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Unbroken : a World War II story of survival,…

Unbroken : a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemption (2010)

by Laura Hillenbrand

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,215363855 (4.46)397
Recently added byrgruberexcel, mtome, private library, kthaxter, ruanent, afarrington, olongbourn, gouldc
  1. 50
    Ghost Soldiers by Hampton Sides (phm)
    phm: Nonfiction but reads like fiction and tells of a heroic plot by US Rangers to rescue Allied soldiers from a Japanese POW camp.
  2. 20
    The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz (clif_hiker)
  3. 20
    Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath by Michael Norman (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Another remarkable story about survival during WWII, about what humans can do to one another.
  4. 10
    The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown (terran)
    terran: Both books deal with participants in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and with personal stories of individuals growing up in that time period. Both are incredible true stories that read like fiction.
  5. 10
    Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James Bradley (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: both examine prisoners of the Pacific islands
  6. 00
    A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead (srdr)
    srdr: A well-told story with similar themes…WW II survival, friendship under difficult conditions.
  7. 00
    We die alone by David Howarth (srdr)
    srdr: Jan Baalsrud's incredible survival and escape from Nazi-occupied arctic Norway.
  8. 00
    Road to Valor: A True Story of WWII Italy, the Nazis, and the Cyclist Who Inspired a Nation by Aili McConnon (sboyte)
    sboyte: Athletes and their experiences in the second World War.
  9. 00
    Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff (srdr)
    srdr: A gripping, non-fiction story of a WW II airplane crash on Greenland.
  10. 00
    Once Upon a Town by Bob Greene (cransell)
    cransell: An uplifting true story about World War II. Perhaps a good read after the harsh experiences in Unbroken.
  11. 00
    What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes (TooBusyReading)
    TooBusyReading: Based on the author's experiences, starting with the Vietnam war. Gave me lots of insight into war and warriors.
  12. 00
    Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II by Louis Zamperini (Stbalbach)
    Stbalbach: Louis Zamperini's autobiography published in 2003, with intro by John McCain.
  13. 00
    The Forgotten 500: The Untold Story of the Men Who Risked All for the Greatest Rescue Mission of World War II by Gregory A. Freeman (HistoryNutToo)

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» See also 397 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 362 (next | show all)
This self-respect and sense of self-worth, the innermost armament of the soul, lies at the heart of humanness; to be deprived of it is to be dehumanized, to be cleaved from, and cast below, mankind. Page 188

Louis Zamperini was a delinquent teenager who was used to running from the local authorities. His running would one day bring him to the grandest stage of sports excellence, the Olympics. Although he did not win any medals at his first appearance, the fire and the passion for competing was lit. All was to be dashed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, and the United States was thrust into the chaos of World World II. This trouble making youth from Torrance would defy the odds stacked against him, becoming a hero in every sense of the word and a testimony to the inextinguishable flame that is the human spirit.

For the longest time, I've heard about the hype and buzz surrounding Unbroken and in all honesty, it never captured my attention just because of the label nonfiction. As good as it sounded, a nonfiction book conjures to mind just an endless rattling of facts and statistics which to some may seem fascinating, but to me was a remedy for insomnia. On top of that, the book is about war. So you have a generous dosing of doldrum information coupled with the inevitable gruesome realities of war and I just couldn't see myself finding such a book readable, let alone enjoyable. I was wrong. Unequivocally and unashamedly wrong! From the very first page, I was held captive by Zamperini's story. I could not come up for air fast enough or long enough. Hillenbrand does a brilliant job of balancing the facts (which there is a wealth of, evidenced by her extensive Notes and footnotes section) that give the book creditability and substance, but never over powering the heart and essence of the story itself. It is a very human story, with a flawed main character, but one who from the moment you are introduced to, cannot help but cheer and root for. With an average LT rating of 4.46, don't make the same mistake that I did. Pick up this book and read it now because it is one of those rare gems lives up to all the hype surrounding it. I can't recommend it enough! ( )
1 vote jolerie | Mar 2, 2015 |
Incredible, inspiring story that should appeal to just about anyone. ( )
  Scarchin | Feb 25, 2015 |
Very suspenseful; a true story of Louis Zamperini, his life as an troubled youth turned to Olympic runner and then his horrific experience during WW II. It is very descriptive and makes one really realize the horrors and atrocities that went on with the prisoners during that time frame. My heart broke for him as well as his family. A must read for anyone interested in WW II history. ( )
  berthacummins | Feb 24, 2015 |
With books that are widely popular, I often find that I am among the last to discover them. Well, not discover them, exactly, but to read them and discover why they are so popular, and well liked, for myself.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is exactly that kind of a book. By the time I picked it up, most people I knew had read it, even people who did read much. It was slated for release as a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie, and there was even Oscar chatter. Suffice to say: I felt like the last person in America who had not read Louis Zamperini’s story.

And the obligations of a book club to read it, even then.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I was reluctant, if reluctance is the right way to describe my slow journey to experience Zamperini’s World War Two survival story. The tale is incredible and exciting, full of heroism and survival over herculean obstacles, eventual redemption, forgiveness and love. Once I started reading it, I did not want to put it down.

Without recounting the story, since it’s more than easy to find out what it is about (Olympic runner becomes World War Two pilot, crashes in the Pacific just a few hundred miles from Hawaii, and survives first on a raft in shark invested waters for 47 days and then for two years as a Japanese prisoner of war. Oh, also, he survives, and beats, alcoholism and PTSD once he returns home after the war), allow me to share just a few observations and insights that stuck out to me as I was reading.

First off, Zamperini was not the only person who survived the horrendous abuses of Japanese prisoner of war camps. Heck, he wasn’t even the only person to survive his plane’s crash into the Pacific. With him was Russell Allen Phillips, his friend and the pilot of the plane. Along with thousands of other servicemen and women, both survived through Japanese POW camps, faced horrific experiences, and came home bruised and hurting (Al dutifully attended commemorating events for his friend Louis in the decades that followed the war, even though he never received similar recognition that he probably deserved). Over 27,000 American servicemen and women were captured by the Japanese in the Pacific Theater, with only 16,358 returning home after the war.

And yet, this does not diminish Zamperini’s story. From a near miscreant as a boy to a track star and eventual competitor at the Berlin Olympics in 1936 (where he met Hitler after a race and ran afoul of German soldiers when he stole a NAZI flag off the front of the Reich Chancellery as a souvenir), Zamperini’s story might have ended with the start of World War II and the cancellation of the Olympics. Instead, he became the bombardier of a bomber crew and saw action several times before his plane went down into the Pacific.
Three survived the crash, though one died before they crossed the ocean. Shark attacks, Japanese fighter attacks, and dehydration plagued them, and yet, they managed to survive. It’s a harrowing tale and full of incredible feats. The men caught birds that came too close, snagged fish with hooks tied around their fingers, and collected rain water, when it fell. If the story had ended when the men found land, it would still have been an incredible tale.

Second, every time it seems like things can’t get worse for Zamperini, they get worse. It’s one jump out of the frying pan and into the fire after another. He survives a bombing raid, returning to base with his plane shot up and low on fuel. Instead, he’s sent out on a broken replacement bomber that crashes into the ocean. He floats across thousands of miles of ocean, only to find himself in Japanese territory. Zamperini is thrown into a prison camp, separated from Al, only to find out that the previous prisoners, a number of Marines, had all been executed. He survives execution (though not without being used as a human test subject for Japanese medical experiments) and is transferred to a better prison camp…only to find a sadistic guard who controls the camp, beating the prisoners and singling out Louis for punishment. The guard is transferred, eventually, and Louis seems to see better days ahead…only to find himself transferred to the guard’s new location.

And so on. Even back to Zamperini’s final release and return home. Home in the US, he finds love and his victory over his captors appears complete. Then, Louis finds himself beset with the effects of repeated beatings, PTSD really, and sinks into alcoholism, depression, and anger.

Which comes to the final observation [sort of spoilers ahead. Proceed at own risk]. Taken as a whole, Zamperini’s story has a lot that relates to a lot of other POWs returned from war. And perhaps it shouldn’t be seen as unique. What makes the story so compelling, though, is how Zamperini eventually finds God, remembers his promise to turn his life over to Him if Zamperini makes it through the war alive, and begins to do just that. He forgives his captors, even returning to Japan to visit a prison for prison camp guards, forgiving them in person. He spends his life working with boys, building camps and running programs for the rest of his life.

Sure, it’s not unique, but perhaps it is the lack of uniqueness that allows it to resonate with the human spirit, promising redemption and transcendence. In Zamperini’s story, we see shades of the hero we wish to be and, perhaps, can be. ( )
  publiusdb | Feb 23, 2015 |
While this is not the typical genre of book I read, it held my attention throughout. It kept me awake at night pondering the seemingly unending depths of cruelty of which humanity is capable, but also the resiliency of the human spirit. I gained a much clearer understanding of WWII and a much greater appreciation for the sacrifices of military personnel. ( )
  poetreegirl | Feb 22, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 362 (next | show all)
The ideal way to read “Unbroken” would be with absolutely no knowledge of how Mr. Zamperini’s life unfolded. Ms. Hillenbrand has written her book so breathlessly, and with such tight focus, that she makes it difficult to guess what will happen to him from one moment to the next, let alone how long he was able to survive under extreme duress...So “Unbroken” is a celebration of gargantuan fortitude, that of both Ms. Hillenbrand (whose prose shatters any hint of her debilitating fatigue) and Mr. Zamperini’s. It manages to be as exultant as “Seabiscuit” as it tells a much more harrowing, less heart-warming story.


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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laura Hillenbrandprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Herrmann, EdwardNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the wounded and the lost.
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Book description
This book is an eye-opening and awe-inspiring tale told about the horror of war and the challenges that some of the men had to endure. Featuring Louis Zamperini, this book describes some of the terror he had to experience as a POW to the Japanese in WWII.
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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--Lt. Louis Zamperini. Captured by the Japanese and driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor.… (more)

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