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

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  743,250 ratings  ·  45,963 reviews
In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man's journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappear
Hardcover, 492 pages
Published November 16th 2010 by Random House
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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)
Ktwski I certainly don't like brutality in books or movies, but this may be the best book I have ever read! Some of the more brutal parts were difficult to g…moreI certainly don't like brutality in books or movies, but this may be the best book I have ever read! Some of the more brutal parts were difficult to get through, but it was a horrific war, and any attempt to make it less so would have dimished the book and what our servicemen endured. Great book, with a happy ending.(less)

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Nov 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Annalisa by: Traci Gosman
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
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
Jan 26, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, survival
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
Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-to-film
”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 pun
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Nov 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jason by: Dolly
Shelves: 5-stars
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
Mar 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Douglas Wilson
Oct 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
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
Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jeanette (Again)
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
Mar 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.

Jun 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war
This is a inspiring and educational read. It’s one of those books that you gasp out load while reading it as the horrors of war really come to the forefront in this book. This is a story of five parts and I really enjoyed the first three parts. Part one deals with the protagonist Louis Zamperini's childhood and running career and I really enjoyed this introduction to Louis as I felt I really understood this man and knew how he survived the horrors of war and the physiological and physical pain h ...more
Jan 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Unbroken is an amazing survival story, but this book is also so grim that it took me five years to finish it.

I had loved Hillenbrand's previous work, Seabiscuit, and had bought a copy of Unbroken back in 2010 as soon as it was released. I started reading it, and admired the writing, but the more I learned about what Louis Zamperini suffered during World War II, the less I wanted to read the book. I mean, here was an Olympic athlete who served as a bombardier during the war. His plane crashed whi
Otis Chandler
Nov 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Otis by: Kara
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
Books Ring Mah Bell
Dec 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I'm loving this book. I would love to just breeze through it but there is so much information. I'm only on page 28 but I'm listening to an audio book at the same time. I'm almost don't with that. Anyway, this book is a must read. Very well written !"
"I'm reading this book slower than I do some. I want to absorb everything. My Father, Uncle and Father in law went through this. I'm sad because of the conditions they had to deal with but also proud beyond words. This is a must read book"
I finished
David Baldacci
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Amy S
Sep 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
What a harrowing tale of survival during WW2. From the Olympics to being stranded at sea to a prisoner of war in Japan. A terrific story. Don't miss.
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
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Louis Zamparini was a son of Italian immigrants. Hecame from an Italian immigrant family. He was brought up in poverty. One of his passions was running and he was selected for the Olympic games. Since television was in its infancy, the the town gathered together to watch their favorite son.
However at the start of World War Two, he enlists to aid his country and was sent to the Pacific front. After his ship was torpedoed and sinks he witnessed the terror and death of many men.
This strong willed
Apr 16, 2012 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm not a huge non-fiction fan, but when a friend of mine suggested this as a book club read I changed my mind entirely! Louie was truly a remarkable man and loved such a life! Such a hero and so glad I read this! If you haven't you need to pick it up :) his story is unbelievable and makes you thankful for all you have. Ahhhhhhhhmazing!!!
Jul 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top, lets-get-real, i-said
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
Jul 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, really
Louis Silvie "Louie" Zamperini


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
Feb 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
Louis Zamperini lived a memorable life. A remarkable life. It's hard to find a word for his life. From running in the pre-war Olympics in Germany, to being a pilot in the South Pacific during World War II, to being shot down by the Japanese, to staying alive floating in a life raft, to being captured by the Japanese, to surviving the intolerable conditions of a Japanese POW camp.
I read this book probably 4 or 5 years ago in a library book club in Belvidere, IL. I never bothered to see the movie
Zach A.
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
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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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