Unbroken: An Extraordinary True Story of Courage and Survival
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Unbroken: An Extraordinary True Story of Courage and Survival

4.43 of 5 stars 4.43  ·  rating details  ·  234,095 ratings  ·  27,868 reviews

On a may Afternoon in 1943, a U.S. 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

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Hardcover, 473 pages
Published January 20th 2011 by Fourth Estate (GB) (first published 2009)
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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...more
Annalisa
Dec 04, 2013 Annalisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Annalisa by: Traci Gosman
Shelves: memoir-biography
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...more
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...more
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...more
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 overhyped ‘pop history’ book more concerned with drumming home the message that the human spirit can be indestructible in th...more
Jason
Dec 13, 2013 Jason rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jason by: Dolly
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...more
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...more
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...more
Alison
Feb 21, 2014 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: interested in WW2; need to be inspired and encouraged
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Petra SockieX
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.
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...more
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...more
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...more
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...more
Jay Connor
A good friend, Lucy Murphy, recommended this book. And I'm so glad she did. Carol and I listened to it on our road trip from Chicago to Tallahassee a couple of days after Christmas.

While I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about World War II and, especially, since my story-telling father-in-law had served in the Pacific, I found it fascinating that I had such limited understanding of the cruelty and dehumanizing treatment the Japanese inflicted on their prisoners of war. Even having recently r...more
Barbara
I quickly reserved this apparently intriguing book after listening to a beautifully detailed review presented on NPR. I am eager to learn more about this man, Louis Zamperini, who rose from a juvenile offender to an Olympic racer, to an Air Force pilot in WW II. His amazing story includes the harrowing stranding in the Pacific Ocean after his plane crashed, followed by imprisonment by the Japanese.

************************************************************************


Unbroken is a weighty boo...more
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...more
Gary the Bookworm

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand's unforgettable tribute to courage and grace, tells the harrowing story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who suffered unspeakable treatment as a POW in Japan during WW II. While some of her prose is awkward, the story she tells is so riveting that it is nearly impossible to put down. It weaves personal information about Zamperini with a thorough analysis of his experiences, taking us from the Depression and America's reluctant entry into the war and depositing...more
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...more
Anna
Some people would think, "What a big, boring book!" at first glance. To tell you the truth, that was my first take. However, this book is very far from boring and unlike any book I've ever read, let alone biographies. I don't remember one page where I felt I was about to die of boredom. In most biographies, it gives you the facts, and it reads like a boring textbook. Not Unbroken. You can feel the thrill of Louie winning a gold medal. You can feel the trepidation Louie feels when sharks roam und...more
C
I'd give it 10 stars if I could. I liked it that much. While I was on the second half of this book, I started it over again with my husband to listen to while we were stuck in traffic. It is no less engaging the second time around.

I was listening to it during runs and hikes, then progressed to listening to it here, there, everywhere just so I could hear more. It is so well done, and so worth reading. If you are expecting a dry, dull narrative in age tinted black and white, you could not be more...more
Britany
After finishing this book, I feel so grateful for my place on this Earth. Louie's story is unbelievable, fascinating, and will haunt you all at the same time. The title perfectly sums this book up.

Laura Hillenbrand made me a fan after reading Seabiscuit: An American Legend the way that she is able to recapture someone's life onto a page is a talent that only a very few can attain. She has continued to inspire me with this book. As Louie's story weaves through Olympic trials, getting drafted in...more
Derek
I don't know if I have the words to do this book justice, but I'll give it a go. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is, by far, the most interesting, gut-wrenching survival story that I've ever read. The saying, that truth can be more interesting than fiction, definitely applies here.

Louis Zamperini's life story is an extraordinary one. He goes from being a very mischievous kid..to being a world class athlete...to being thrust into WWII as an Army Airman. To a...more
Cecily
Oh. my. goodness. Mesmerizing. Three chapters in and I'm absolutely hooked. Actually, I was hooked by the end of the preface. I started listening to this during my work out today, and the first hour (of this 14-hour audio book!) just FLEW by. Getting to listen to this story will be my "reward" every day for going to the gym and lifting weights.

UPDATE:

Nope, couldn't wait until my next weight training day to listen to this book. Suffice it to say, NOTHING got done this weekend, because I could no...more
Mike
Unbroken: A World War II Story Of Survival, Resilience, And RedemptionTEN STARS because it is twice as good as the best book you ever read about WWII in the Pacific. And not just WWII air combat…it is one of the best tales of survival against nature’s cruel tests. And not just surviving nature’s staggering ordeals…the mind-blowing story about hardship, suffering, tribulation, adversity of a prisoner-of-war. And not only survival in war but a heartwarming, transcendent journey from the depths of...more
Michelle
So far this book is amazing. I cannot even begin to imagine the grit, courage, and sheer determination that pulled Louie Zamperini and his friend Russell Phillips through 47 days on a raft and sheer h*ll in a Japanese POW camp. Halfway through and will revise my review when I'm finished.

I must be in serious need of personal courage and grit in my own life, because the next book I plan to read is "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," the story about Aron Ralston. The movie "127 Hours" is based on hi...more
Jenna  *Puddin Tame*
This story truly is one of resilience and redemption. It mainly follows the life of Louis Zamperini who was somehow able to defy all odds as a POW and to come out on the other side to heal and live life to its fullest. He is truly inspiring.

It's amazing (not in a good way) how many fighter pilots lost their lives during the Second World War by malfunctions more than by enemy attack. That fact alone blew my mind. I am so glad for having read this book because I think that it isn't until you some...more
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Laura Hillenbrand (born 1967) is the author of the acclaimed Seabiscuit: An American Legend, a non-fiction account of the career of the great racehorse Seabiscuit, for which she won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year in 2001. The book later became the basis of the 2003 movie Seabiscuit. Her essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Equus magazine, American Heritage, The Blood-Horse, Thoroughbr...more
More about Laura Hillenbrand...
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“The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent upon those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when their tormentors suffer.” 169 likes
“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.” 149 likes
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