Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: From Laura Hillenbrand, the bestselling author of Seabiscuit, comes
Unbroken, the inspiring true story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be
believed. In evocative, immediate descriptions, Hillenbrand unfurls the story of Louie Zamperini--a juvenile
delinquent-turned-Olympic runner-turned-Army hero. During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane
crashed into the ocean, and what happened to him over the next three years of his life is a story that will keep you
glued to the pages, eagerly awaiting the next turn in the story and fearing it at the same time. You’ll cheer for the
man who somehow maintained his selfhood and humanity despite the monumental degradations he suffered, and you’ll want to
share this book with everyone you know. --Juliet Disparte The Story of Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Eight years ago, an old man told me a story that took my breath away. His name was Louie Zamperini, and from the day I
first spoke to him, his almost incomprehensibly dramatic life was my obsession.
It was a horse--the subject of my first book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend--who led me to Louie. As I researched the
Depression-era racehorse, I kept coming across stories about Louie, a 1930s track star who endured an amazing odyssey in
World War II. I knew only a little about him then, but I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After I finished Seabiscuit,
I tracked Louie down, called him and asked about his life. For the next hour, he had me transfixed.
Growing up in California in the 1920s, Louie was a hellraiser, stealing everything edible that he could carry, staging
elaborate pranks, getting in fistfights, and bedeviling the local police. But as a teenager, he emerged as one of the
greatest runners America had ever seen, competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, where he put on a sensational
performance, crossed paths with Hitler, and stole a German flag right off the Reich Chancellery. He was preparing for
the 1940 Olympics, and closing in on the fabled four-minute mile, when World War II began. Louie joined the Army Air
Corps, becoming a bombardier. Stationed on Oahu, he survived harrowing combat, including an epic air battle that ended
when his plane crash-landed, some six hundred holes in its fuselage and half the crew seriously wounded.
On a May afternoon in 1943, Louie took off on a search mission for a lost plane. Somewhere over the Pacific, the
engines on his bomber failed. The plane plummeted into the sea, leaving Louie and two other men stranded on a tiny
raft. Drifting for weeks and thousands of miles, they endured starvation and desperate thirst, sharks that leapt aboard
the raft, trying to drag them off, a machine-gun attack from a Japanese bomber, and a typhoon with waves some forty feet
high. At last, they spotted an island. As they rowed toward it, unbeknownst to them, a Japanese military boat was
lurking nearby. Louie’s journey had only just begun.
That first conversation with Louie was a pivot point in my life. Fascinated by his experiences, and the mystery of how
a man could overcome so much, I began a seven-year journey through his story. I found it in diaries, letters and
unpublished memoirs; in the memories of his family and friends, fellow Olympians, former American airmen and Japanese
veterans; in forgotten papers in archives as far-flung as Oslo and Canberra. Along the way, there were staggering
surprises, and Louie’s unlikely, inspiring story came alive for me. It is a tale of daring, defiance, persistence,
ingenuity, and the ferocious will of a man who refused to be broken.
The culmination of my journey is my new book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.
I hope you are as spellbound by Louie’s life as I am.