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Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II

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3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  21,272 ratings  ·  2,149 reviews
“A lost world, man-eating tribesmen, lush and impenetrable jungles, stranded American fliers (one of them a dame with great gams, for heaven's sake), a startling rescue mission. . . . This is a true story made in heaven for a writer as talented as Mitchell Zuckoff. Whew—what an utterly compelling and deeply satisfying read!" —Simon Winchester, author of Atlantic

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Hardcover, 384 pages
Published April 26th 2011 by HarperCollins Publishers (NYC) (first published January 1st 2011)
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Glenn Gray I agree with David Bowman. It is an enjoyable read that could easily be managed by any reader with high school or better reading skills.
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jeffrey Keeten
NewGuineaArea

"The cabin crumbled forward toward the cockpit. The walls of the fuselage collapsed as though sucked inward. Both wings ripped away. The tail section snapped off like a balsa-wood toy. Flames shot through the wreckage. Small explosions rang out like gunshots. Black smoke choked off the light. The air grew bitter with the stench of burning metal, burning leather, burning rubber, burning wires, burning oil, burning cloths, burning hair, burning flesh."

It wasn't easy getting a seat on the Gremlin
...more
Kemper
I have said it before, and I'll say it again: The jungles of the earth must be DESTROYED. *

* Before you break your fingers on your keyboard in your haste to flame me for that comment, take a moment to ask yourself if I might be joking.

In the last months of World War II as America worked its way towards Japan, a plane load of military personnel took off for a sight seeing tour of a remote valley in New Guinea that had been dubbed Shangri-La. Previous flights had noted tribes of natives numbering
...more
Will Byrnes
I bet you watched at least some TV coverage of the rescue of Chilean miners in 2010. The whole world did. In 1945 there was comparable interest in a remarkable rescue. People followed the search and then the rescue attempts for weeks. But a few small events, like the first use of nuclear weapons and the subsequent end of the war, pushed the story out of the public eye. While researching another project, Mitchell Zuckoff happened across this story, actually located one of the survivors, and has r ...more
Mike
How is this not a Hollywood epic movie? WWII Plane crash in the jungle; survivors include a beautiful, plucky, injured WAC; Stone Age lost civilization; rescue mission by paratroopers; tabloid exploitation by news media and government; impending loss of “innocence” as the modern world intrudes into “Shangri-La”. All of it true and expertly covered in the Four Star Lost in Shangri-la: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IIa. Highly recommended. ...more
Carol
The only regret I have about reading Lost in Shangri-La now is that I can't put it on a library best list until December 2012. It was that good!

You'd think with all the stories written with regards to World War II that all had been told. And then along comes another and you're amazed that you never heard anything about this one. Lost in Shangri-La is such a story.

On Sunday, May 13, 1945, Colonel Peter Prossen planned a special outing for some of his staff, a flight to view a remote valley known
...more
Joseph
I read a great deal of non-fiction mostly history, military, and political science. After completing graduate school with a degree in international relation and an undergraduate degree in history. I have a set idea of how nonfiction should be written and that it must be cited and documented. When I have a book in my hand I frequently flip back and forth from the book to the citations and notes. It gives me the confidence that what is written is true and verified. So naturally, I am turned off wi ...more
Jeremiah
Lost in Shangri-La is a simple, enjoyable story about a tragic plane crash and a subsequent rescue mission. It's a little slow at the start but after initial character introductions it's a smooth read. The prose is straightforward, effective, and doesn't contain overwhelming details; just enough to engage your imagination (although at some points in the book I wished for more detail about the lives of the natives). This may not be the greatest survival story ever but it's quite an interesting ad ...more
Eve
Shangri-La. What exactly is that?! I had always assumed that Shangri-La referred to either the all-girl pop band from the 60s, or was a generic name for seedy motels of questionable repute (ie Andrew McCarthy's very bad TV movie, The Courtyard). I was unexpectedly enlightened when I recently picked up Mitchell Zuckoff's book, Lost in Shangri-La: Escape from a Hidden World, A True Story.

Shangri-La was a fictional valley in the Himalayas created by James Hilton in his 1933 novel entitled Lost Hori
...more
Alex
Nov 15, 2014 Alex rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Smashing nonfiction story about a few plane crash survivors in WWII New Guinea and the increasingly ludicrous efforts to get them out of the hidden cannibal-infested mountain valley they landed in. It has basically nothing to do with James Hilton's Lost Horizon, the book that invented "Shangri-La"; that place was in Tibet. But with a story this terrific, all a writer has to do is stay out of its way, which Zuckoff more or less manages to do.

What he doesn't manage is to hide his crush on pretty
...more
A.L. Sowards
Here’s what I liked about this book: the author did his research and stuck to the facts. If there was snappy dialog, it was from a letter or a diary or an interview. And the characters were interesting. There were the three survivors of the crash: a beautiful, unconventional WAC; a brave leader who just lost his twin brother; a stoic guy with really awesome one-liners. And there was the young paratrooper with something to prove sent to rescue them. The author didn’t make stuff up. But unfortunat ...more
Rachel
Dec 25, 2011 Rachel rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rachel by: NPR
Shelves: non-fiction
This book is SO not what I was expecting. A plane goes down in New Guinea in WW2 and only 3 people survive and have to find a way out of the jungle surrounded by cannibals stuck in the Stone Age and perhaps rogue Japanese soldiers. Shouldn't that be exciting? It should, but this book is strangely unemotional, disconnected and boring. What tension the author tries to inject is obviously manufactured. I really wanted to like this book, but it is a strong 1 1/2 stars.
Nathan
This is a fantastic look at one of the lost stories of World War II. Though the story garnered brief worldwide attention in 1945, the details soon were lost in the bigger picture of the Allied victory in the war. Zuckoff takes many characters and gives each one depth and detail, then weaves their stories into one epic tale. After reading the book, I feel like I know the characters. Additionally, Zuckoff paints such a vivid picture of New Guinea that it seems I have visited the exotic locale.

This
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Jenny (Reading Envy)
(Really more 3.5 stars)

I thought I was done reading books set in New Guinea but when I was flying home the only book that sounded interesting on my iPad was this story about a plane that crashes into the Baliem Valley of New Guinea during World War 2.

I know the Baliem Valley because that is where the Dani people live, and I have read multiple books about them. They are the group Michael Rockefeller photographed before traipsing into the jungle for art, that Peter Mattheiessen wrote about in the
...more
Carol
Lost in Shangri-la tells the true story of the fatal plane crash in May, 1945 of 24 U.S. Army servicemen and WAC's on a pleasure tour of the remote New Guinean jungle with only 3 survivors. This incredible story details their encounter with the local natives, their horrific life-threatening injuries, and the dangerous conditions of the rescue mission while still adding in a bit of humor. Amazing historical read!
Wendi
Lost In Shangri-La
By Mitchell Zuckoff
Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

In Lost In Shangri-La, author Mitchell Zuckoff takes readers on a sensational and extraordinary true-life journey. On May 13, 1954, a C-47 military plane called the Gremlin Special, carrying 24 service men and women on a sightseeing expedition to the fabled valley of “Shangri-La”, crashed deep in the jungle of Dutch New Guinea.

Unbelievably, three of the passengers survive: Women’s Army Corps (WAC) Cor
...more
Laura
What an amazing story - a plane filled with "sightseeing" servicemen and WACs crashes in what they think is a hidden valley (except it's actually one valley over), and only three people survive. One has a severe head injury and burned buttocks, one has burned feet, hands, face and legs, and the other is seemingly unharmed. They escape the crash site, hidden in the jungle, and make it to a clearing where they meet Stone Age tribesmen who don't kill them, and after a few days are found by a search ...more
Cheryl
This is one of the most unusual stories from World War II that I have read! In 1945, a plane carrying 24 members of the U.S. military and Women's Army Air Corps crashed in a remote jungle area in Guinea. The three survivors had no food, water, or supplies. Two of them had serious injuries. The area was so inaccessible that the native tribes who were living in primitive conditions there had never seen a white person. Japanese troops also occupied much of the surrounding area. Rescue planes could ...more
Book Him Danno
I am a sucker for WWII stories and I have been dying to read this book every since I saw the title pop up on my kindle. The book isn't just about the survival of three people from a plane crash in Papua New Guinea it is also about a race and culture that was still basically living in the stone age.

The story starts off with 24 enlisted personnel winning a chance to fly over "Shangria-La" as part of a way to boast morale on the military base Hollandia. Mitchel introduces all 24 personnel along wi
...more
Andrea
Listen to the audio version on a trip from Las Cruces to Dallas and back for Christmas. I picked this book because my in-laws were with us and I wanted something we would all be interested in and a book we could finish on the trip (without having to listen non-stop).

This turned out to be a great choice. Everyone enjoyed the narration by the author. My father-in-law who listens to a LOT of audio books said he thought this was one of the best narrations he's heard. The pacing of the story is grea
...more
Beth
This is a fascinating non-fiction account of the crash of a small American military plane in an inaccessible valley in Dutch New Guinea in the waning days of WWII. The plane was carrying soldiers and WACs (Women's Auxiliary military staff) on a sightseeing flight on a day off. The story follows the adventures of the small group of survivors as they encounter local cannibalistic warrior tribes and as they are supplied by paratroopers, treated by Philippino medics, and eventually rescued in a comp ...more
Donna
Three people survive when a plane goes down in a very remote jungle containing natives at constant war with each other. The problem for the Americans is how to get them out when there is no landing field and the three survivors are unable to walk out because of their injuries. This was very interesting. The author gathered his facts, journals, news clippings, personal letters and assembled them into this story. Committment and good old fashioned ingenuity never ceases to amaze me when they make ...more
Michael
Well written, well researched, and riveting, this was a perfect summer read. One of my uncles was a U. S. Air Force ace who went down in the jungles of New Guinea and was rescued by the natives. They hid him from the Japanese during the day, and, travelling at night by canoe, brought him back to Allied territory. His experience added to the book's interest for me, but anyone who likes a good adventure yarn will enjoy it. I was especially interested in the memories of the natives about the plane ...more
Janice
While I was listening to the author who also narrated this audiobook read the introduction, I was a little concerned that I wouldn't enjoy it. But Mitchell Zuckoff surprised me and turned in an admirable performance.

He had great material to work with. He told the real life story of a plane that went down in the Shangri-La area of New Guinea during WWII and the harrowing rescue of the survivors.

He also taught us about people of the region and their customs and beliefs.

Very interesting and inform
...more
Barbara
Very interesting tale of the discovery of a "lost world" on New Guinea during World War II . In the 1940's very little was known about the interior of the second largest island in the world. Impassible mountains made land exploration impossible. Pilots flying from one side of the island to the other discovered an impenetrable valley with a large population of indigenous people that were totally isolated from, and unaware of, the outside world. In fact, it was the last large group of unknown peop ...more
Natalie

Great. Really great.

Photos of the survivors and their rescuers can be seen on the Mitchell Zuckoff, the author's website.

The audio book narrated by the author is a terrific effort and very well done. Highly recommended.


Jan
During WWII, the Allies had bases all over the world. One of them was on Papua New Guinea. While there, they discovered a "lost" valley, hidden high in the mountains, accessible only via plane. The people who lived in this valley had virtually never had any contact with white people. As a treat to the personnel working on the island, the powers-that-be arranged sightseeing tours of the valley. On one of these tours, the plane crashed, leaving only three survivors. This book is the story of those ...more
Suzanne
A non-fiction account of a fascinating survival story, Mitchell Zuckoff takes us back to 1945 World War II, to the occupied islands of New Guinea in the Pacific Ocean. A plane carrying soldiers and WACS on a sightseeing trip to the center of the island crashed, killing all but three. The book is an account of their harrowing experience of trekking (injured) through the jungle, meeting natives that had never before encountered outsiders (possibly barbarous or cannibalistic), and the dangerous mis ...more
Tony Taylor
An interesting true-life adventure about a long forgotten tale of three survivors from a 1945 military transport plane crash in Dutch New Guinea in a valley jungle known at the time as Shangri-La. The survivors, which included a WAC, soon encountered primitive natives who seemed war-like and who thought that these two men and a woman were spirits, and so instead of threatening them, they in time befriend these strange people who came to them for out of the sky. The rescue mission was complicated ...more
Wendy
I love to give books as gifts, especially to my dad. When the anniversary of his birthday came last January, I caught myself picking out books I would like to have given him if he was still alive. It’s become such second nature. As much as he loved mysteries and thrillers, I never quite seemed to put my finger on what he liked most (I sure did try though!)—but when it came to nonfiction, it was easy peasy. Mitchell Zuckoff’s Lost in Shangri-La is exactly the type of book I would have gotten for ...more
Katherine
Apr 14, 2011 Katherine rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers of Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, Donner Party and Andes survivor story.
Shelves: first-reads, reviewed
Off for a pleasure ride over some of the most exotic scenery in the world and some of its exotic residents three service people, two soldiers and a WAC find themselves the only survivors of a tragic plane crash in a rain forest with no way out among possible headhunting cannibals. 1945 New Guinea. A place that had only been seen from the air, so it was thought. The story of their initial days trying to reach a place where THEY could be seen and where they would be safe from the natives is heart ...more
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Novel Journal 4 - Chris Cheney 1 6 Mar 07, 2015 08:53AM  
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Lost in history!! 17 84 Dec 01, 2013 05:05AM  
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Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor of journalism at Boston University. He is the author of Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II. His previous books are: Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, one of Amazon.com's "Best Books of 2009"; Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend, a New York Times Editors' Choice book; and Ch ...more
More about Mitchell Zuckoff...
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“Fear is something I don’t think you experience unless you have a choice. If you have a choice, then you’re liable to be afraid. But without a choice, what is there to be afraid of? You just go along doing what has to be done.” 10 likes
“fear is something i don't you experience unless you have a choice. If you have a choice, you're liable to be afraid. But without a choice, what is there to be afraid of? You just go along and do what has to be done.".,” 2 likes
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