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

Book - 2014
Average Rating:
Rate this:
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE * Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader's Circle for author chats and more.

In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, 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 hum∨ brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
Appearing in paperback for the first time--with twenty arresting new photos and an extensive Q&A with the author-- Unbroken is an unforgettable testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit, brought vividly to life by Seabiscuit author Laura Hillenbrand.

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
"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
"Magnificent . . . incredible . . . [Hillenbrand] has crafted another masterful blend of sports, history and overcoming terrific odds; this is biography taken to the nth degree, a chronicle of a remarkable life lived through extraordinary times." --The Dallas Morning News
"An astonishing testament to the superhuman power of tenacity." -- Entertainment Weekly
"A tale of triumph and redemption . . . astonishingly detailed." -- O: The Oprah Magazine
"[A] masterfully told true story . . . nothing less than a marvel." -- Washingtonian
"[Hillenbrand tells this] story with cool elegance but at a thrilling sprinter's pace." --Time
"Hillenbrand [is] one of our best writers of narrative history. You don't have to be a sports fan or a war-history buff to devour this book--you just have to love great storytelling." --Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Publisher: New York : Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2014
Edition: Random House Trade Paperback edition
ISBN: 9780812974492
Branch Call Number: 921 Zampe
Description: 500 pages : illustrations, map ; 21 cm


From Library Staff

This is an incredible true story of Louis Zamperini's journey from WWII bombardier to POW in a Japanese internment camp.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Oct 24, 2017

I feel this book deserves a 4.5 star rating because of the imagery that the author uses through out the whole book. It really does seem like it was told from this person directly.

Oct 24, 2017

I read this book for English class as a project. I think this book is a great non-fiction book about the troubles of a veteran and a prisoner of war because it highlights the transformation of the main character, Louie Zamperini, in a unique way that differs from many other non-fiction books about war. I think the author, Laura Hillenbrand, thoroughly researched the accounts and diaries of many soldiers to produce such a masterpiece of a book. Therefore, I recommend this book to those that love books about war or post-war experiences.

Jul 18, 2017

A Truly, remarkable Story. Many stories amongst the main story. Transformation. Loving your enemies, under great duress, heart break, cruelty. Giving back to those, who, need someone to really care.

Cheryl_JHL Jun 02, 2017

I listened...then relistened, and am now listening again.

The first time through, I listened during runs and hikes, then progressed to listening to it here, there, everywhere just so I could hear more. It is so well done, and so worth reading. If you are expecting a dry, dull narrative in age tinted black and white, you could not be more wrong. If the idea of sitting down to read non-fiction leaves you cold, opt for the audiobook narrated by the late Edward Herrmann. He was wonderful to listen to.

Apr 02, 2017

I would've given this 2 stars, but seeing that I usually don't like biographies, I've given it a 3.

I've seen videos and interviews of Zamperini following the book, and I can tell that Laura Hillenbrand must have done a ton of research on Louie Zamperini.

However, the characters I barely had any connection with. In the book, Louis Zamperini is very resilient and optimistic. I think I can definitely believe that, but sometimes, it felt too far-fetched. I had no way of relating to the protagonist, and the most impactful character for me was Mac, one of the crew members who survives the plane crash. He throws tantrums and gets depressed, but I found that his emotions were the most well-conveyed. In this period of time, I guess Louis was supposed to be some kind of hero, but I couldn't feel anything.

Hillenbrand makes Louie this hero who was helping everyone out, yet he becomes the opposite of that after the conflict, drinking with PTSD. I felt that this was the first time we actually witnessed Louie's emotions. Maybe he just had everything bottled up during the War, but he hadn't shown enough for readers to relate to him.

Overall, it is a decent book though and worth a try.

AL_ALICIA Feb 24, 2017

A quick, heart-wrenching read about life as POW in the Pacific theater. I was so excited to read this book and gain a better understanding of an often overlooked part of WWII history but I was ultimately disappointed. For something that was supposed to have such and uplifting message of resilience, I had difficulty with the narration and couldn't connect with the character. In the realm of WWII memoirs, this one is a little over-hyped in my opinion.

Jan 25, 2017

This is one of the most powerful stories I have ever read. Mr. Zamperini was a world class Olympic athlete that spent his prime surviving unbelievable brutality as a prisoner of war in Japan. Colin Kaepernick should read this book.

A must read for students of history and a must listen-to for those fans of audiobooks, this story will inspire and entertain.

Nov 14, 2016

Nov 13 2016, almost 1/2 way through, and one of the best stories ever. It's absolutely amazing that Louis survived. I can hardly wait to finish so that I can watch the movie. This really was a good time to read this, with Remembrance Day falling in the middle of it. It put me in a good mind frame for the services, just thinking about how horrible war is and what those who serve our country are risking as they do their duty. I know I couldn't handle it, and am so grateful that I don't have to.......sure hope I never will!......Nov 16, I'm hoping he gets rescued soon, he's just soooooo close to death!

AL_SARAHD Oct 24, 2016

I have never read a book more quickly or with more intent fixation.
The story of Louie Zamperini is harrowing, heart breaking and inspiring. At times, you may even cry (I sure did) or cheer out loud.
I cannot recommend this book more.
It is a beautifully written narrative about a beautiful soul.

View All Comments


Add Age Suitability

Apr 02, 2017

jmli thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

Feb 17, 2017

Alanreviews thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 13 and 59

black_wolf_2329 Jun 09, 2015

black_wolf_2329 thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

john6573 Jun 04, 2015

john6573 thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over

Feb 18, 2012

lukeooo2 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Feb 18, 2012

lukeooo2 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Algonquin_Lisa Mar 05, 2011

Algonquin_Lisa thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add Notices

Mar 23, 2012

Violence: some parts are grusome.

Algonquin_Lisa Mar 05, 2011

Violence: Main character's treatment in the internment camp was violent.


Add a Quote

Jul 03, 2015

“A lifetime of glory is worth a moment of pain. Louie thought: Let go.”

Jun 24, 2015

"I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!"


Add a Summary

Jun 24, 2015

Story of Louis Zamperini, started as an Olympian when WWII starts and Louis enlists in the Air Force.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings

LibraryThing Series Information


Find it at CRRL

To Top