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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
4,4553141,100 (4.46)335
  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
    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.
  3. 10
    Flyboys: A True Story of Courage by James Bradley (whymaggiemay)
    whymaggiemay: both examine prisoners of the Pacific islands
  4. 10
    The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz (clif_hiker)
  5. 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.
  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
    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.
  8. 00
    We die alone by David Howarth (srdr)
    srdr: Jan Baalsrud's incredible survival and escape from Nazi-occupied arctic Norway.
  9. 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.
  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
    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)
  12. 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.
  13. 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.

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» See also 335 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 314 (next | show all)
This nonfiction title tells the story of Louis Zamperini, who as a youth was a troubled kid who stole and committed other relatively minor delinquencies. To help cure him of these bad habits, his brother suggested Louie take up track, to which he quickly acclimated. In fact, he became so good at beating records that he eventually was selected to represent the United States at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. When World War II broke out, Zamperini joined the Air Forces as a bombardier. When on a search and rescue mission one day, he and three other crew members were left as the sole survivors of a catastrophic engine failure. After surviving for weeks with hardly any food adrift in the Pacific Ocean with sharks circling the raft daily, Zamperini was captured by the Japanese. And thus began the grueling ordeal of Louie's years as a prisoner of war, subject to the most horrific of conditions including starvation, physical abuse, and constant degradation.

While that quick paragraph summarizes the basics of Zamperini's life, it does not even begin to give justice either to Zamperini's life or to this book about it. I went into this book just knowing a little bit about the topic and thinking it sounded interesting; I didn't notice until after I had the book in hand that the author also wrote the prize-winning Seabiscuit, which I never read but heard much about, of course. When I first started Unbroken, I wasn't thrilled as it opens somewhat in the middle with a story about the men in the lifeboat being strafed by Japanese aircraft. I suppose it's not a bad idea to draw some readers in with an adrenaline-filled exciting vignette, but I was a little put off as I didn't really know what was going on yet nor having any emotional attachment to the people at this point. Then once Hillenbrand began with the beginning and started telling of Zamperini's early days, I was hooked. Not being a sports fan myself, I was surprised to find how interested I was in Louie's races and running times, leading up to his eventual selection for the Berlin Olympics. It was fascinating to read about the charade that was put on for the world to cover up the abuses already taking place in Nazi Germany.

The next section of the book detailing Louie's training and career as a bombardier could be make it or break it for some readers. Hillenbrand goes into a lot of specifics about the different types of fighters, including a great deal about the B-52. She discusses the fighter's design and the many reasons it was problematic. Hillenbrand uses numerous facts and figures to describe the risky conditions facing bomber crews. For some, this level of information might be more than they expected in a "general non-fiction" book (as this one is marketed by its publisher). However, I found this part to be infinitely engaging. I appreciated getting a greater context and understanding of the world around Louie, so that his story was not only his own but also one within its place in history. (I would argue this is likely what separates this book from Zamperini's own autobiography but never having read that, I can not be sure if that is truly accurate.) I was continually amazed by the statistics cited by Hillenbrand, including the large number of casualties occurring during training exercises and rescue missions.

The story next moves on to the castaway men aboard the lifeboat, facing numerous trials, many of which were similar to those I read about in the nonfiction title In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors. While I do not mean to belittle Zamperini's hardships in any way at all, at this point I felt a little like I had heard this story already and wasn't sure how long this would continue to hold my interest.

Then came the point in which the tale turned truly black. After Zamperini and his fellow castaway were captured by the Japanese, they endured a number of different prison camps, each one seemingly worse than the last. This part was absolutely gripping to me, having never read about Japanese World War II prison camps before and knowing nothing about the atrocities that took place there. But beware that this part of the book is of necessity incredibly intense, with stories of devastating losses. It is not for the faint of heart. Although I was incredibly interested and engaged at this point, I still found myself having to step away from the book because it was just so emotionally heavy. Again, throughout all of this, Hillenbrand puts Louie's sufferings into the broader context of Japanese prisoners of war. Her uses of numbers and statistics is not dry but rather heartbreakingly astounding.

The book ends by tying everyone's story up in a veritable "where are they now?" fashion. This includes everything from homecomings and weddings to a hunt for Japanese war criminals and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. A footnote to this book would be that its subject died this past month at the age of 97.

All in all, this was an engaging read that I highly recommend it. It is a well-written story of incredible hardship and survival, in addition to being filled with all kinds of facts and figures about World War II. I can see it as being a satisfying read for World War II buffs as well as other readers who just enjoy a good story, although it will certainly appeal more to the former. For the audiophile, the audio version has the ever-delightful Edward Hermann as narrator, doing a simply fantastic job. Because it was so good, I'll say it again: I highly recommend this book. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Jul 18, 2014 |
The courage, strength and will of humans can be astounding at times. In this true story of Louis Zamperini and his mates during WWII -- forced to survive after crashing a B-24 into the ocean searching for lost servicemen -- the story is personal and reminds us that when faced with circumstances, will and courage trump everything. Simply an excellent book. ( )
  MikeBiever | Jul 14, 2014 |
Wow ( )
  amazzuca26 | Jul 13, 2014 |
This is an amazing story of the atrocities of the Japanese prison camps and the amazing life of Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic runner who was drafted into the Air Force. He ended up on a rescue mission when his plane malfunctioned, was on a life raft for about 45 days, and ended up in one of the worst Japanese prison camps. ( )
  creighley | Jul 11, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 314 (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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What stays with you latest and deepest? of curious panics,
Of hard-fought engagements or sieges tremendous what deepest remains?
--Walt Whitman, "The Wound-Dresser"
For the wounded and the lost.
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All he could see, in every direction, was water.
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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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