There's a reason why Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilliance, and Redemption has been on the New York Times non-fiction best seller list for 25 weeks and counting. In fact there are several reasons. First, there's Hillenbrand action-focused writing style that drives the story forward. There are the variety of interests included in the book like WWII aviation, early Olympic track competition, alcoholism, and born-again Christianity, to name just a few. And there's the meticulously researched historical facts that are dazzling for their precision.
Unbroken tells the story of Louie Zamperini, a favorite to win the 1940 Olympics as a track and field runner who instead ends up serving in the army during WWII. He served as a bombadeir in the Army Air Corps where his plane was shot down. He wandered aimlessly at sea until he was caught by the Japanese and tortured horrifically for years. After this ordeal, the book follows his life through trials and subsequent victories.
Hillenbrand is so good at digging up the historical details that there are moments when this book reads like a novel. Nearly 30 percent of the book is dedicated to references to prove that the writer isn't making the plotlines up; a good idea since it's hard to believe that any one human could endure the things suffered by Zamperini. The whole story gave me, someone who wasn't alive during WWII, a greater appreciation for what our country endured.
But even with Hillenbrand's dizzying capability as a writer, this book was often laborious to read. Many passages felt overwritten and laden with details that dragged on for pages. But if you're a WWII history buff, or a fan of sports history, or an aviation wonk, I can pretty much guarantee you'll love this book.