01 September 2011

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Laura Hillenbrand
Random House

Check out the label cloud over there on the right.  See how relatively small the nonfiction label is?  Yeah, it's pretty small.  That's because I like fiction.  Lots.  But every once in awhile an excellent nonfiction book works its way into my stack.  How thankful I am that Unbroken made its way into that pile.  And as rare as it is for me to read nonfiction, it's also rare for me to read a book that immediately makes me think "Wow, my dad would love this book!"  See, my dad is my inspiration for reading (see my post What Type of Reader are You? to understand why), and in the nearly 30 years we've both been readers, our reading tastes have starkly diverged.  On the rare occasion that I come across a book my dad would love, I get extremely excited and can't wait to recommend it to my Papa.*

Unbroken is the story of Louis "Louie" Zamperini.  It follows him through his entire life, starting with his troubled childhood in Torrence, California.  It then follows his quest for Olympic gold in the 5000m and his attempt at being the first man to run a 4-minute mile.  Then it follows him as he serves the Army Air Forces as a bombardier - crashing in the Pacific, surviving on a raft for over 40 days, and ending up as a POW in Japan. THEN it follows his post-war life as he tries to destroy himself and ultimately reinvents himself yet again in a way that I did not see coming.

Oh, and it's about 400 pages, not including 50+ pages of notes and the extensive index at the end.

Truthfully, the length didn't bother me at all.  It was so good, I cranked out about 200 pages in a day - one of those blissful days that involved little more than a comfy blanket, some ice cream, the occasional bathroom break and a good book.  Much like my favorite book The Power of One, this book reminded me of the power of the human spirit.  It reminded me that some of us - not all of us - have within us a resilience that allows us to take just about anything life throws at us and make it our proverbial b!tch.  Louie never claims to be super-strong or amazing, but those around him always knew that he was exceptional.  He, much like my favorite character every PeeKay, simply went through life putting one foot in front of the other, doing whatever was needed to survive.  And I suppose that is all that most of us do - some of us are just required to stretch much further in order to survive.

In the end, this book gave me yet another perspective on WWII.  And it gave me yet another reason to thank those who serve and fight for us.  What they go through for our freedom is unbelieveable.  Wow.

As a librarian, I would recommend this book to just about any adult interested in nonfiction, survival stories, or well-written books in general.  I would not recommend this book for younger readers - it's pretty intense.  High school would most likely be OK, but definitely not middle school.

*Fun story:  As soon as I finished the book, I met up with my dad and said "Dad, you absolutely have to read this book!" His response?  "I already read it.  Man, how much can one guy go through?" Foiled again!

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