Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph by T.E. Lawrence, 4/5

It’s a good thing I like being surprised, because this book first revealed, then blasted all the misconceptions of “Lawrence of Arabia” I’d somehow accumulated, picturing him as an England-hating, obnoxiously gay, stuck-up poser, whose main rebellious achievements were dressing in robes, getting impossibly tanned and prancing around on a camel.  This impression was absolutely wrong and I finished the book with an opposite opinion, inspired by Lawrence’s toughness and unique mixture of confidence and self-deprecation.  Somehow, he managed to live honorably while torn between loyalty to England and determination to keep her lightly-made promises to the Arab people.  He valued intellectualism over all merely physical concerns, but a poetic nature, sense of humor and keen observational insights into humanity made him human and keep the book from being a dry military treatise.  It reads more like an adventure story than anything and I was never bored, pretty amazing for a book about one of the few remaining topics that holds no interest for me – Middle Eastern culture and politics.

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