Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

9 of 10
448 pages; Random House
From the author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken (Random House) is more than just a war story. True, the bulk of it takes place in a POW camp during WWII and centers on the trials of one American airman. But this is a tale of triumph and redemption. Louis Zamperini—mediocre student, practical joker, wild teenager—is goaded into athleticism by his beloved older brother, Pete, in California in the 1930s. Having competed in the 1936 Olympics, and in 1938 setting a record for the one-mile run, he joined the air force; after he crashed into the ocean, he survived 47 days on a raft at sea before his horrific capture and torture by the Japanese. Was Zamperini just lucky, or was it something about his maverick personality, hard-earned physicality, and spiritual strength that saved him? Through astonishingly detailed research—the author had access to Zamperini (still alive at 93), his family, and several of his fellow captives as well as information about his captors—Hillenbrand tells a clear-eyed tale of yet another underestimated creature who tried hard, ran fast, and miraculously beat the odds.
— Sara Nelson