Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
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This is the exciting and highly literate story of the real Lawrence of Arabia, as written by Lawrence himself, who helped unify Arab factions against the occupying Turkish army, circa World War I. Lawrence has a novelist's eye for detail, a poet's command of the language, an adventurer's heart, a soldier's great story, and his memory and intellect are at least as good as all those. Lawrence describes the famous guerrilla raids, and train bombings you know from the movie, but also tells of the Arab people and politics with great penetration. Moreover, he is witty, always aware of the ethical tightrope that the English walked in the Middle East and always willing to include himself in his own withering insight.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom is the monumental work that assured T.E. Lawrence's place in history as "Lawrence of Arabia." Not only a consummate military history, but also a colorful epic and a lyrical exploration of the mind of a great man, this is one of the indisputable classics of 20th century English literature. Line drawings throughout.

Customer Reviews:

  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom
    The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a "Classic" in every sense of the word.
    It should be mandatory reading for all senior military commanders and cabinet members of government, in that they would have a better understanding of the Middle Eastern mind....more info
  • Desert War Deluxe Edition
    It's amazing that the first edition of this was lost on a train, and the author wrote this from memory. I had trouble getting "into" this book due to the size and number of characters and vocabulary. The 'abridged-abridged' version, "Revolt in the Desert" might be an easier read. A parallel book is "Desert Queen" by Janet Wallach, about Gertrude Bell....more info
  • Uplifting...
    "Seven Pillars" is both vibrant and introspective. Lawrence portrays his Arab acquaintances sensitively and his own exploits without pretense. This book is a must....more info
  • a great man
    To begin with, I feel I don't have a right to judge here, because I cannot judge a persons life. But I can give my opinion, I hope that the difference is clear.

    I have heard long ago that the famous movie was a real story, and much later, I discovered that Lawrence himself has written this tale down. And so I went and bought it. For three weeks - and this is a long time for me, who reads usually three books a week - couldn't put it down. I have always been more interested in people, than in history, but in this book is both. Although Lawrence very scarcly talks about himself, he is present on every page. I think the movie, good, but incorrect, had to fail on his person. The true Lawrence was a intelligent, arrogant, very sarcastic man; he was inconsistent a man. And, I think, always fighting not to break at it. I found there a truely great man, yet no hero in the way this word is used. He has done extraordinary thing in Arabia, and for the Arabs, not for the britsh, or himself. Maybe this is the meaning of "Hero" after all. To do something, that even today, people are spellbound by it, the story, the man, the philosophy. Maybe Lawrence was a hero, after all.

    By the way, Lawrence proves to be one of the most skilled writers I have ever seen.

    Finally, I can only say one thing: Read this book, no matter if you read in twenty years, or in french, or english, or if you carry it with you on your holiday on the moon. But read it....more info

  • Great old book
    This is the first person, and slightly egotistical, account of Lawrence of Arabia. It has lots of interesting anecdotes and maps....more info
  • The best Book I have ever read!!
    This book is facinating, intruging, but to the average boring without words. I find it as my favorite book, not so much for the war content, but for the experiance the author pulls you into. He paints a wounderful masterpeice of the dersert cultures, landscape, and his own hardships. I would greatly recomend this book....more info
  • Extraordinary Book by Extraordinary Man
    SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM would be that rarity, an extraordinary tale of action, adventure, politics, and introspection, told by a writer who was also a first-rate intellectual and man of letters (the two -are- different), if it weren't also part of a tradition in English letters: the man or woman such as Charles Doughty or Gertrude Bell or Hester Stanhope or Freya Stark, or the men who went off and played the Great Game in India and Afghanistan who willingly entered cultures alien to them and returned changed, with books for us.

    Of all of these, Lawrence has fascinated me most. I first read SEVEN PILLARS when I was twelve, and I've read it every couple of years since then. As I grow wiser, it grows richer.

    Lawrence was an unlikely defender of empire, an unlikelier man of action who forced himself into a kind of ascetic mental and physical preparation for the great deeds he felt himself called upon to play. Living as he did from 1888 to 1935, he was practically born in the last age where someone could express that claim without being ridiculed; and he found his war in the Arab Revolt, that long-lasting sideline to the War to End All Wars that produced more war -- and some great writers, among whom Lawrence was one.

    This is a story of war. It's also a story of heroism and of anguish, written by a man who not only shaped events, but was shaped -- and warped -- by them. It can be read as military strategy, political history, travel story, or pathology.

    But it's better to read it as itself: a unique and complex book written by a man who was loved and admired by the most famous people of his time, but who, in the end, wanted only obscurity and the anesthetizing speed of one of the motorcycles that killed him....more info

  • Not the Movie
    Readers like me, whose only knowledge of Lawrence of Arabia was from the excellent David Lean movie, will find this book eye-opening.

    There was a lot less youthful idealism and a lot more political savvy in the actual man than in Peter O'Toole's characterization. Lawrence was not such a social misfit nor so rebellious against authority as the film leads us to believe.

    Since this book is autobiography written as historical narrative, it tells us little about Lawrence's inner life except what we can infer from his attitudes towards the people of Arabia and his military superiors.

    Nevertheless, the story is so compelling that it's almost hard to believe that someone actually lived these experiences, were it not for the fame that Lawrence achieved during his lifetime thanks to the detailed newspaper accounts of his exploits.

    "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" is one of the true masterpieces of the twentieth century. ...more info
  • reveiw
    I'm currently reading this book and am enjoying every minute of it. I enjoy it as a military history, but people who aren't interested by military history would still enjoy this book. I highly reccomend it....more info
  • Leaders are self made...
    Lawrence sets the standard concerning leadership and success. A "dreamer of the day" is the one to be feared and respected.

    Military officers: If you haven't read and studied this book, you certainly cannot call yourself a student of the art. In addition to being a literary classic, this book is an effective treatise on unconventional warfare, and it is the bible for intercultural military relations....more info

  • Worth reading, but in some parts you may need Lawrence's perseverance
    Rightfully regarded as a modern classic, this book is nevertheless not light reading. This is a result of the density of information, as well as Lawrence's writing style, which often makes a re-reading of passages necessary to fully grasp them, besides his use of some unusual vocabulary. But by the time one has completed the journey to Damascus with Lawrence and his Arabs, one has almost got a taste for his own peculiar style, even if one cannot always agree with his views, which however, were pretty progressive for a man who grow up at the height of imperialism.

    There are, however, many contradictions in the man. At the start of the book, for example, he sympathizes with the unwilling Turkish conscipts, illiterate Anatolian peasants who really wished to be back home, led by a militaristic officer caste fresh from the Armenian genocide. Later in the book though, little sympathy is shown, and on one occasion when Lawrence was angered by the Turks, he did nothing to stop their massacre on their defeat, and left all their wounded where they fell - every one of hundreds froze to death in the cold winter night...

    But when one considers that he lost both brothers in 1915 in France, his father in 1919 of the Spanish influenza, and his closest friend, and probably boyfriend, Salim Ahmed, shortly before his entry into Damascus, one can be more forgiving of his attitude. And who can forget his botched execution of Hamed, who'd killed another man? To avoid a blood feud, Lawrence suggested that he execute the man, which was insisted on by the Arabs. 3 shots with his pistol, one of which hit the man on his wrist. No wonder he said he couldn't sleep that night. Or his having to shoot long-time compatriot Farrah in the head as he was too seriously injured to move, and wanted to avoid the inevitable torturing to death of Arab prisoners. Enver Pasha, the Turkish commander, had thrown so many men live into his furnace that he knew just how long it took before you heard the sound of their heads popping. Considering this background of brutality, Lawrence comes across as positively humane.

    The book has it's lighter moments though. Who can forget the tribe of the Ageyl, who were so poor they used to go into battle stripped to their loin cloths, both in the belief that it reduced their chances of infection if they were hit, as well as to protect their clothing from bullet holes or blood stains...the young Arabs urinating on others' wounds as the only antiseptic treatment in the desert...the Howeitat treatment of snake-bites - bind up the part with snake-skin plaster, and read chapters of the Koran to the sufferer until he died. Life was hard, and luxuries were few, something which seemed to attract Lawrence even more towards his mission of reaching Damascus and driving out the Turks, even if his conscience continued to bother him that the British Govt's promises to the Arabs were unlikely to be fulfilled.

    Finally, Lawrence claimed he left the original manuscript on the train, and had to rewrite the entire book from memory, an amazing feat considering the wealth of detail here. Actually, it would be a superhuman task, and Robert Graves, one of his best friends, believes the story was a lie. The implication is that Lawrence made out that he'd had to rewrite the book by recalling his memories as a cover for the fact that parts of the book are invented, and many facts changed, and that this would be the perfect excuse should his information later be found to be inaccurate. But why claim to have blown up over 70 bridges when the real number was around 20 or so?

    The answer is that this is a work of literature, and not a military textbook. We'll never be really sure of which parts are exactly true, and which merely invented as representing what typically happened. It's not always light reading, so set some time aside for this one, but when you get to the end, you'll be glad of having made the effort....more info
  • A Great Piece of Literature and History
    T.E.Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", published in 1926 is a stark contrast to much of the literary works of that time (compare to Virginia Woolf's "Orlando" published in 1928). I thought his dispassionate, photographic, unflowery, and crisply accurate and detailed descriptions of his experiences, his quick sizing up of the abilities and characters of the people he had to deal with, his self criticism, agonizing over his betrayal of the Arabs who helped him for the benefit of England to be very refreshing. His vocabulary was excellent. Somehow I find it hard to imagine Virginia Woolf as being self critical in a public way like Lawarence was. And her choice of words was about at the same level as Miss Manners.

    It is ironic that both books dealt with the Turks as an anvil. The Sick Man of Europe was disintegrating. Virginia's Orlando described the pleasant boredom of an ambassador's life in Instanbul and T.E. endured a bloody beating to avoid being raped by a homosexual officer in the Turkish army, between blowing up Turkish trains. Somehow that didn't make it to the movie.

    In the coddled civilization in which we men (and women) live today, it is a good reminder that there are reasons why you don't pander to the perverse, stupid, and ignorant. T. E. Lawarence maintained the highest standards, standing apart, the best of leaders. A good example and a book well written that is worth reading over and over....more info

  • Even better than the movie
    Movies are often more dazzling than the events they are based upon, but this is a rare instance in which even Hollywood and David Lean could not do justice to their larger than life subject matter. Although Lawrence seemed to think he was writing a history of WWI in the middle east, his account of the war is episodic and confusing. But that doesn't matter at all. This is one of the most astounding adventure stories ever told, all the more amazing because it's true. Or, if you're not an adventure enthusiast, read it as a travelogue of the middle east. Lawrence will fascinate you with such seemingly prosaic things as the texture of the Arabian sand. In many ways, this is one of the greatest books ever written. Lawrence was, however, a product of his times. His attitude toward the Arab people vascillates between admiration and patronization, and some readers might find this aspect of the book distasteful....more info
  • Beyond Triumph
    One cannot confine such a mans brillance into such words as these. 7 Pillars is a must read for any who questions their own humanity. It is a wonder of discription and varying emotions, never letting go. You are not just reading about Lawrence in this text you are pulled in and become him. Through his eyes and mind you are involved totally in one of the greatest events in western civilization. Which all being extreemly accurate and living. Read this book!!!!!!!...more info
  • A Unique Masterpiece
    This is one of the great books of the 20th century. That it could be written at all is almost a miracle in itself. Take a brilliant Oxford student trained in the old classical tradition, place him in the Arabian desert as advisor to the wild Bedouin tribesmen during their revolt against the Turks and have him write with an acute sensitivity and unparalleld insight into what was transpiring before him and you may have some notion of what the book is like.
    It's a long book. You will learn a great deal about blowing up a railroad bridge in the desert, about camel rides, thirst, and hunger and the heroism and brutality of war. The portraits of Sheik Auda, Sherrif Ali and Prince Faisal of the two Arab boys who Lawrence takes under his wing are masterpieces in and of themselves. The nobility and savagery of the desert tribesmen contrasted with the cold stoicism of the British and the inculcated cruelty of the Turks are just some of themes addressed during the course of the work. There are brilliant passing insights as to the Semitic inspiration for all the revealed religions and their relation to the desert beautiful descripitions of the terrain the weather and the obstacles encountered. When Lawrence says that from the beginning he believed the Arab revolt would succeed because it grew out of a sympathetic population was opposed by a modern army that could not garrison the territory occupied one wishes that President Bush had read it instead of just seeing the movie. Read it yourself....more info
  • I've only read it twice - dynamite!
    Whatever the truth of his account, (see the numerous Lawrence biographies - the more critical the better) this book is brilliantly worded.

    An orchestra of prose produced by a sharp English mind. The text is so poised, sharp and simply pulls you into Lawrences analysis of affiars stressing his judgement and also his regal vanity.

    One of the most powerful reads of the 20th C. The English is hard to beat - a wonder of prose. If you like that style, try T. E. Lawrence's translation of the Odyssey as well.

    I wish I could memorise much of this book - a controlled explosive account....more info

  • Unbelievable adventure!
    It is hard to believe that one person experienced this much adventure. It is a true epic! This is a work of historical significance for contemporary times. Col. Lawrence's tremendous way of writing let's the reader see the beauty he saw in the Arabian desert. It makes the reader heartsick as one shares in the deep guilt that Lawrence felt during his participation in what he perceived as a lie. It's hard to put this book down. History lovers or war buffs will love this book!...more info
  • You must read this.
    This is an epic account of the role he played in Arabia during WWI which subsequently spawned the film (good, but not half so good as the book) 'Lawrence of Arabia'. A fascinating and highly intelligent account, which charts how he helped (some would say he was crucial, though he would deny it) to stir up a major rebellion against the Turks, forging to achieve this powerful nationalist sentiments which have yet to recede fully. Some people might think it goes on somewhat too long, but really there's nothing there which I wouldn't have wanted to read, and I would sincerely recommend this for just about anyone. The detailed character portrayals, intense self-analysis and involved schemes described here are worth their weight in gold....more info
  • $4 extra avoids abridgement
    I own an original first edition (and did not realize its value until recently), but in searching for this book to add a link from within my new book on Irregular Warfare: Waging Peace, I realized the reader is faced with two choices today, one costing $4 more than the other. I believe I found the explanation in the less expensive version, which is described as "severely abridged." So all things being equal, buy this version instead.

    There is no finer summary of this work that I have encountered in my literature search than "T.E. Lawrence And the Mind of An Insurgent" by James J. Schneider, Ph.D., a professor of military theory at the School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Previously published in 2005 in varied works, it can be easily found online by searching for the author and title.

    My preliminary research for the new book shows that the Lieutenant Colonels/Commanders and some Colonels/Captains of the Navy get it, but the flags do not. Even the vaunted counterinsurgency handbook avoids dealing with three realities:

    1. Absent a moral legitimizing strategy that includes a commitment to sufficiency of presence, no occupation will succeed.

    2. Absent a national intelligence community willing and able to jump deep into Multinational, Multiagency, Multidisciplinary, Multidomain Information Sharing and Sense-Making (M4IS2), no commander will succeed.

    3. It costs asymmetric irregular warriors $1 for every $500,000 they force us to spend with our present idiotic emphasis on technology as a substitute for both thinking and human presence. They can keep this up forever, we cannot.

    IMHO, Dr. Schneider's distillation is utterly brilliant, and if the publisher issues a new edition, I urge the publisher to obtain permission to include Dr. Schneider's distillation as a new professional preface.

    Although I have a very very large personal library (photo at, here are the books I bought today as part of my homework. In the comment I provide the URLs for the pieces I have had printed locally.

    Modern irregular warfare: In defense policy and as a military phenomenon
    The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism
    Counterinsurgency and the Global War on Terror: Military Culture and Irregular War (Stanford Security Studies)
    Asymmetric Warfare: Threat and Response in the 21st Century
    Guerrilla Warfare: Irregular Warfare in the Twentieth Century (Stackpole Military History Series)
    The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual
    Never Surrender: A Soldier's Journey to the Crossroads of Faith and Freedom
    Kill Bin Laden: A Delta Force Commander's Account of the Hunt for the World's Most Wanted Man

    Two other books I already own within my ten link limit:
    War of the Flea: The Classic Study of Guerrilla Warfare
    Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam

    And everything written by H. John Poole, but especially Tactics of the Crescent Moon, Phantom Soldier, One More Bridge to Cross, and Tiger's Way. Also Col Hammes on Sling and Stone, Mao and Che, Max Manwaring's various works including Search for Security, Uncomfortable Wars, and Environmental Security....and on, and on, and on....IRWF is finally "in" now we just have to spend ten years waiting for the current flags to retire....more info
  • Stubborn and courageous quest for significance in the desert
    One of the enduring themes of Lawrence's story for me is his stubborn and courageous quest for significance, which came closest to reaching the grail in the hostile world of the Arabian desert and its bedouin culture, which both attracted and repelled him. Readers for whom that theme resonates may want to compare a new account of Lawrence's bold desert predecessor, Charles Doughty, whom Lawrence acknowledged as a mentor and whose "Travels in Arabia Deserta" was a vital guide during the Arabian campaign. Lawrence's public recognition of Doughty - in "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" and elsewhere - rescued the old explorer-writer from obscurity and the two became admiring friends. They shared many of the same conflicts, deriving from partial acceptance of English traditional values and the occasional attraction of the more elemental norms of their reluctant Arab hosts. Andrew Taylor's "God's Fugitive" (available from Amazon.UK) tells the fascinating story of Doughty's lonely and dangerous travels in the 1870s, which he started by smuggling himself along with a Haj caravan to Mecca, as well as of his obdurate refusal to compromise with militant Bedouin Muslims or conventional English editors....more info
  • Great account but a difficult read
    As the other reviews clearly state, this book is very well written. However, this book is not for the casual reader. First of all, anyone expecting an action-packed adventure will be disappointed. This book doesn't get going until after the first 100 pages. In addition, it is a difficult read and you will probably need to read it twice to take it all in. There are literally over 200 locations and another 200 characters! They are mostly Arabic names and quite challenging to keep straight. Also, in Arabic fashion, the same name can be spelled in different ways. This annoyed me because the book is obviously written for an English speaking audience and I see no reason why the naming convention could not be more consistent. Nevertheless, this book is filled with a great deal of timeless wisdom that can be unlocked with some effort....more info
  • As Confronting As It Is Poetic And Beautiful
    TE Lawrence (1888-1935) the British soldier, poet and scholar wrote this insightful personal account of the Arab Revolt based on his war journals which is as confronting as it is poetic and beautiful. How could one not be enthralled by the writings and perspectives of a fine intellectual mind tormented by the reality of war and hypocrisy? What makes this book unique and powerful is Lawrence's sensibility as a poet and a soldier. Even if you are not into war history, this is a riveting book you can't afford to miss....more info
  • Seven Pillars of Wisdom
    Although a bit confusing in his presentation of dozens of key characters unfamiliar to the reader, Lawrence paints an extraordinary sketch of a time and people otherwise just a footnote to World history. The richness of the text and word pictures were worth the time spent laboring through massive amounts of detailed narrative....more info
  • Great... fiction?
    This book is great and the movie based on this book is great. Lawrence's account of the facts, however, is apparently "on thin ice" in many cases. If you enjoy this book, then I'd also suggest "A Peace to End All Peace" by David Fromkin (ISBN: 0380713004)....more info
  • Every detail
    If you sit down with a map and note pad to keep track of names and locations it is like being with him on the sand dunes. Just like going through the desert this is a book to take slowly. But you have to have a stong interst in the Arab situation of WWI....more info