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Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  4,802 ratings  ·  330 reviews

T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935) first won fame for his writings and his participation in the British-sponsored Arab Revolt of WWI, but the adventurer known even in his day as "Lawrence of Arabia" is remembered today mostly as the subject of the 1962 film masterpiece based on his life. This splendid page-turner revitalizes this protean, enigmatic adventurer. That this colorful Br

Hardcover, 699 pages
Published November 16th 2010 by Harper
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Start your review of Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia
Very enjoyable read on T.E. Lawrence, with an emphasis on why he was a true hero in the classical sense. In his thoughtful, even handed approach, Korda demystifies his role in facilitating the Arab revolt of diverse tribes against the Turkish during World War 1 and the establishment of Iraq, Jordan, and Israel in the post-war division of the Ottoman Empire.

Korda addresses some of the negative viewpoints on Lawrence taken by other biographers and historians and does well to try to deflate the ps
Nov 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Mike by:
Masterpiece, magnum opus, tour de force, throw in every superlative you can find to describe an incredible story about an inspiring hero and tragic man! Of all the millions who fought in all the theaters of WWI, this man is probably the first and only one who comes to mind if asked to name someone from that conflict. This 5 Star biography of T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia will introduce you to someone you would want to meet, given the chance. If all you know about Lawrence is the David Lea ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-east, ww1
This is one of the best books that I have read covering the life & times of T.E. Lawrence - 'Lawrence of Arabia'. The author covers in great detail his activities in the Middle East during WW1 but also provides lots of interesting information about Lawrence before the War and what happened to him post WW1. In fact, the accounts of his pre and post war experiences are just as interesting as his activities during the War, maybe even more so.

I found the author was a joy to read and presented Lawren
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Korda's life of Lawrence fits on the same shelf with those by Robert Graves, B. H. Liddell Hart, and (best of all) Jeremy Wilson. It's interesting to have read it while rereading Lawrence's own account, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," and Hart's. F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote, "Show me a hero and I'll show you a tragedy." It's more interesting to wonder what else Lawrence would have written about his efforts and disillusionment had he not had his famous fatal motorcycle accident. In any case, Korda' ...more
Jenny Brown
Jan 17, 2011 rated it liked it
The second half of this book is far more interesting than the first, which is a shame because I came close to giving up through the first few chapters which told me far more about Lawrence's military action in taking Aqaba than I wanted to know. By the end of the book it became clearer why I might want to know those details, but Korda just dumps them on us without giving us the orientation that would put what he's telling us in perspective.

My other cavil with this book is that Korda is mostly re
Dec 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Having read most books on TEL (including Seven Pillars of Wisdom), I would have to say this is shaping up to be the best biography on TEL. Granted it starts off in a unique way, and is 700+ pages, but at page 220 I'm finding it hard to put down and one I don't want to end. Korda has uncovered information about TEL I didn't know before - why this has been missed in other biographies is beyond me. It adds to the TEL enigma. Korda's writing style is generally easy to read, however some sentences ca ...more
Michael Flanagan
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, biography
If you only read one book on the life of Lawrence of Arabia then this book should be the one. The author delivers a well-researched book that peels back the myths surrounding the man. It also gives us a great insight into the time and the world in which he lived.

Lawrence is one of those rare people that have played a big part of the world we live in. Korda covers a lot of issues that are still relevant today, especially concerning the Middle East. This book goes beyond the Lawrence of Arabia an
Sep 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: maps, biography, ebook
Upwards of fifty biographies have been written about T. E. Lawrence (“of Arabia”). This is one of them. Why the author would undertake such an effort almost a century after the events which catapulted Lawrence to fame only he can tell. It’s not a bad biography, though its efforts to “balance” the record is unbalanced by the author’s many self- and family-referential comments.

Lawrence seems to have spent the first half of his life preparing to become a hero, was one for a couple years, then spent
Very enjoyable read on T.E. Lawrence, with an emphasis on why he was a true hero in the classical sense.

In his thoughtful, even handed approach, Korda demystifies his role in facilitating the Arab revolt of diverse tribes against the Turkish during World War 1 and the establishment of Iraq, Jordan, and Israel in the post-war division of the Ottoman Empire. Korda addresses some of the negative viewpoints on Lawrence taken by other biographers and historians and does well to try to deflate the ps
Apr 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Was amazed at how different the real Lawrence of Arabia was than portrayed by Peter O'Toole in the movie- real Lawrence was very short(while O'Toole is very tall) and made fun of anyone taller than him. Was a true hero and survived many grim brushes with death. ...more
Nov 16, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
An epic biography to complement the epic movie. Don't be intimidated by the page count. It's hard not to engage in hagiography when the life of Lawrence is told. What a complex and fascinating man!! Korda's book is truly fair and balanced and seems to be a homage to a childhood hero. He was both a Nelson and a Lady Diana of his time. I'd always been curious about what he did with his life after WWI and the accident that took him from the world so early. Korda delves into this chapter of Lawrence ...more
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Dec 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
I do not know if this is the best biography of Lawrence of Arabia, but I certainly felt I learned a lot about the Middle East during WWI and Lawrence's role in helping the Arabs and consequently the British gain control of several of the Arab countries and bring about the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

This book does not glamorize, nor romanticize Lawrence's life, nor T.H. Lawrence as a person, but neither did it seem slanted the other way. Lawrence is enigmatic as a person, but also quite fierce as
Arun Divakar
May 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Allow me to enumerate here the characteristic traits of a certain British gentleman :

•A crack shot with a rifle or a pistol
•A dedicated reader with a prodigious memory
•Has a brilliant command over multiple languages
•A gifted writer in English who has churned out multiple books, one of which was a best seller
•Competent at archaeology, architecture and structural drawings and
•Rides a motorcycle !

The last one was considered more of a superpower during the early 1900’s when this gentleman was alive
May 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dear Michael Korda,
is it common practice among biographers to cite other biographers as primary evidence rather than, say, the "ample evidence" there is in historical letters and documents?

As others have pointed out, this feels like an admittedly well-written and very readablee reworking of the more accepted TEL biographies rather than an independent research to show something new. The 'Hero' angle was interesting and when Joseph Campbell was mentioned (on p141 for the first time...) I thought,
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2018
Excellent biography of an immensely fascinating figure. Korda succeeds admirably in the tightrope walk of objectivity, highlighting his subject's incredible achievements without succumbing to blind hero worship that would lead him to omit controversies and flaws. ...more
Aug 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I really had no idea how riveting the story of T.E Lawrence’s life would be, when I picked up Michael Korda’s Hero; The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia. Lawrence, was a complex man of extraordinary talents and Korda does well in presenting him as such.

T.E. Lawrence was an expert of medieval castles, and ancient pottery, an archaeologist, a military strategist, the leader of a force of Arabs who helped to turn the tide in World War I, a force and political strategist who helped to define th
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Another must read. I was a fan of the movie Lawrence of Arabia so I had to read this book. This was for the most part an outstanding read with the exception of a few chapters that were used to explain Lawrence's early childhood and the end of his life - these chapters could have been condensed. The book explains the Balfour decleration and how France, Russia and England met in 1916 to decide how the rapidly declining Ottoman Empire would be divided up amongst the modern powers (Sykes-Picot). The ...more
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
We live in an age of celebrity as created by an immense media industry. Lawrence of Arabia embodied the word celebrity; in fact he may have been the 20th century's first real celebrity as Lindberg came after him. This book cries out to be read by a readership that understands that heroes do in fact exist. This word hero has been much misused in modern day America to apply to people that the word was never intended for.

Lawrence was very much a hero, as well as many other things. He was a military
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, desert
Hero was satisfying, but not great. Through it I learned a great deal about and gained a greater appreciation for the man behind the legend of Lawrence of Arabia. Korda has done exhaustive research, and you certainly feel that it would be hard to find holes in his scholarship or arguments. This biography also benefits from having been written after so many documents both by and about Lawrence, both personal and political, had been released to the public.

Unsurprisingly, the book shines when Lawre
Brian Bess
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The dreamer of the day

When I asked my brother, who is a connoisseur of T.E. Lawrence biographies, which one would be a good one to start with he suggested Michael Korda’s ‘Hero’. For one thing, it’s the most recent full-scale biography. Yes, it’s long but there are much longer tomes out there. He told me don’t start with Lawrence’s dense thicket of prose, ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom’. Get the basic facts down first, then dive into Lawrence’s own assessment of what he did.

‘Hero’ begins in the middle
Jun 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Unexpectedly compelling read. My family pointed out that while I was reading this, I mentioned Lawrence at least once a day. Korda does an excellent job of unpacking Lawrence's complexities, his excellent military strategy but also his anguish over the horrors of war; his extensive writing but also his desire to stay out of the limelight; his profound leadership capabilities and his choice to live the second half of his life as an Aircraftsman in the British RAF, in which he was in charge of nob ...more
Chip Walter
Dec 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Wonderful book! Thoroughly researched life of an absolutely fascinating character. He was so extraordinarily different and strange that it's difficult to believe he wasn't invented. The parts of the book that deal with Lawrence's mideast campaign and heroics were fascinating, but Korda does an equally great job with the telling of his youth and post war life.

My only small issue is that the whole book is VERY pro Lawrence (as you might imagine from the title) and I sometimes worried that Korda w
Nick McRae
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book offers a great overview of T.E. Lawrence's life before, during, and most notably after his famous WWI exploits in Arabia. The book is a good complement to Lawrence's own masterwork SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM that both helps us interpret Lawrence's text and lets us see what happened in Lawrence's life after that book comes to a close. An excellent read for those interested in the beginnings of the modern Middle East and in Lawrence particularly. ...more
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Lawrence of Arabia was Horatio Nelson on a camel--and this book tells the story simply and powerfully.
Leigh Lindahl
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I now have a good frame work of Lawerence history.
Aug 08, 2020 rated it liked it
There are hundreds of books written about T.E. Lawrence and I've read a couple so I don't know why I felt compelled to read this one.

For an interesting topic the author provided a drawn out portrayal.  It started with Lawrence's exploits in the Arabian penisula then went back to his childhood and early years which were presented in drab fashion.  Then back to exploits after Aqaba.

The author jumped around, often repeating bits of information and meandering to other topics.  For instance there was
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I listened to the audiobook. I thought this book had a bit of a slow beginning, but really found its stride in the middle. The first half is about Lawrence before and during World War I. I recently listened to another book about Lawrence in the Middle East which was more comprehensive, and I liked how Korda managed to add details to some of the encounters I already knew about.

I really enjoyed the second half of the book, which was about what became of T.E. Lawrence after the war.
Mar 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
When I was growing up I saw a movie that impressed me so much that some scenes are still vivid in my memory after all these years. Even then I wondered how much was fact and how much was fiction. After all, the main character seemed to be such an unbelievable hero. That 1962 movie was Lawrence of Arabia.

So when I saw a book by a well-known author on Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence, I quickly grabbed it up to read. Now understand that the 700 page book was a little daunting in heft (that i
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia by Michael Korda. I very much enjoyed this book. Generally, all I knew of Lawrence was the film, so it was good to read a full biography. At first I was a little annoyed by the style in which it was written, which includes a lot of repetition. But I got over that, as I appreciated the author’s view of Lawrence as a whole – wartime leader, archaeologist, diplomat, and more. It would be easy to address only one aspect of his story – his wartime leade ...more
Lianne Burwell
Nov 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like talking about books (hey, I'm on Goodreads, aren't I?). While reading this one, though, I was rather surprised at the number of people who thought that Lawrence of Arabia was a fictional character, not a historical figure.

Mind you, it shouldn't be too shocking. He was definitely larger than life. And even I didn't know a lot, since I had the impression that he'd died not that long after WWI, well before his actual death in 1935.

He was definitely a fascinating figure, though. Archaeologist
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Hero by Michael Korda 1 6 Nov 23, 2019 01:37PM  

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is an English-born writer and novelist who was editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster in New York City.

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“Even those who die in terrorist attacks, and have thus had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, are described as "heroes", though given a choice most of them would no doubt have preferred to be somewhere else when the blow was struck.” 0 likes
“Lawrence: A man who gives himself to the possession of aliens leads a Yahoo life. In my case my effort for these years to live in the dress of Arabs, and to imitate their mental foundation, quitted me of my English self, and let me look at the West and its conventions with new eyes, and destroyed it all for me. At the same time I could not sincerely take on the Arab skin: it was an affectation only.” 0 likes
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