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

4.44 of 5 stars 4.44  ·  rating details  ·  288,425 ratings  ·  32,212 reviews
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 extraordin ...more
Kindle Edition, 497 pages
Published November 6th 2010 by Random House (first published 2010)
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Marji Morris Anytime you use a first person narrator, it makes the story more "immediate" but you lose perspective. You can only tell what that character sees and…moreAnytime you use a first person narrator, it makes the story more "immediate" but you lose perspective. You can only tell what that character sees and hears. By using a 3rd person narrator, the author can give other info she gleaned from her research. It's a tough call to decide which narrator will do the job best in a given book. (less)
Grace Yes, I would absolutely say so. There are disturbing descriptions of violence in the book, no doubt. These are mainly in one part of this five-part…moreYes, I would absolutely say so. There are disturbing descriptions of violence in the book, no doubt. These are mainly in one part of this five-part story. However, there is a central theme of forgiveness and redemption that come through if you read until the end. (less)
With the Old Breed by Eugene B. SledgeUnbroken by Laura HillenbrandA Pledge of Silence by Flora J. SolomonGoodbye, Darkness by William R. ManchesterGhost Soldiers by Hampton Sides
World War II - Pacific Theatre
2nd out of 67 books — 47 voters
The Sacred Band by Janet E. MorrisPride and Prejudice by Jane AustenThe Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoThe Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupéryAnimal Farm by George Orwell
Books that most influenced you
52nd out of 363 books — 218 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
...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
Jeffrey Keeten
”If I knew I had to go through those experiences again,” he finally said, “I’d kill myself.”

 photo Unbroken_zpsfdd940aa.jpg

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
...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
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
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 X smokin' hot
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.
Laz
Jan 08, 2015 Laz rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, really
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
...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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
...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
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 sharks’ behavior seems unbelievable too…. The crews on the airplanes were given fleece clothing when they left for their first air assignment. Did there
...more
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.
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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
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Seabiscuit: An American Legend Unbroken: An Olympian's Journey from Airman to Castaway to Captive Unbroken Inquebrantable Invincible

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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.” 206 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.” 186 likes
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