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

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE • Hailed as the top nonfiction book of the year by Time magazine • Winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for biography and the Indies Choice Adult Nonfiction Book of the Year award

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 extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

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.

Praise for Unbroken
“Extraordinarily moving . . . a powerfully drawn survival epic.”The Wall Street Journal
“[A] one-in-a-billion story . . . designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring.”—New York
“Staggering . . . mesmerizing . . . Hillenbrand’s writing is so ferociously cinematic, the events she describes so incredible, you don’t dare take your eyes off the page.”People
“A meticulous, soaring and beautifully written account of an extraordinary life.”—The Washington Post
“Ambitious and powerful . . . a startling narrative and an inspirational book.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Marvelous . . . Unbroken is wonderful twice over, for the tale it tells and for the way it’s told. . . . It manages maximum velocity with no loss of subtlety.”Newsweek
“Moving and, yes, inspirational . . . [Laura] Hillenbrand’s unforgettable book . . . deserve[s] pride of place alongside the best works of literature that chart the complications and the hard-won triumphs of so-called ordinary Americans and their extraordinary time.”—Maureen Corrigan, Fresh Air
“Hillenbrand . . . tells [this] story with cool elegance but at a thrilling sprinter’s pace.”Time

Unbroken is too much book to hope for: a hellride of a story in the grip of the one writer who can handle it.”—Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run

Baker & Taylor
Relates the story of a U.S. airman who survived when his bomber crashed into the sea during World War II, spent forty-seven days adrift in the ocean before being rescued by the Japanese Navy, and was held as a prisoner until the end of the war.

& Taylor

Tells the gripping true story of a U.S. airman who was the soul surviver when his bomber crashed into the sea during World War II and had to face thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. By the #1 best-selling author of Seabiscuit. 200,000 first printing.
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.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Random House, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9781400064168
Branch Call Number: B ZAMPERINI H
Characteristics: xviii, 473 p. :,ill., map ;,25 cm


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DBRL_KrisA Nov 26, 2016

I've read a substantial amount of material about World War II, but the majority of it covered the European war or the Holocaust, so this book about an airman in the Pacific theatre was somewhat new territory for me.
To be honest, though, this is less of a history of World War II than it is a somewhat-biography of Louie Zamperini - grade school troublemaker, Olympic athlete, World War II bomber crew member and Japanese POW-camp survivor. Hillenbrand does an excellent job of explaining such diverse topics as track and field, WWII aircraft, the Japanese code of honor, POW camp conditions, even mid-century Christian evangelism, but where this book really shines is in how it shows those subjects through the eyes of Zamperini, how it takes him from hoodlum to track star to airman to POW, and especially how it shows the effects his experiences in Japan had on him post-war. This was easily one of my favorite historical reads.
A (not so) quick final note: It did take me almost three weeks to read the book, which is quite a bit longer than my average book time. One shouldn't assume from this that the book was difficult to read; on the contrary, the author's writing style lends an almost narrative feeling to the book (except in sections filled with statistics on airplane accidents or POW survival). I found myself involved in several other outside projects and had little time at some points for leisure reading. It's a testament to Hillenbrand's skill that I was able each time to quickly jump back into the action of the book.

Sep 23, 2016

Its a book that's building up chapter by chapter. An amazing book that I'll never forget. I read it when I was 8th grade and I still want to read it. Now its still interesting to me. Its just simply and amazing book. Best historical book I've ever read. You just have to read it till the very end.

mcmahonn Aug 09, 2016

This is an extraordinary historical account of survival in times of war under unimaginable circumstances. This story demonstrates how courage, strength and faith can overcome any obstacles. My favorite part of this amazing story was not all the unthinkable trials he went through, but the admirable way he reacted to it all and his miraculous journey to forgiveness and healing. It inspired me not to give up and reminded me that in spite of adversity and even when I’m are not aware, there's a divine being that is present and gives strength to endure and to forgive. It is remarkable, moving, intense, exceptional and encouraging. I highly recommend that people read this book sometime in their life, it’s not just a story, but an unforgettable experience.

Brief Recap

The story illustrates the life of Louie Zamperini and the atrocities of war. When he was a young boy he was delinquent. Eventually he became a runner and participated in the Berlin Olympics. Later he became an airman, then his plane crashed into the ocean and he was stranded for 47 days surrounded by sharks. After this, he was captured by Japanese forces and became a prisoner of war that endured horrible dehumanizing treatment.

Favorite part

After his unbelievable ordeal he finally returns home, but the war wasn't over in his heart. He remained chained to the memory of his captors, his mind became his new tormentor. It was difficult for him to live life, he was self-destructing.

His desperate wife took him to a Billy Graham Campaign where he had a spiritual awakening and found redemption. As he stood there surrounded by the chairs and people, he suddenly had a flashback. Everything disappeared and instead he was in the open sea again. He remembered the day he admired the still beauty of the ocean and the sky, it felt like a gift to him, and at that moment he believed that his surroundings were the work of someone bigger. That day he forgot his terrible circumstances and only felt gratitude. As he came back from that memory, he felt uneasy and wanted to leave the campaign, but as he was walking towards the exit he had another flashback of the raft at sea. He saw his dying friends, the sun beating on them and the sharks swimming around them. He remembered how desperate he was for a drink of water and how in that moment he whispered: "If you will save me, I will serve you forever". The following day it poured and they survived. As his flashback ended it started to rain outside as well, that's when he decided that instead of leaving he would go to the front. There he experienced a spiritual rebirth and believed, his mind would never torment him again.

After this experience he returned to Japan to see his captors, not to seek vengeance, but to forgive them. As he saw them, all he felt was compassion and he realized the war in his heart was finally over. He finally had peace, he was finally set free.

Favorite Quotes:

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food and oxygen." (page 183)

"Awed to silence, forgetting his thirst and his hunger, forgetting that he was dying, Louie had known only gratitude. That day, he had believed that what lay around them was the work of infinitely broad, benevolent hands, a gift of compassion" (page 374)

"What God asks of me, said Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith. To know who sees him, God makes himself unseen"(page 375)

Librarian_Deb May 31, 2016

An amazing, unforgettable, and inspiring true story of bravery, courage, and endurance. It was definitely as good as all the hype about it said it was. I enjoyed Louis Zamperini's spirit as he refused to let anything break him. I'll never forget the memorable scenes from his life such as his time at the Olympics from 1936 where he stole a German flag, his harrowing experiences on a small rubber raft in the Pacific ocean where he fought off sharks to survive, and his brutal treatment by a Japanese madman after his imprisonment that almost became his undoing. Even that he overcame with a little divine intervention and he even learned to forgive his captors. His story is a shining example of the resilience of the human spirit. I cannot recommend it enough.

Nov 22, 2015

A well crafted biography of a tremendous deprivation. Poignant and beautifully written, this is a very gripping tale. As they say, truth is stranger then fiction this story would be unbelievable if it weren't true. Definitively worth reading.

Nov 11, 2015

This is a beautiful, well-written account of the war in the Pacific that is often undiscussed. A must-read even if you're not a history buff.

Jul 28, 2015

This was an incredible true story of a very humble man who endured many hardships and shared his experiences with the world before he passed away.

Jul 17, 2015

Excellent book!

Apr 06, 2015


Apr 06, 2015

The author's description of such a resilient man kept me turning pages and her insertion of background information never distracted from the evolving story

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Jan 12, 2015

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Jul 18, 2014

Violence: This book takes place during a war

Jul 18, 2014

Coarse Language: Some harsh language it does take place during a war.


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cathyf3 Aug 02, 2016

A World War II story of true events that wil amaze the reader. Louie Zamperini was a superb athlete who ran in the Berlin Olympics. He then joined the service and became an airman, then on a doomed flight in 1943. This plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean and was stranded in a life raft for many days. This is only the beginning of his trials in Japanese prison camps and torture. A story of how strong the mind can be under such circumstances. It is a truly an inspiratioonal story. You have to read this to believe it.


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