Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
This is one of those reviews where the book I finally got around to reading is one of the most popular of the last 10 years, so it doesn’t take much writing to say how I felt about it. Unbroken is a must-read, obviously (thanks to my brother Chris for encouraging me to get this one in my hands). I now look forward to seeing the movie, which I’m certain is not quite as heart-wrenching and inspiring as Ms. Hillenbrand’s epic work--yet I’m sure it’s excellent as well. And I’ve just noticed on Amazon there is now a Young Adult adaptation of this novel, which would be a wonderful shared read for any parent and their mature middle grade or high schooler. PLUS, my older brother and one of his daughters recently listened to the audiobook, which he said has an absolutely phenomenal narrator. In fact, my bro told me that many times, he recalled sitting in the driveway with his daughter Mia, car turned off, home from wherever they’d been, but unable to get out just yet as they were enraptured by the story and just had to hear a little bit more...then a little bit more. Oh and this was AFTER my bro read the physical book, by the way.

You can peruse over 27,000 reviews on Amazon and catch a great plot summary over there. However, you probably already have slight knowledge of what this is about--Louis Zamperini’s plane crashes in the ocean during WWII and he survives an insane amount of time starving in a lifeboat floating on the water, survives an insane amount of time in a Japanese prison camp, and then survives reintroduction back into the real world. Ultimately finding triumphant rebirth as he returns to running--one of the true loves of his life. By the way, it doesn’t even matter if this plot is spoiled to you or not. He lives. What matters is the writing is spectacular and the story is truly remarkable, beyond anything you’ve ever heard. Well-researched, well-organized, expertly-crafted, Ms. Hillenbrand has a real masterpiece here.

What made it so important and mesmerizing for me was realizing what these soldiers went through in the world wars. Reading a history book in school and memorizing some dates is one thing. Plus we kind of forget that stuff as we grow up and find our own little minimal life issues. To immerse yourself back in time in the journey of one great man...floating side by side and starving with him in shark-infested open ocean waters, then lying in a dirt cell with him in Japan, then returning home to face more post-war challenges...you begin to realize the reality these guys faced. And the reality was awful, for the most part. To survive, as Louie did, is nothing short of miraculous. His story will change the way you see your daily grind and inspire you to be way more grateful and a little less stressed about what you go through because almost nothing can compare to the story of this Unbroken man.

Dive into this book and read it or listen to it--whichever is your preference. Either way you’ll be inspired, enlightened, a little bit horrified, but ultimately heartwarmingly entertained all at the same time. And that’s what makes a fantastic non-fiction novel.

Happy Reading!