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Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

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In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.


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In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit. On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane's bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he'd been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

30 review for Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kemper

    I was cleaning up after the wife and I had dinner last night and there was a small amount of green beans left. There weren’t nearly enough for another serving to make them worth saving so I dumped them in the sink, but just as I was about to turn on the garbage disposal, I realized that to the POWs described in Unbroken those few green beans I was about to mulch would have been a feast they would have risked torture and beatings for. I was disgusted with myself for the rest of the night. You kno I was cleaning up after the wife and I had dinner last night and there was a small amount of green beans left. There weren’t nearly enough for another serving to make them worth saving so I dumped them in the sink, but just as I was about to turn on the garbage disposal, I realized that to the POWs described in Unbroken those few green beans I was about to mulch would have been a feast they would have risked torture and beatings for. I was disgusted with myself for the rest of the night. You know the book you’re reading is hitting you hard when you feel that much shame for letting a tiny bit of food go to waste. Louie Zamperini is one of those guys who definitely earned that Greatest Generation label. The son of Italian immigrant parents, Louie was a rebellious kid who was constantly into one form of mischief or another, but when he finally channeled his energy into running, he became a high school track star in California. Louie was so good that he made the 1936 Olympics in Berlin at the age of 19, and even though he didn’t medal, he ran one lap of a race so quickly that he electrified the crowd and even caught Hitler’s attention. As a college runner, Louie held several national records and many thought that he’d be the man to eventually break the four minute mile. He was poised to do well in the 1940 Olympics, but then World War II cancelled the games. Louie left college and ended up in the air corps even though he was scared of planes. He became a bombardier and went to the Pacific after Pearl Harbor. Louie survived several missions, including one where their B-24 barely made it back with over 500 holes in it. While on a search and rescue mission, Louie’s plane crashed in the ocean, and only he and two others survived. With few supplies on two tiny life rafts, they’d endure exposure, starvation, thirst and sharks. However, after finally reaching an island and being captured by the Japanese, Louie’s hellish experience as a POW would make him miss the raft and the sharks. Starved, beaten, tortured and degraded, Louie also faces extra punishment at the hands of a brutally sadistic guard who singled him out. Louie and the other prisoners desperately try to hang on long enough for America to win the war and free them. I didn’t care anything about race horses, but found Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit an incredibly interesting read. She’s surpassed that book here with this well researched story. Hillenbrand creates vivid descriptions of Louie’s childhood, the Berlin Olympics, the life of an air man in the Pacific, and a Japanese POW camp while also telling the stories of the people around Louie. She also does a superior job of describing a phase of World War II that tends to get overlooked, Japanese war crimes against prisoners. The number of prisoners killed by the Japanese through starvation, beatings and forced labor are staggering, but Hillenbrand also shines a light on the Japanese policy of killing all POWs if that area was about to be invaded. Per her research, they were preparing to begin slaughtering prisoners in Japan in late August and September of 1945, but the dropping of the atomic bombs and the surrender of the emperor probably saved those POWs lives. If the war would have carried on or a conventional invasion done, then mostly likely those prisoners would have been killed.* *(Do not take this as my personal feelings about whether nuclear weapons should have been used or not. I’m just relaying a part of the book here, and Hillenbrand makes no argument as to whether dropping the bombs was justified. She writes that many of the POWs believed that the bombings probably saved their lives and leaves it at that. And if you feel like trying to start a comment fight about it, I’m just going to delete it so don’t bother. I left my sword and shield at home today and don’t feel like battling trolls.) Ultimately, while this is a book about people enduring incredible hardship and cruelty during war, it's a hopeful book, not a depressing one. Great writing and the care that Hillenbrand took with the people and places make this compelling reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Annalisa

    Hillenbrand has broken the unwritten code for Americans to downplay the wrongs of the Japanese during World War II (other than Pearl Harbor) in favor of focusing on the egregious acts of the Nazis. My education in World War II history has focused on the Holocaust and the unforgivable damage we did to Japan by unleashing the atomic bomb. I appreciate all the research Hillenbrand did to bring us the other side of the story. Louis Zamperini is my new hero. I loved his charisma and endurance, both of Hillenbrand has broken the unwritten code for Americans to downplay the wrongs of the Japanese during World War II (other than Pearl Harbor) in favor of focusing on the egregious acts of the Nazis. My education in World War II history has focused on the Holocaust and the unforgivable damage we did to Japan by unleashing the atomic bomb. I appreciate all the research Hillenbrand did to bring us the other side of the story. Louis Zamperini is my new hero. I loved his charisma and endurance, both of which shined through in Hillenbrand's meticulous writing. I haven't been this invested in non-fiction in a long time. Even when she was talking about airplane design I was enthralled. And even though I figured Zamperini had to have survived his ordeal to give Hillenbrand an interview, I was still anxious about his survival. My favorite part of Louis' story is (view spoiler)[his journey to forgiveness and healing through his conversion to Christianity, especially his willingness to meet with The Bird and offer unconditional forgiveness (hide spoiler)] . How inspiring and moving, his whole story, but especially his life after the war. I don't think I can pick up another book for a few days. I need to let this one settle before I delve into fiction that will feel meaningless after this.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Wow am I in the minority. I absolutely loved Seabiscuit, so I expected great things from this one. However, where Seabiscuit focused narrowly on a small set of characters and events, this was more sprawling, bursting with a poorly-sketched cast of characters who, over time, became nearly indistinguishable. For most of the middle section, the book wore me down with its unrelenting catalogue of abuse and privation. On a related note, I wasn't crazy about the fact that the book endlessly described Wow am I in the minority. I absolutely loved Seabiscuit, so I expected great things from this one. However, where Seabiscuit focused narrowly on a small set of characters and events, this was more sprawling, bursting with a poorly-sketched cast of characters who, over time, became nearly indistinguishable. For most of the middle section, the book wore me down with its unrelenting catalogue of abuse and privation. On a related note, I wasn't crazy about the fact that the book endlessly described what was happening to Zamperini, as opposed to what was going through his mind, what gave him hope, etc.--material that I would have found infinitely more interesting. As other reviewers have noted, although listed as non-fiction, the book suffers from potentially unreliable narration, as most details were reported to the author some 50 years after the fact. After that long, memories of events dim or, conversely, are embellished. Indeed, some details felt a bit off to me (for instance, Zamperini described being tangled up in wires and going down with his plane when he blacked out; he was miraculously free of all encumbrances when he came to). A huge detail that seemed off was Zamperini's redemption at the end: it didn't make sense to me that Zamperini's problems with alcoholism, post-traumatic stress disorder, and rage, fueled by years of the aforementioned abuse and privation, were all completely and conveniently cured by a couple of hours listening to the preaching of Billy Graham. (To be honest, I thought this plot point tends to demean veterans' struggles generally.) But the book moved along at a brisk pace and held my attention. I feel like I learned a lot about an aspect of American and WWII history that may be overlooked (the experiences of POWs in Japan was never covered in any of my high school or college history classes). So for that I give this book an enthusiastic 3 stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Craig

    I’ve seen recently that negative commentary or reviews about this book invoke a kind of backlash normally reserved for non-conformists who critique the Bible, The Diary of Ann Frank, The Last Lecture, or any Oprah 'Book of the Month'. Well, brace yourself because here comes another one. This book is a poorly written, exaggerated, sensationalized version of a true story, an over-hyped pop history book more concerned with drumming home the message that the human spirit can be indestructible in the I’ve seen recently that negative commentary or reviews about this book invoke a kind of backlash normally reserved for non-conformists who critique the Bible, The Diary of Ann Frank, The Last Lecture, or any Oprah 'Book of the Month'. Well, brace yourself because here comes another one. This book is a poorly written, exaggerated, sensationalized version of a true story, an over-hyped pop history book more concerned with drumming home the message that the human spirit can be indestructible in the face of extreme adversity (a pet theme for the author it seems) than in being a tight and accurate biography of a war hero. I had the feeling throughout the book that the “true story” was buried somewhere deep in the pages, struggling to get past the hyperbole and over-the-top events to floor the reader with what really happened. It’s instead mired in the monotonous descriptions of our protagonist’s lurid misfortunes and maltreatment, told in mind-numbing detail, and never really allowed to break free. Judging by the notes, Laura Hillenbrand has put in a respectable amount of research yet the way in which she weaves the facts into the book is so sloppy and lacking any hint of subtlety it leaves you feeling like you’re reading a first draft script for a Michael Bay flick (remains to be seen if you are). The resulting story is horrendously tedious, repetitive, and – despite the fascinating subject and the stage where it’s all taking place – boring as all hell. The first part of the book takes us from Louie’s humble beginnings through his meteoric rise to the Olympics. The second part involves Louie’s time in the military and all of his oftentimes unbelievable achievements. The third is the account of his B-24 bomber crash, subsequent loss at sea, capture by the Japanese, and the endless rounds of torture and beatings. The fourth and last part is his rescue life after the War and finding God with Billy Graham. How can this be made boring? Well, it can if your prose never rises above a dull, rambling, ill-constructed narrative about how this event happened, then this one did, and then this thing happened after that. The characters in the book are so shallow and one-dimensional, hardly a one is given more than a passing intro before the story bumbles on to the next thinly veiled anecdote. The people begin blurring into the next and you’re left struggling to tell one cardboard person from another. Apart from Louie and his family the only other characters that really stood out were his raft mate and best buddy Phil and his most sadistic prison guard dubbed The Bird. Every minute of every one of Louie’s beatings by The Bird is documented to the nth degree; every one of The Bird’s tantrums, mood changes, facial tics, and spazz attacks is written about in the most curious of detail. The reader is subjected to dozens of "last sightings" of The Bird only to have him "shockingly" resurface in the most unlikely of situations a chapter later. You know the kind of scene I mean: "And Louie looked up at the new arrival only to discover once again –" Dah dum duuuuuuum!!! "—that it was The Bird!" This can only be pulled so many times before the reader starts to feel like they’re being strongly manipulated by the author. It happens so often in fact you start to think of it as a good candidate for some kind of literary drinking game where you take a shot of bourbon every time he shows up. Now, far be it for me to disparage war veterans, especially POWs who’ve endured the kinds of crushing abuse that Louie and his fellow service men have, but how is it that we are able to get such detailed minutia over 50 years after it all went down? I’ll bet you can’t describe the full details of the days of your wedding, your first child being born, your first car crash, your first date, getting your driver’s license, etc. These were all life-changing, and in some cases traumatic, days in your life and it’s a safe bet that most, if not all, of these events took place more recently for you than 50 years ago. Most of us remember scant bits and pieces of events and many of these memories have “drifted” from reality in our fallible brains. Even polling spectators who were there at the time and cobbling together all of the recollections won’t make for a fully fleshed-out memory. This thought kept rattling around my brain as I made my way through the book. How on earth could these things be recalled so clearly and precisely after all that time? I’ve read other POW accounts that say that all days start to blur together and the extreme horrors the soldiers endured are blocked out of memory. Some soldiers, as Hillenbrand herself says in the book, forget the war entirely. The sneaking suspicion (and you can’t help but feel like a total shit for thinking it) is that a lot of the filler put in the book to string the anecdotes together is fabricated to puff up the story to appeal to a broader audience. These suspected filler bits are nothing compared to some of the fantastical events scattered throughout the book. Zemperini is cheapened and the readers are dared not to roll their eyes as he is aggrandized and endlessly adulated from a man to a superhuman demi-god. He can withstand plane crashes, hourly beatings for over a year, prolonged starvation, backbreaking physical labor, diseases, and anything else that can be dished out. Consider his scenes of fist-fighting sharks in open water, meeting Hitler after his Olympic race, running a 4:12 mile -- in the fucking sand(!!), surviving violent dysentery for weeks on end with only scant handfuls of polluted water to drink (not to mention the “death sentence” disease beriberi that he contracted and overcame, despite it being untreated), blacking out as he’s tangled in wires in his sinking bomber only to wake up untangled and able to swim freely to the surface, self-repairing a broken nose and leg while at prison camp, and living through 40+ days at sea with practically no water or food then having the patience to wait offshore overnight once he reaches an island -- of course, just in time for a typhoon to hit them in their raft! Seriously? These personal achievements are apart from his sufferings in a group setting like enduring over 220 punches in the face during one camp thrashing and moving 20 – 30 tons (yes, TONS -- 40,000 to 60,000 U.S. pounds) of material at a rail yard in a day. Why the author stopped there and didn’t throw in a cage match with a silverback gorilla to determine alpha male dominance I’m not sure. I imagine therein lies part of the reason why this book resonates so deeply with our intelligence-starved society today. Long titillated by years of reality TV, Saw movie sequels, and other torture porn many are conditioned to be drawn to the grisly and violent story of a guy who went through hell and made it to the “million dollar vote” by the end. It’s the car crash scene you slowly drive by and can’t pull your eyes away from ("Can you pull those bodies closer to me so I can get a better look?"). I also suspect the book serves as a keen display to whiners in search of inspiration that hey, maybe my life ain’t so bad after all. I say hats off to Louis Zamperini and his fellow soldiers. Seriously. A toast! I have nothing but bottomless admiration, respect, and gratitude for his service and am in awe of his mettle and perseverance. He is one tough-as-nails guy whose achievements should not be overlooked and never be forgotten. It just would have been nice if his story could have been told in a more honest and fair manner, letting the facts speak for themselves without all the earnest dramatization, unabashed hero worship, and hyperbole slathered so thickly over them. His autobiography "Devil at My Heels" maybe?

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Keeten

    ”If I knew I had to go through those experiences again,” he finally said, “I’d kill myself.” Louis Zamperini was a precocious child. He was always finding creative ways to get himself in trouble. He was desperate for any attention. Causing trouble is one way to get it, another way is to become really, really good at something. His brother Pete, a multi-sport star athlete, forced him into cross country and track in the hopes of keeping him out of trouble. The running, at first, felt like a punish ”If I knew I had to go through those experiences again,” he finally said, “I’d kill myself.” Louis Zamperini was a precocious child. He was always finding creative ways to get himself in trouble. He was desperate for any attention. Causing trouble is one way to get it, another way is to become really, really good at something. His brother Pete, a multi-sport star athlete, forced him into cross country and track in the hopes of keeping him out of trouble. The running, at first, felt like a punishment for all of Louis’s misdeeds, but then something clicked over and he discovered that not only did he like running, but that he had an aptitude for it. He started winning races and then he started breaking records. I went out for cross country my senior year of high school not because I had a burning desire to run, but because I wanted to get in shape for basketball season. The football coach had visions of me being a tall, reasonably fast, wide receiver. I had visions of a helmet crashing into my knee ending not only a short lived football career, but also wiping out my penultimate season of basketball. On the cross country team was a guy named Roger. His father had been an Olympic athlete. He had qualified for the games in Mexico, drank the water, and became too sick to compete. Roger had dreams of the Olympics in his future. I had a much smaller goal of improved stamina for basketball. By the time the first race rolls around I’m still not sure how I will stack up with the other runners. With Roger beating me easily every day at practice I was more worried about embarrassing myself. At this point I had no racing strategy, no thought except finishing two miles. The gun sounds, everybody takes off in a stampede. At about the one mile marker I started passing scads of runners who were flagging. I was thinking am I outpacing myself here? Am I going to run out of gas? Then up ahead I caught a flash of Phillipsburg Panther blue. I could see Roger! He was duking it out with a pair of twins from a rival city. The stories that Zamperini told the author about runners elbowing, pushing, gouging...all true. Of course Roger wasn’t worried about how long he took to run the race he was just putting a pace out there that eliminated all but his most formidable opponents. When the finish line came into sight he kicked down the afterburners and won with ease. I finished 6th out of 65 runners, suddenly running took on a new meaning for me. I was descended on by the local radio, television, and newspaper reporters. They asked me about the upcoming basketball season, a sport with a lot more interest to the community than cross country. They did ask me a few questions about the race which I couldn’t really answer because I wasn’t really sure how I managed to come in 6th. I looked over at Roger who was sitting on the ground changing out of his running shoes. No one was asking him any questions. I wish I’d motioned him over or walked over to him bringing the people asking questions with me, but I was still trying to make sense of everything. He told me later that he was just glad I was bringing some attention to the program. He was magnanimous, but I felt about four inches tall. Louis and Roger would have understood each other perfectly. They knew all they had to do was keep winning and eventually the world would notice. Louis Zamperini’s Olympic passport. I never did learn to love running, but I did love competing. Laura Hillenbrand knows how to tell a story. Readers will find the descriptions of Zamperini's races leading up to the Olympics much more compelling than they think, even if they don’t have an interest in sports. Zamperini qualified in the 5000 meters by the skin of his teeth for the historic 1936 Olympic Games. Jesse Owens was the story that year. He was putting a finger in Adolf Hitler’s eyes every time he stepped onto the track. Zamperini finished eighth, but he was determined to return in 1940 and win a fist full of medals. The wheel of fortune landed on a different fate for Louis Zamperini. B-24 diagram World War Two put a crimp in many plans, dreams were put on hold, careers were set aside, and marriages were speeded up. Zamperini ended up a bombardier in a B-24. His job of dropping bombs on the Japanese was hazardous enough, but when a commanding officer ordered his crew up in a plane that flew “mushy” and had been stripped of all nonessential parts he was certainly tempting fate. The plane was called The Green Hornet and just like the movie by the same name it crashed and burned. Three members of the crew survived and Zamperini was one of the fortunate few. The Bucket of Bolts that dropped the boys into the Pacific. I always love the airplane artwork. After drifting for months, surviving by sheer grit and determination, they are picked up as prisoners of war by the Japanese. Life has got to improve, right? After all they don’t have sharks rubbing at the bottom of their survival raft every day and every night. They don’t have to worry about where their next drink of water is going to come from or their next meal. Wrong. The shark metamorphosis into a Bird, the Bird is Matsuhiro Watanabe. He is a psychopath who actually became sexually aroused beating up helpless prisoners. When the movie comes out this guy is going to be known the world over as one of the sickest most despicable human beings to ever exist. The list of charges against him, at the end of the war, were a stream of paper eight feet long. Matsuhiro “the Bird” Watanabe His favorite target: Lieutenant Louis Zamperini. ”The Pacific POWs who went home in 1945 were torn-down men. They had an intimate understanding of man’s vast capacity to experience suffering, as well as his equally vast capacity, and hungry willingness to inflict it. They carried unspeakable memories of torture and humiliation, and an acute sense of vulnerability that attended the knowledge of how readily they could be disarmed and dehumanized.” I was surprised to learn that my own understanding of the treatment of POWs under the Japanese was sketchy at best. I’m still processing the images invoked from recently reading The Devil of Nanking about the massacres at Nanking in 1937. Like the Nazis the Japanese at this time were interested in the purity of their own race. They felt that as a superior race it was their place to rule all of Asia. They believed that to surrender was cowardly and dishonorable behavior. This belief led to some very erratic aggressive behavior by Japanese soldiers who would rather die than be taken prisoner. So The Bird was a corporal who had been turned down for an officer’s position, this humiliation infuriated him. He despised these American soldiers who had surrendered and he especially despised the officers. More than 37% of Americans held captive by the Japanese died. Only 1% of Americans held by the Nazis and Italians died. The Japanese guards were brutal and sadistic and at the end of the war many of them were prosecuted and executed. This changed as the Americans discovered that Japan would prove a valuable ally in the upcoming Cold War. The prosecution of further war criminals became a political stumbling block and were stopped. I reached a point where I wondered why Louis Zamperini continued to want to live. He was too strong, too stubborn, too competitive to give up. When he crashed, his parents didn’t know he survived. They were kept in nervous, soul crushing suspense because a demented Corporal decided that the POWs under his command would not be able to write home. Laura Hillenbrand could have let the behavior of the Japanese guards weigh this book down into a horrific tale of depressing stories of physical and mental abuse, but though she does share a lot of those stories with us they are uplifted by the sheer determination of Zamperini not only to live, but to get one chance to wrap his hands around the neck of his tormentor. This book had me considering who we are when we go to war. Why do so many leave their homes as fathers, husbands, brothers and become this shockingly terrifying person capable of the most sadistic behavior? War is hell. I know that, but there is a huge difference between killing someone in self defense on a battlefield and quite another to systematically, with creativity, torture people. The Rape of Nanking or the abuse of POWs defies all logic. These soldiers are not criminals or murderers. These are normal people until they are put in a uniform; and then, somehow they transform into criminals and murderers. Laura Hillenbrand with Louis Zamperini Hillenbrand includes a plethora of pictures all placed in with the text so you can look at a picture of what she is describing as you read it. I wish more publishers would do this for more books. It really enhances the experience. Hillenbrand is an excellent writer with a gift for storytelling. She adds in these wonderful details that really bring the story to life, so instead of waiting for the movie pick up the book and marvel at the capacity of humans to survive and bring their lives back from the brink of despair. Survival, Resilience, and Redemption are the subtitle of this book. You will end the book knowing and believing that Louis Zamperini exemplified all those qualities in the face of impossible odds. If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten

  6. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    I've just finished this awesome book, and have since washed the tears from my face. I can't hope to write a coherent review (there are so many good ones already written), so I'll just jot a few thoughts down: * This is why I love non-fiction. * Best book (by far) I've read this year. * Every positive cliche adjective should be applied to this story. * 5 stars isn't enough. * If it was fiction, you wouldn't believe it. * Go buy yourself a cloth hankie, 'cause a kleenex ain't gonna cut it by the last ch I've just finished this awesome book, and have since washed the tears from my face. I can't hope to write a coherent review (there are so many good ones already written), so I'll just jot a few thoughts down: * This is why I love non-fiction. * Best book (by far) I've read this year. * Every positive cliche adjective should be applied to this story. * 5 stars isn't enough. * If it was fiction, you wouldn't believe it. * Go buy yourself a cloth hankie, 'cause a kleenex ain't gonna cut it by the last chapter. * Makes me wish my dad was still around so I could ask him about the war. * My next book is going to SUCK in comparison (might as well re-read Breaking Dawn then). * Read this great review by my GR friend Amy S: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/... (her review made me want to read this book - great job Amy!) * Perfect book to wrap up on Memorial Day, 2012: To those who served, to those who still serve, to those who made it back, to those who didn't, to those who still suffer in ways we cannot imagine, thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Will Byrnes

    Louie Zamperini was quite a character, wild, given to mayhem and thievery, but he straightened out enough to become a world-class runner, joining the US team in the Berlin Olympics. He continued his athletic career at USC, setting running records there, preparing for the next international competition. But the world would skip that event, leaving Louie adrift. He joined the military and washed out, but he was drafted back in after Pearl Harbor, as a bombardier. When Louie’s plane went down in th Louie Zamperini was quite a character, wild, given to mayhem and thievery, but he straightened out enough to become a world-class runner, joining the US team in the Berlin Olympics. He continued his athletic career at USC, setting running records there, preparing for the next international competition. But the world would skip that event, leaving Louie adrift. He joined the military and washed out, but he was drafted back in after Pearl Harbor, as a bombardier. When Louie’s plane went down in the middle of the Pacific, while on a bombing run, his great adventure began. Unbroken is Louie’s tale of survival. Laura Hillenbrand - image from Flavorwire Louie and two other crew members would drift for an unthinkable duration before sighting land, struggling to collect potable water, desperate to catch fish and birds for food and terrified of being devoured by the constantly marauding sharks. Once they finally landed it was out of the frying pan and into the rising sun, as they were taken prisoner by the Japanese. Enduring years of the beatings, deprivations, forced labor and humiliations that were daily fare in Japanese POW camps made their ocean voyage seem like a pleasure cruise. This is not only an amazingly researched book, with details that clearly took serious, serious digging to unearth, but Laura Hillenbrand is a gifted story-teller, as any who have read Seabiscuit can attest, and she brings her narrative skills to this remarkable, real-life tale. Having introduced Louie in the early chapters and providing reasons to care, she documents a relentless sequence of trials that he and his mates had to endure. It does get a little repetitive, but there were times when the hairs on my arm stood up and saluted and I had to put the book down because the horrors these men faced were so frightening and upsetting. Think Jaws vs a rubber raft. But I was so captivated by the story that I dove right back in after a short break. The unpleasantness of the Geneva-challenged WW II Japanese military was not news to me, but the details Hillenbrand provides gave that vision considerable depth. There is a psycho-guard character in this story who would fit in well in many a horror film. And yet, with all the monstrtosities of the camps, there is also Hogan’s Heroes-type humor that will make you laugh out loud. Louis Zamperini Louie’s life post-liberation was no picnic either. PTSD was not in the lexicon at the time, but anyone today would recognize the symptoms. Even though the unspeakable horrors he endured had not killed him, the internalized terrors he brought home might have finished the job. Hillenbrand takes us through those trials and tells the surprising story of how this incredibly strong, but seriously damaged man, was mended. Unbroken offers an important portrait about a dark time, but shows how strength, courage, incredible determination and a dose of faith can overcome any obstacle. You will weep, rage, laugh and cheer. What more can a reader ask? ==============================EXTRA STUFF The author's personal and FB pages A fascinating article on Laura Hillenbrand from Smithsonian Magazine July 3, 2014 - Zamperini passes, the NY Times obit

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Holy mackerel. This is the single non-fiction book you ought to put on your read list for 2013. Even if you don’t read it, it’s presence on your shelf will enrich your library. This is a WWII survival story of an American aviator in the Pacific theater. And wow! Louis Zamperini. Zamp! An Italian immigrant with the fastest mile in college track who shook hands with Hitler at the ’36 Olympics, shot down in the pacific, 40+ days in a 2-man raft with 3 people, captured, paraded for propaganda, torture Holy mackerel. This is the single non-fiction book you ought to put on your read list for 2013. Even if you don’t read it, it’s presence on your shelf will enrich your library. This is a WWII survival story of an American aviator in the Pacific theater. And wow! Louis Zamperini. Zamp! An Italian immigrant with the fastest mile in college track who shook hands with Hitler at the ’36 Olympics, shot down in the pacific, 40+ days in a 2-man raft with 3 people, captured, paraded for propaganda, tortured sadistically on mainland Japan for years by a ‘Jap’ known only as ‘The Bird’ that said “we’re not in Geneva anymore,” rescued at 90 pounds wearing the same 3 year old clothes, followed by years of alcoholic depression, only to be saved by an upstart preacher, Billy Graham, when reminded of the promise he made God in the ocean doldrums with lips so burned and swollen they blocked his nostrils, dedicating his remaining life to working with underprivileged kids. This is the kind of story that causes people to break unexpectedly into chants of U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A. Patriotic outbursts are common at international sporting events, political rallies, displays of military power, and they are also common at pages 85, 130, 165, 201, 232, 255, 287, 303, and 313. Laura Hillenbrand does a wonderful job presenting the timing and pacing of this novel, so that it simply reads itself to you. And there’re plenty of pictures. Just enough information, just the right touch for a feel-good story. Bravo. In 10-15 years America will lose all its primary sources from WWII. You will have no reference, no great-grampa to reveal that epoch to you in lost military jargon and GI colloquialism. Great-grampa, the leatherneck, that, when you were a punk adolescent, sat alone in the warm sunroom with paper-thin skin on the backs of his hands, spots of lentigo, and steaming black coffee in winter. Gut-rot coffee, the way he learned to drink it back then, in a hole, or at predawn prep for takeoff. And so, I’m afraid that younger generations will lose the silken threads that link living history. I’m afraid that kids who think nothing unusual of presidents with no military experience will view WWII simply as another knuckle in history—something to study, fodder for a paper—but no less important than history that piles up each year and must be studied in turn. But WWII was so defining for so many generations, globally, it just yearns not to be forgotten. Due diligence for my star rating: 1. Zamp was an officer in the Army Air Corp; I was an officer in the Air Force. 2. Zamp was a navigator; I was a navigator. 3. Zamp flew in a B-24D LIBERATOR; I flew in an RC-135W RIVET JOINT. 4. Zamp flew in a multiseat, crew-based aircraft; I flew in a multiseat, crew-based aircraft. 5. Zamp had a callsign; I had a callsign. 6. Zamp flew in the Pacific theater; I flew in the Pacific theater. 7. Zamp fought a war and saw combat; I fought a war and saw combat. 8. Zamp took aviator survival school; I took aviator survival school. 9. Zamp has a standard-issue leather jacket for high altitude flight; I have the same. 10. Zamp is still alive!!! For non-service members, it’s a complete mystery the bonds that tie men of military and combat experience. Zamperini is my brother. He and I could talk at the O’Club bar until closing, no matter the 51 years between our service. We could talk about training, flying, targeting the enemy, jumping up during negative G’s so that you hover for an unearthly span of time before settling easy back on the bulkhead. His experience has sweetened my understanding of my own military service. This book has at least extended Zamperini’s legend to the end of my life. Beyond that, spoken history is fact, then parable, then myth. I believe this is the kind of book that military members—especially aviators—must read to carry forward the memorial and self-sacrifice of “duty, honor, country.” If this doesn’t convince you, almost 100,000 people have given the book 4.46 stars in 2 short years. I wonder how many have been in the military? U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A! U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    If you are wondering if you should read "Unbroken", just read it. Even if you don't end up liking it, you just need to read it. Everyone does. Louis Zamperini was an Italian-American Olympic runner whose plane goes down in World War 2, and he and two other men drift on a raft for a long, long time. I don't want to tell you anything else, because I want you to experience it. This books packs a double punch--the story itself is as amazing as Laura Hillenbrand's genius story-telling. Books like this If you are wondering if you should read "Unbroken", just read it. Even if you don't end up liking it, you just need to read it. Everyone does. Louis Zamperini was an Italian-American Olympic runner whose plane goes down in World War 2, and he and two other men drift on a raft for a long, long time. I don't want to tell you anything else, because I want you to experience it. This books packs a double punch--the story itself is as amazing as Laura Hillenbrand's genius story-telling. Books like this inspire us, they shift our perspectives, they enlighten us, and they scare the *bleep* out of us. Louis stretched the human experience to the very depth and breadth of its ability to survive and lived, scratch that, LIVES to tell about it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Louie Zamperini and my father, Jim Wilson, were friends, and so I have known the outlines of Zamperini's story my whole life. Somewhere in the photo archives around Moscow, we have a baby photo of me, taken by Zamperini. I am drooling in that picture, something I have contrived not to do with more recent photographs. Though I have been familiar with this story for a long time, Hillenbrand's telling of it is magnificent. This is a book to reinforce everything you knew doctrinally about man's capac Louie Zamperini and my father, Jim Wilson, were friends, and so I have known the outlines of Zamperini's story my whole life. Somewhere in the photo archives around Moscow, we have a baby photo of me, taken by Zamperini. I am drooling in that picture, something I have contrived not to do with more recent photographs. Though I have been familiar with this story for a long time, Hillenbrand's telling of it is magnificent. This is a book to reinforce everything you knew doctrinally about man's capacity for both depravity and heroism. This was a deeply edifying read. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"

    A solid and resounding 3.5 stars The promotional buzz for this book focuses on Louis Zamperini's survival at sea after a WWII plane crash, and his subsequent ordeal as a POW in Japan. If that's what piqued your interest in the book, I suggest beginning with Chapter 12,(or a few pages before, so you can get the part about the crash). For the first eleven chapters, it's as if Hillenbrand couldn't decide which story she wanted to tell. Instead, she tried to tell them all, and did so poorly. You can A solid and resounding 3.5 stars The promotional buzz for this book focuses on Louis Zamperini's survival at sea after a WWII plane crash, and his subsequent ordeal as a POW in Japan. If that's what piqued your interest in the book, I suggest beginning with Chapter 12,(or a few pages before, so you can get the part about the crash). For the first eleven chapters, it's as if Hillenbrand couldn't decide which story she wanted to tell. Instead, she tried to tell them all, and did so poorly. You can quickly scan those chapters for basic background (I did), but you won't be missing much if you just blow right past them. If you're old enough to remember the 1930s and early 1940s, you may enjoy these chapters for the sake of reminiscence. Beginning with Chapter 12, the book becomes more strongly focused. Louie's story sweeps itself along, and the author's presence becomes less noticeable. I can't call the story "inspiring," because I honestly think death would have been preferable to what these men endured. Louie himself stated: "If I knew I had to go through those experiences again, I'd kill myself." So, inspiring, no. But AMAZING, yes. Such ingenuity, persistence, and unwillingness to be broken by their captors is impressive and difficult to fathom. They continued to suffer upon return to the U.S., because the mind and body don't forget such traumas. Final Analysis: Astoundingly thorough research, serviceable writing, and, sorry to say, apparently no editorial oversight. From Chapter 12 to the end, it's a four-star offering well worth your time. Louie the man is ten-star material! Read it for sure, just know that my less-than-exceptional rating concerns a need to cut a great deal of material from the book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jason

    Remember when we used to have live TV and stations would air previews for a program they were trying to promote? Have you ever then gone and watched that program only to discover that the preview was kind of misleading? Well, the previews for this book are wicked misleading. Everything about it—the jacket cover, the book description...ok, maybe just the jacket cover and the book description—led me to believe this was a story about a World War II soldier lost at sea. And yes, there is certainly a Remember when we used to have live TV and stations would air previews for a program they were trying to promote? Have you ever then gone and watched that program only to discover that the preview was kind of misleading? Well, the previews for this book are wicked misleading. Everything about it—the jacket cover, the book description...ok, maybe just the jacket cover and the book description—led me to believe this was a story about a World War II soldier lost at sea. And yes, there is certainly a section of the book that chronicles the experiences of a few Army Air Force personnel who become stranded on a raft in the South Pacific following the crash of their bomber, but the scope of the narrative encompasses much more than that. In fact, the “raft stuff” doesn’t even constitute the most compelling parts of this book. So what gives, Random House? Why you be unnecessarily deceitful? What’s appreciable about Hillenbrand, who by the way suffers from a chronically debilitating disease which often leaves her confined to her home for days at a time (I don’t know why I felt the need to mention that), is her ability to relay a story that depicts a person at what we imagine to be his worst, only to reveal slowly a situation of progressively deepening madness, and she accomplishes this without running out of adjectival modifiers that would otherwise be needed to bring the reader’s jaw closer and closer to the floor. In other words, Hillenbrand knows how to tell a story, and this book, a biography of Olympic runner Louis Zamperini, which focuses on his life in a Japanese POW camp, is a prime example.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Laura Hillenbrand’s book about Louie Zamperini’s life as an Olympian and later as a POW in Japan gives us powerful reminders that some things in life are real cool and some things just basically suck. Here’s a list that Unbroken brings to mind – things that would be either great (↑) or decidedly not (↓). Having a family that supports you as a child even when you’re a light-fingered, hyperactive little hellion. ↑ Becoming enough of a juvenile menace that the police are called to intervene. ↓ Having Laura Hillenbrand’s book about Louie Zamperini’s life as an Olympian and later as a POW in Japan gives us powerful reminders that some things in life are real cool and some things just basically suck. Here’s a list that Unbroken brings to mind – things that would be either great (↑) or decidedly not (↓). Having a family that supports you as a child even when you’re a light-fingered, hyperactive little hellion. ↑ Becoming enough of a juvenile menace that the police are called to intervene. ↓ Having an accomplished older brother who has your back, especially if this brother knows you well enough to divert your energy on to the track. ↑ Showing rapid improvement in races, ultimately making the 1936 Olympic team at the age of 19. ↑ Gorging yourself on the trans-Atlantic boat ride’s free food that proves all too tempting if you’ve never had a restaurant meal before in your life. Gaining 12 pounds as a result and losing race fitness. ↓ Passing numerous runners with a blazing last lap to finish 8th and having Hitler ask to meet you afterwards, remarking, “Ah, the boy with the fast finish.” ↑ Stealing a German flag as a souvenir. ↑ Setting a collegiate record two years later for the fastest mile, a record that would stand 15 years. Having experts say you’re the likeliest to first break the four minute barrier. ↑ Seeing hopes of Olympic glory in 1940 go up in flames with the advent of the war. ↓ Joining the Army Air Corps as a bombardier; soon thereafter coming back from a mission with 600 bullet holes in your B-24’s fuselage. ↓ On a different plane (a lemon that nobody wanted to fly), having it crash into the ocean due to mechanical problems, killing 8 of the 11 crew members. ↓ Finding out after the crash that your life raft has very little in the way of supplies. ↓ Living on small raw fish and rainwater for week upon week, aimlessly drifting at sea. ↓ Facing a typhoon with 40 foot waves. ↓ Facing Japanese bombers strafing you with bullets, missing you (miraculously), but blowing holes in your raft. ↓ Sharks. (Even if they don’t come with laser beams, this would suck.) ↓ Finding out that the survival manual was correct. With a hard punch in the snout, a shark will usually turn tail. (I’m forcing an interruption to the down-arrow streak.) ↑ Discovering that the land you finally get to after a record 6+ weeks at sea is a Japanese-controlled island. ↓ Getting beaten every day by a hyper-sadistic prison guard they call The Bird. Getting singled out as his favorite target. ↓↓ Finding out how much starvation, filth, dysentery, and physical abuse a human being can endure. ↓ Finally being liberated, going home to a hero’s welcome after you’d been declared dead, and eating mom’s pasta again. ↑ Showing signs of PTSD. Drinking to forget. ↓ Having your devoted young wife guide you to a spiritual conversion that allows forgiveness and a chance to move on as a motivational speaker. ↑ Going strong – still unbroken – into your nineties. ↑ Up- and down-arrows apply to Laura Hillenbrand, too. She suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that, for the most part, keeps her in the house and inactive. But she had this to say about her writing, particularly her subjects. “I'm looking for a way out of here. I can't have it physically, so I'm going to have it intellectually. It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination. And it's just fantastic to be there alongside Louie as he's breaking the NCAA mile record. People at these vigorous moments in their lives - it's my way of living vicariously.” Ups and downs like Everest and Death Valley – a remarkable story, really. And one that was very well-told.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Unbroken is an amazing survival story, but this book is also so grim that it took me five years to finish it. I had loved Hillenbrand's previous work, Seabiscuit, and had bought a copy of Unbroken back in 2010 as soon as it was released. I started reading it, and admired the writing, but the more I learned about what Louis Zamperini suffered during World War II, the less I wanted to read the book. I mean, here was an Olympic athlete who served as a bombardier during the war. His plane crashed whi Unbroken is an amazing survival story, but this book is also so grim that it took me five years to finish it. I had loved Hillenbrand's previous work, Seabiscuit, and had bought a copy of Unbroken back in 2010 as soon as it was released. I started reading it, and admired the writing, but the more I learned about what Louis Zamperini suffered during World War II, the less I wanted to read the book. I mean, here was an Olympic athlete who served as a bombardier during the war. His plane crashed while on a rescue mission, and he was stranded in the Pacific Ocean for 47 days. Only two of his crew mates survived the crash, and they had to battle hunger and dehydration, and fight off sharks while in that tiny raft. SHARKS! And then he was picked up by the Japanese and became a prisoner of war. For two years, he was tortured and starved and abused and enslaved. This story is beyond depressing, you guys. And so, the book gathered dust on my shelf, my original bookmark still in the pages. I decided to finally pick it up again after seeing the movie (which is also grim). Since I'm years late to this discussion, all I can say is that the writing and reporting are excellent, and this truly is an incredible story of resilience, survival and forgiveness. I especially liked that Hillenbrand didn't end the story when Zamperini was released from the POW camp; instead, she continued to follow what happened to the men, and even to the Japanese prison guards, some of whom were prosecuted as war criminals. Zamperini ended up living a long and full life, and his story is inspiring. Highly recommended for fans of history and survival stories. Hillenbrand is a remarkable writer, and whenever her next book comes out, I'll immediately order that, too. I just hope it's a more joyful subject. Favorite Quotes "From earliest childhood, Louie had regarded every limitation placed on him as a challenge to his wits, his resourcefulness, and his determination to rebel. The result had been a mutinous youth. As maddening as his exploits had been for his parents and his town, Louie's success in carrying them off had given him the conviction that he could think his way around any boundary. Now, as he was cast into extremity, despair and death became the focus of his defiance. The same attributes that made him the boy terror of Torrence were keeping him alive in the greatest struggle of his life." "Few societies treasured dignity, and feared humiliation, as did the Japanese, for whom a loss of honor could merit suicide. This is likely one of the reasons why Japanese soldiers in World War II debased their prisoners with such zeal, seeking to take from them that which was most painful and destructive to lose. On Kwajalein, Louie and Phil learned a dark truth known to the doomed in Hitler's death campus, the slaves of the American South, and a hundred other generations of betrayed people. Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it. The loss of it can carry a man off as surely as thirst, hunger, exposure, and asphyxiation, and with greater cruelty. In places like Kwajalein, degradation could be as lethal as a bullet."

  15. 5 out of 5

    Petra Eggs

    Part of my reading of war books and memoirs, this one enlightened to me as to why the Japanese were so reviled by Americans. Fit partners for Hitler indeed.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Otis Chandler

    Wow. Amazing story, and well told - kept me up late at night! Louie Zamperini truly went through hell and came back - and it's inspiring to read a story of such willpower and determination. It was also interesting to me to learn more about Japan and their role in the war. One big takeaway was just how cheap human life is in war. I think there was some stat about how 5/6 of the US airmen that died did so from accidents - that is simply staggering. I love WWII stories, but most of the ones I've see Wow. Amazing story, and well told - kept me up late at night! Louie Zamperini truly went through hell and came back - and it's inspiring to read a story of such willpower and determination. It was also interesting to me to learn more about Japan and their role in the war. One big takeaway was just how cheap human life is in war. I think there was some stat about how 5/6 of the US airmen that died did so from accidents - that is simply staggering. I love WWII stories, but most of the ones I've seen and read have focused on Germany, so I really didn't know much about how Japan had treated their POW's. It was pretty eye opening to read the stats about how they pretty much massacred hundreds of thousands of POW's. And of couse, as the story details, they also did not follow Geneva Conventions and pretty much treated POW's as slaves. One of my favorite points the author made is best illustrated by this quote about Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. This is a fundamental truth of humanity that the author really drew out well - if you take a persons dignity away you take everything away. I loved all the stories of POW's being defiant; stealing food, supplies, playing jokes, etc. The little bits of defiance were enough to let them take back their dignity, and I think thats what makes them so compelling; because while we haven't all been POW's, we can relate to that basic need.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Books Ring Mah Bell

    All the cheesy, tired words people use to review books seem to apply to this book: remarkable, intense, striking, exceptional. I hate to use them, but all of them are relevant in regard to this work. I even could use that silly phrase, "I couldn't put it down." Literally, yes, I could put it down, but I didn't want to; it was difficult to walk away from. I looked forward to picking it up again and continuing on with the story of prisoner of war Louis Zamperini. Hillenbrand is also the author of S All the cheesy, tired words people use to review books seem to apply to this book: remarkable, intense, striking, exceptional. I hate to use them, but all of them are relevant in regard to this work. I even could use that silly phrase, "I couldn't put it down." Literally, yes, I could put it down, but I didn't want to; it was difficult to walk away from. I looked forward to picking it up again and continuing on with the story of prisoner of war Louis Zamperini. Hillenbrand is also the author of Seabiscuit, so I was a bit skeptical of her writing about a WWII POW. I had no doubts she could write well, as Seabiscuit is one of my favorite reads, ever. Yet, a feel-good story about a horse is a different animal than a story of the brutal realities of a prisoner of war. Could she write about the horrors of war without doing a disservice to the harsh truths of battle? The answer is yes. She clearly spent a great deal of time researching his life, the lives of the people he fought with (and against), the battles he fought, the equipment they used. The book is intelligent and she writes with such depth. While some books on war are understandably painful to read, her talent as a writer makes this book a bit more palatable. I do not mean to imply that she demeans or degrades what he endures, she does not, but she seems to know exactly when the reader needs to back away from the horror. With great mastery she will take the reader from the horrors of POW camp to the heartache of the families at home. While I was skeptical, I had to give the book a shot. For starters, I love the period of time she writes about. (I remain convinced I was born in the wrong time - should have been a child of the 40's/50's or a flapper in the roaring 20's.) Also, I love books on WWII. The clincher for me is that Louie was an Olympian, a runner. While my running days are long gone (and certainly never reached the heights Louie did) there's a bond of sorts there. We meet Louis as a kid growing up in Torrance, California. He's a bit mischievous and well onto his way of becoming a teenaged hoodlum and then a good for nothing adult. He has an epiphany of sorts and gets on the straight and narrow. Guided by his brother, he begins running for his high school track team. While it's not easy at first, after some training, Louis discovers he has some speed. He continues his running career at USC, well on his way to that impossible, elsusive four minute mile and qualifies to run in the Olympics in Berlin. I found myself swept away, absolutely enthralled by the thrill of his races, his trip across the Atlantic, his meeting with Hitler. Shortly after his return, the war reaches a fever pitch and Louie signs up to serve. He ends up in the United States Air Force as a bombardier. So many incredible stories of close calls of near crashes or of running out of fuel over the shark infested Pacific. During one battle, their B-24 is hit 594 times AND ALL BUT ONE of the crew survive. Eventually, Louie's luck runs out and during a rescue mission in an ill-equipped plane, they crash into the ocean. He survives with a few other men on rafts for 47 days. They fight hunger, thirst, aggressive sharks; they dodge bullets from Japanese pilots. Rescue comes in the form of the Japanese Navy. So begins a long stay in and out of POW camps. He somehow survives unspeakable tortures and after years in captivity, he is free. While the war may have ended for the word, it continues to rage in Louie's psyche. Freed from his cell, his mind becomes his new tormentor, disturbing his thoughts and sleep with hellish flashbacks and dreams. He meets a woman, falls in love and gets married, yet the war haunts him and a cloud of misery hangs over his marriage. He resolves to return to Japan, find "The Bird," the tyrant who tortured him, and kill him. At this stage in the story, he's ugly and unlikable (though the reader understands why). Drinking too much, he becomes abusive. His wife talks him into going to see Billy Graham speak. He walks out one night. Another night he goes and is converted to Christian life. Normally, the cynic in me would moan and groan, or maybe put the book aside for fear of it getting preachy... but it is what it is. Louie finds peace and forgiveness. He no longer is haunted by bad dreams or the desire to find and kill his Japanese tormentor. Religion frees him from hate and he becomes a model husband, father and citizen. The story of Louis Zamperini is, if I may use another overused phrase, "A MUST READ". You won't regret it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    "I'm loving this book. I would love to just breeze through it but there is so much information. I'm only on page 28 but I'm listening to an audio book at the same time. I'm almost don't with that. Anyway, this book is a must read. Very well written !" "I'm reading this book slower than I do some. I want to absorb everything. My Father, Uncle and Father in law went through this. I'm sad because of the conditions they had to deal with but also proud beyond words. This is a must read book" I finished "I'm loving this book. I would love to just breeze through it but there is so much information. I'm only on page 28 but I'm listening to an audio book at the same time. I'm almost don't with that. Anyway, this book is a must read. Very well written !" "I'm reading this book slower than I do some. I want to absorb everything. My Father, Uncle and Father in law went through this. I'm sad because of the conditions they had to deal with but also proud beyond words. This is a must read book" I finished reading this book last night. It was one of the most memorable books I have read in some time. I didn't care much for History in school, but I was drawn to this one. It amazes me what our soldiers went through and how much we have to be proud of. I would give this more stars if I could. I highly recommend this book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    David Baldacci

    A true tale of human resilience so unbelievable that you would think it was a novel. But Louis Zamperini did it and Hillenbrand chronicles that harrowing journey in a way only she can.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alex Farrand

    This book deserves the best review I could give it. It hit me hard. It will be awhile.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amy S

    Powerful. Riveting. Beautiful. Probably the best book I have read this year. "Unbroken" was our book club choice for the month, and I picked it up somewhat reluctantly. It seemed awfully big and I worried it would be too slow and too depressing. How glad I am that it was chosen! I am going to buy a permanent copy to keep and maybe one for my Dad for Christmas. The book follows the life of Louis Zamperini, a troubled youth turned Olympic runner. He is preparing for the next Olympic games when Pea Powerful. Riveting. Beautiful. Probably the best book I have read this year. "Unbroken" was our book club choice for the month, and I picked it up somewhat reluctantly. It seemed awfully big and I worried it would be too slow and too depressing. How glad I am that it was chosen! I am going to buy a permanent copy to keep and maybe one for my Dad for Christmas. The book follows the life of Louis Zamperini, a troubled youth turned Olympic runner. He is preparing for the next Olympic games when Pearl Harbor arrives and the country is thrown into war. Louie becomes a reluctant bombardier on a B-24 Liberator. It follows his time as an active soldier, his unfortunate crash, dealing with sharks for weeks on end and no food or water, a horrifying internment in a Japanese POW camp, and his journey home seeking healing and redemption. I am leaving out spoiler after spoiler, giving as little information as possible so as not to ruin anything. But what a life! And what a writer Laura Hillenbrand is. Here is a woman who struggles with severe chronic fatigue and yet was able to slowly produce this incredible work. I have read much non-fiction, I have read WW2 books, Holocaust books, etc etc, but never have I felt so sucked into someone's life. I felt what Louie felt. As his plane is going down over the Pacific and he and his crewmates stare at each other in horror, I truly felt that horror. I caught myself breathing fast with my heart banging against my chest. Again and again I felt like I was there, living it with them. I will also say that Hillenbrand strikes such an important balance--she lays out the gravity of the situation without tipping into graphic unnecessary shock value. There were many times I could hardly stop turning the pages. Amazing that it is a true story. The ending of the book deals so much with forgiveness and redemption. Louis has an understandably difficult time rejoining society at the close of the war. I could not help but compare my own Grandfather, who saw such terrible things in the Pacific theater and turned to alcohol to try to deal with the pain once he came home. I closed the book inspired, hopeful, and touched by his life and choices. I encourage anyone to read this important story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Too long ; needs better editing. For example, the time spent on the raft is just too long and drawn out. I have a very hard time believing some of the events: (view spoiler)[the numerous Japanese bullets missed Allan Phillips and Max on the raft and fixing the bullet holes in the raft while they remained in it is implausible! (hide spoiler)] The sharks’ behavior seems unbelievable too…. The crews on the airplanes were given fleece clothing when they left for their first air assignment. Did there Too long ; needs better editing. For example, the time spent on the raft is just too long and drawn out. I have a very hard time believing some of the events: (view spoiler)[the numerous Japanese bullets missed Allan Phillips and Max on the raft and fixing the bullet holes in the raft while they remained in it is implausible! (hide spoiler)] The sharks’ behavior seems unbelievable too…. The crews on the airplanes were given fleece clothing when they left for their first air assignment. Did there really exist fleece clothing back in the forties?! OK, the old woolen fleece garments is what is being referred to. I just cannot believe many statements made in this book! Louis’ behavior as a child seems very much “exaggerated”. Neither does the religious message professed in this book work for me. That Louis falls under the spell of Billy Graham put me off. I much preferred The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story Of Survival During The War In The Far East. And my husband concurs; he too has read both books. Obviously my husband and I are in the minority, since so many others have loved this book! An author should question what she is being told before writing a biography.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    I enjoyed the beginning of the book somewhat, learning about the main character's struggles to become an Olympic runner. It quickly transitioned into an account of his experiences at war. I had a very difficult time connecting to/caring about any of the characters. (Perhaps the third-person narrative was too distant for me? I felt as though I was just reading a series of facts.) Also, I don't have much interest in war, combat, or airplanes; when I picked up 'Unbroken' I was depending on my love I enjoyed the beginning of the book somewhat, learning about the main character's struggles to become an Olympic runner. It quickly transitioned into an account of his experiences at war. I had a very difficult time connecting to/caring about any of the characters. (Perhaps the third-person narrative was too distant for me? I felt as though I was just reading a series of facts.) Also, I don't have much interest in war, combat, or airplanes; when I picked up 'Unbroken' I was depending on my love for the characters to be enough of a gripper to keep me engaged, and that just didn't happen. Reading it became more of a chore than an escape, so ultimately I only made it through about a quarter of the book. I wonder if I just needed to hang on a bit longer to fall in love with this book the way that so many others have...

  24. 4 out of 5

    Laz

    Louis Silvie "Louie" Zamperini 1917-2014 Louie as a kid was a troublemaker. He was vivacious and naughty and always managed to get some mischief done. He either caused trouble or trouble followed him around wherever he went. His older brother, Pete, in order to counteract Louie's stealing activities, got him involved with the school's sport-team. Pete made Louie run and thus running became Louie's passion. He would never stop running until many years later. In his late teens he began running harder Louis Silvie "Louie" Zamperini 1917-2014 Louie as a kid was a troublemaker. He was vivacious and naughty and always managed to get some mischief done. He either caused trouble or trouble followed him around wherever he went. His older brother, Pete, in order to counteract Louie's stealing activities, got him involved with the school's sport-team. Pete made Louie run and thus running became Louie's passion. He would never stop running until many years later. In his late teens he began running harder and harder, pushing himself to his breaking limits. He broke many records, including some on a national level. So, he decided to try out for the Olympic Games of 1936. He made into the US team but only managed to finish eighth. He didn't let himself get dragged down but instead he started getting ready for the next Olympic Games. World War II put a stop to all of his plans for winning the Olympics. He enlisted in the United States Air Forces and earned a commission as a second lieutenant. He became a bombardier. Louie was as safe as one can be during war time until one day he was not. 'The Green Hornet' was the name of the B-24 bomber that on the 27th of May, 1943, crashed into the ocean 850 miles South of Oahu, killing eight of eleven men aboard. For 47 days they were adrift in the ocean, during those days the three survivors became two. At last, they reached land but they were immediately apprehended by the Japanese Navy and taken to a prisoner-of-war camp. Louie was held in captivity until the end of the war. He was beaten on a daily basis, he became emaciated and survived such hardship that no one could ever imagine. During this time he met his worst nightmare, named Mutsihiro Watanabe, or else 'the Bird' as they all called him. Watanabe was a cold, vicious man who found pleasure upon inflicting pain on the prisoners. Especially Louie who he had taken a very special interest into. He tried to break, tried to bring Louie to his knees, but Louie was unbroken. He would only fall down to come up again. His obstinacy had once again proved to be his best trait. August 1995 the war is offially over and Louie returns home where his family welcomes him back. Louie is not okay. He is haunted, by memories so horrid he wishes he'd forget. Louie would later say that: “If I knew I had to go through those experiences again," he finally said, "I'd kill myself.” In 1946 he met the girl he'd later marry. They fell madly in love. They got married in just a few months. She soon found out that the man she had married was deeply troubled, haunted by memories who brought him nightmares every night. I won't say more. Not because I cannot go on for hours but because I don't want to tell you everything. I want you to buy this book and read this yourself because it's really worth your time, even if you don't have plenty of it. This book is the kind that changes your perspective towards several ideas that you have in your head. It sheds light upon a dark time, on a lesser known side of the war. This novel is a story of passion, courage, bravery. As its title points out very rightly so, it's a story of resilience, not only because Louie survived the slavery but because he also managed to survive the aftermath of war that had left a mark on his soul which he managed to get rid of and live happily until his 97th year.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    I'm not a huge non-fiction fan, but when a friend of mine suggested this as a book club read I changed my mind entirely! Louie was truly a remarkable man and loved such a life! Such a hero and so glad I read this! If you haven't you need to pick it up :) his story is unbelievable and makes you thankful for all you have. Ahhhhhhhhmazing!!!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    This is a inspiring and educational read. It’s one of those books that you gasp out load while reading it as the horrors of war really come to the forefront in this book. This is a story of five parts and I really enjoyed the first three parts. Part one deals with the protagonist Louis Zamperini's childhood and running career and I really enjoyed this introduction to Louis as I felt I really understood this man and knew how he survived the horrors of war and the physiological and physical pain h This is a inspiring and educational read. It’s one of those books that you gasp out load while reading it as the horrors of war really come to the forefront in this book. This is a story of five parts and I really enjoyed the first three parts. Part one deals with the protagonist Louis Zamperini's childhood and running career and I really enjoyed this introduction to Louis as I felt I really understood this man and knew how he survived the horrors of war and the physiological and physical pain he endured. I loved the use of photographs in this book and how the author placed them randomly on pages and not in the middle of the book which you find so much in a lot of Biography’s , I am interested in wartime aeroplanes and recently went on a visit to the Intrepid in New York and therefore really connected with this book because of the fantastic information on the aeroplanes and the air force and the amazing research that went into this book. Part 4 of the book was bit of a letdown for me only in the sense that I found it quite repetitive and very dragged and at times I found myself losing interest in the story but however the pace picked up in the last part of the novel. This is a book where you really see the full horrors of war on all sides and what these soldiers and their families went through and the strength and courage they showed. A tale of unbelievable endurance, hardship and heroism this book is not only an education but a wonderful read and a book that you ponder long after you have read it. I would have rated this book 3.5 if possible because of the 4th part which I found dragged on for too long but am upping to 4 stars because this book deserves more than 3 stars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Zach A.

    Unbroken WWII Was More Than Meets the Eye Imagine that you are an American soldier. You and two other of your fellow soldiers are lost in the South Pacific Ocean after a horrific plane crash. You have little water or food to keep you alive, and the scorching sun in relentless. Oh, and your raft that you are aimlessly floating about on is being circled by twenty foot sharks. You are adrift for forty-six days of hell on Earth. Finally, after nearly seven weeks, you spot land. Somehow, you defied al Unbroken WWII Was More Than Meets the Eye Imagine that you are an American soldier. You and two other of your fellow soldiers are lost in the South Pacific Ocean after a horrific plane crash. You have little water or food to keep you alive, and the scorching sun in relentless. Oh, and your raft that you are aimlessly floating about on is being circled by twenty foot sharks. You are adrift for forty-six days of hell on Earth. Finally, after nearly seven weeks, you spot land. Somehow, you defied all odds and survived. Louis Zamperini went through that terrible ordeal and much, much more during his time as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during WWII. His traumatic experiences are chronicled in the nonfiction book Unbroken, written by Laura Hillenbrand with information she collected by interviewing Louie Zamperini. In the early 1940s, the US was plunged into WWII and Zamperini was drafted into the Air Force as a bombardier and stationed in Hawaii. While on a patrol mission after being in Hawaii for a year, his plane went down and he, along with two others survived. Soon after Louie and his best friend Phil Allen hit land, they were captured by Japan and forced into grueling prisoner of war camps. This book, set during WWII in the South Pacific and Japanese prison camps follows Louie’s struggles through the POW camps. I believe that it is one of the best non fiction accounts of WWII ever written, because it puts you right in the POW camps with Louie, it has all the suspense and excitement of a novel, and finally because of the story is the ultimate tale of survival and hope. This book is one of the best non-fiction books ever written about WWII because it puts you in the POW camps with Louie and his comrades. The details included in this story transport you to the horrific POW camps in Japan. When I was reading this book, I actually felt like I was in the camps with Louie and his fellow soldiers. I felt what they felt, saw what they saw and their agony became my agony. This passage shows you all the horrors the men had to deal with in the POW camps in vivid detail, “ As summer stretched on, conditions in Ofuna worsened. The air was clouded with flies, lice were hopping from scalp to scalp, and wiggling lines of fleas ran the length of the seams of the men’s shirts. […] The beatings by the guards seemed to get worse as the days grew hotter, almost everyday, men staggered back to their cells half conscious and bleeding from the head. The morale of the prisoners steadily declined, and each prisoner lived in fear of starvation” (223). This vivid description allowed me to understand the horrors of the POW camps for the first time. I was transported back to the POW camps and shown what it was like to live there. I also believe Unbroken to be one of the best non-fiction books ever written about WWII because of its perfect and exciting accounts of battles, POW rebellions, and the nonstop suspense. This excerpt describing a battle, gives a small taste of the excitement that continues throughout the book. “And then, shattering. The sky became a fury of color, sound, and motion. Flak hissed up, trailing streamers of smoke over the planes. Metal flew everywhere, […] There was a tremendous bang! And a terrific shudder, the plane had been hit. At last, Louie had his aim, and the first bombs spun down and struck their targets” (94). This quote taken from the heat of an air battle over a Japanese base describes Louie’s plane flying through a battle, and being hit in the wing. However, they do not go down, and Louie begins to bomb the Japanese base below him. This is a great example of excitement and action that is on every page of the book. Also, during the battle they are hit in the other wing, and so, become very close to crashing. This provides an air of suspense that left me unable to stop reading. Finally, this is an amazing WWII book because of the story of hope, survival, and the human will to live no matter what is thrown your way. Louie never gave up hope when he and two other comrades of his were afloat on a raft in the South Pacific Ocean. They knew the situation was dire, but they had hope and so they survived. When Louie was placed in a POW camp by the Japanese army after they were captured from an island, Louie knew how terrible these camps were, but he wanted to live. Not only that, he knew that he must live, because he had a family and friends that were counting on him to come back alive. I was really amazed at this story, and how incredible and inspiring it was. These recurring points in the book inspire you, amaze you, and make for an awe-inspiring book. In conclusion, I believe that this is one of the best non-fiction accounts of WWII ever written, because it puts you right there in the POW camps with Louie, it has all the suspense and excitement of a novel, and finally because of the story itself, the ultimate tale of survival and hope. I thought this was an extremely good book. However, I really had no idea how to connect this to myself. I mean, I’ve never had to go through anything like what Louie went through. The only thing I could relate it to, was what I had read about the treatment of slaves. Like the POWs, slaves were taken against their will and treated like inferiors. They also were thrown into terrible conditions with little food and almost no hygiene, and finally their masters oppressed them both, they were beaten and were worked to the brink of death.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    5x5x5x5 stars! Any part of Louis Zamperini's life would be worth telling a story about. From running in the Olympics to fighting sharks on a deflating life raft to surviving horrors as a prisoner of war, this man experienced the inexpressible. Yet he came through it. Unbroken tells a powerful story in a powerful way and leaves the reader with much to ponder about bravery, optimism, and human nature. If I did have one critique, it is that the ending with Billy Graham got wrapped up quite fast con 5x5x5x5 stars! Any part of Louis Zamperini's life would be worth telling a story about. From running in the Olympics to fighting sharks on a deflating life raft to surviving horrors as a prisoner of war, this man experienced the inexpressible. Yet he came through it. Unbroken tells a powerful story in a powerful way and leaves the reader with much to ponder about bravery, optimism, and human nature. If I did have one critique, it is that the ending with Billy Graham got wrapped up quite fast considering the buildup towards it. The entire book foreshadows Zamperini's PTSD and his eventual healing. It almost felt anticlimactic. But seriously good regardless.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ariel

    The best book I have read all year and one of the best non fiction books I have ever read. I saw the interview with Louis Zamperini on 60 minutes and immediately ordered the book. See it here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?i... While the interview made Louis seem likeable and sweet the book revealed the true nature of this American Hero. The man is a national treasure and everyone should read his amazing story. Just to start with, he was an Olympian runner. Then the war comes and he become The best book I have read all year and one of the best non fiction books I have ever read. I saw the interview with Louis Zamperini on 60 minutes and immediately ordered the book. See it here: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?i... While the interview made Louis seem likeable and sweet the book revealed the true nature of this American Hero. The man is a national treasure and everyone should read his amazing story. Just to start with, he was an Olympian runner. Then the war comes and he becomes an ace bomber. He survives a plane crash, thirty plus days at sea in a raft, numerous shark attacks, only to finally be rescued but by the Japanese. You wonder how things could get worse than being stranded in a raft with no food or water but they do, drastically so. This man cheated death so many times that the only conclusion that can be drawn is that GOD had a plan for his life. His religious conversion was inspiring. By the time I closed the book I had tears pouring down my face. Laura Hillenbrand is an amazing author. She knows a thing or two about suffering and pain because she suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome. Many days she is not even able to get out of bed. It was only recently that she was able to meet the subject of her book face to face. Louis and Laura's friendship as depicted in the interview was extremely touching. It is clear that they hold each other in the highest regard. I learned so many things from this book. I only knew the part of the story where Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. I was very surprised to learn how the Japanese culture influenced their treatment of prisoners. Of course I knew that we dropped the atomic bomb on Japan but this was the first that I heard that there were kill orders in place for our troops. If the bomb hadn't been dropped, all of the prisoners that the Japanese held would have been executed. When you think of WWII, you think of the brutality of the Nazi's but this book really opened my eyes to a part of history that seems to have been swept under the rug. I would never have known about the Rape of Nanking or the Baatan Death March if I hadn't read this book. The thing that I will most take away from this book is the absolute selflessness of that generation of Americans. The way they put their lives on the line without thinking twice about it is something that I find extraordinary. Louis Zamperini and the men and women he served with are shining examples of that courage. Thankfully we have a gifted author like Hillenbrand to remind us of the sacrifices they made so we could have the freedom that we enjoy today.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Arah-Lynda

    Most of us are all too familiar with the atrocities of the Holocaust. Most of us cannot let our minds and hearts forget the unbelievable destruction of Japan and it’s people as a result of America unleashing the atomic bomb. In Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand has focused her research and her unique narrative voice to tell us the true story of Louis Zamperini, an American bombardier, whose plane crashed during a search mission over the Pacific. What follows then is an unforgettable, chilling and extraor Most of us are all too familiar with the atrocities of the Holocaust. Most of us cannot let our minds and hearts forget the unbelievable destruction of Japan and it’s people as a result of America unleashing the atomic bomb. In Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand has focused her research and her unique narrative voice to tell us the true story of Louis Zamperini, an American bombardier, whose plane crashed during a search mission over the Pacific. What follows then is an unforgettable, chilling and extraordinary story of survival, resilience and redemption. I know, I know…..these are the same words that appear on the very cover of the book itself. In my defence all I can say is that this really is a testament to man's ability to survive when driven to the absolute limits of endurance and beyond. Hillenbrand's writing is extraordinary. She brings this story to life, letting it unfold over the reader's eyes with a clarity that is nigh on cinematic. You really must see this for yourselves. This is not a book one reads, rather an experience one will never forget.

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