Edward Said, most regarded for his pioneering study Orientalism (1978), led a varied life that combined rigorous scholarship with fearless activism. Born in Jerusalem and brought up in Cairo, Said left for America at the age of sixteen and thereafter steadily ascended through the ranks of the American academy. Outside of the ivory tower, Said became a powerful spokesperson for Palestinian self-determination. Timothy Brennan’s new biography, Places of Mind: A life of Edward Said, traces Said’s decades of engagement with the key political, cultural, and literary concerns of his time. As James Jiang notes in his review, ‘what emerges most distinctly from Brennan’s portrait are not the lineaments of a gifted “mind”, but rather the sheer messiness of thinking for a living’.