serious historic account. Anderson, a novelist and war correspondent, finds the roots of today’s Middle East turmoil in World War I. He finds alliances, intrigue, and deceit that foreshadowed the turbulent future. His story provides valuable insight into the international politics that shaped the Mid-East after World War I, and set the stage for the dissonant future.

Lawrence in Arabia

By Scott Anderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lawrence in Arabia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller

The Arab Revolt against the Turks in World War One was, in the words of T.E. Lawrence, 'a sideshow of a sideshow'. Amidst the slaughter in European trenches, the Western combatants paid scant attention to the Middle Eastern theatre. As a result, the conflict was shaped to a remarkable degree by a small handful of adventurers and low-level officers far removed from the corridors of power.

At the centre of it all was Lawrence. In early 1914 he was an archaeologist excavating ruins in the sands of Syria; by 1917 he was battling both…


Who am I?

I have spent my working life as a journalist, author and storyteller, aiming to uncover complexity that sheds new light on stories we think we know. I got my training at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—and from the wonderful editors of my twelve books. An Innocent Bystander, my book that deals with the Middle East, began as the story of a hijacking and a murder of an American citizen. But as my research widened, I came to see this story couldn’t be told without understanding many perspectives, including the Israeli and the Palestinian, nor could the political be disentangled from the personal.


I wrote...

An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

By Julie Salamon, Julie Salamon,

Book cover of An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

What is my book about?

My book is about the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and the killing of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American passenger. His murder became a historic flashpoint for the intractable struggle between Israelis and Palestinians and gave Americans a horrifying preview of what it means when terrorism hits home. An Innocent Bystander began as the story of that shattering moment and what it meant to the world and to the Klinghoffers, an American-Jewish family. As I learned more, the book’s scope widened, to investigate the tragic reverberations for the wives and sons of the Palestinian mastermind behind the hijacking.

Running through the core of my book lies the painful history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through the stories of these families, An Innocent Bystander illuminates the complex web of personal and historic grievances that lay behind the geopolitics of a region that remains in turmoil.

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