Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

80%

54 Critic Reviews

. . .it is the tension of Zamperini's fight to live in barbaric conditions that makes "Unbroken" so disturbing and thrilling.
-LA Times

Synopsis

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NOW 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 humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.
 
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
 

About Laura Hillenbrand

See more books from this Author
Laura Hillenbrand is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Seabiscuit: An American Legend, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, won the Book Sense Book of the Year Award and the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, landed on more than fifteen best-of-the-year lists, and inspired the film Seabiscuit, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Hillenbrand's New Yorker article, "A Sudden Illness," won the 2004 National Magazine Award, and she is a two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, the highest journalistic honor in Thoroughbred racing. She and actor Gary Sinise are the co-founders of Operation International Children, a charity that provides school supplies to children through American troops. She lives in Washington, D.C.
 
Published November 16, 2010 by Random House. 497 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Education & Reference, Sports & Outdoors, War, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Critic reviews for Unbroken
All: 54 | Positive: 48 | Negative: 6

Kirkus

Excellent
Sep 01 2010

Alternately stomach-wrenching, anger-arousing and spirit-lifting—and always gripping.

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NY Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Janet Maslin on Nov 14 2010

Ms. Hillenbrand is a muscular, dynamic storyteller. . .

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NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by David Margolick on Nov 09 2010

. . .virtually everything about Zamperini is filtered through her capable yet rather denatured voice, and we don’t really hear him.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Kevin Rushby on Feb 18 2011

Here is the story that few PoW books have bothered to tell: of a man struggling to escape an inescapable past...Hillenbrand marches second world war literature right back into the spotlight.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
Oct 11 2010

Hillenbrand's triumph is that in telling Louie's story (he's now in his 90s), she tells the stories of thousands whose suffering has been mostly forgotten.

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Wall Street Journal

Below average
Reviewed by James Hornfischer on Nov 13 2010

She doesn't show us much of the hero in repose or illuminate how his wartime trials look to him in the sunset years.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Ginger B. Collins on Feb 03 2011

Unbroken chronicles the sufferings and triumphs of Zamperini, a WWII Airman and POW. Hillenbrand is able to help us see and experience this 93-year-old American hero’s grit and courage from a fresh perspective...presented by Hillenbrand in a cinematic and palatable manner.

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Blog Critics

Excellent
Reviewed by Nancy Fontaine on Jan 11 2011

God is in the details, so the saying goes, and Hillenbrand provides them, making every part of Louie’s story stand out in vibrant colors.

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NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Martin A. David on Nov 16 2010

Zamperini is Hillenbrand’s focal point, but the scope of her exciting book goes far beyond the life and exploits of one man. Her deeper theme is the human aptitude for survival. The author’s amazing ability for research has rounded up an array of details that constantly grabs our attention.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Denise Longrie on Nov 21 2014

This is a biography of Louis Zamperini (1917-2014), a competitor in the 1936 Olympics who later survived 47 days adrift on a raft in the South Pacific during WWII only to be captured and held as a POW under staggeringly brutal conditions.

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Examiner

Above average
Reviewed by Kirk Zebolsky on Apr 16 2011

"Unbroken" is 477 pages densely packed with detail and graphic violence. It is for anyone who didn't keep up with the previous war books, who doesn't know that more than 139,000 Nebraskans served (and more than 3,800 died) in World War II. This well-documented book can serve as an introduction to the war's Pacific Theater.

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NPR

Excellent
Reviewed by Maureen Corrigan on Dec 01 2010

Hillenbrand has a gift for recovering the spirit of mid-20th century America. . .

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Financial Times

Above average
Reviewed by George Pendle on Jan 24 2011

Unbroken’s last act is in a curious key. Returning to peacetime America, Zamperini was racked by memories of his torturers. He turned to booze, got into fights, and eventually ended up being saved by the evangelist Billy Graham. Inevitably, the deepest, darkest circle of hell that Zamperini found himself running around had himself at its centre.

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Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Mark Kramer on Dec 28 2010

This reader was hooked soundly, then wriggled free by the end, left feeling puzzled and a bit fouled.

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Washington Times

Good
Reviewed by Wesley Pruden on Feb 25 2011

His is the compelling account of survival, resilience and redemption as told by Laura Hillenbrand, author of the best-seller “Seabiscuit,” in her new book, “Unbroken.”

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Jane Ciabattari on Oct 28 2010

. . .it is the tension of Zamperini's fight to live in barbaric conditions that makes "Unbroken" so disturbing and thrilling.

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Entertainment Weekly

Above average
Reviewed by Benjamin Svetkey on Nov 10 2010

I occasionally had to give myself a break from the bleakness of his life in the POW camp. All of which makes Unbroken a good book, sometimes even a profound book, but it’s probably not going to be anybody’s favorite book.

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The Washington Post

Below average
Reviewed by Gary Krist on Oct 12 2010

. . .Hillenbrand presents as fact a few too many stories that seem like family legend.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Nicholas Shakespeare on Jan 20 2011

Hillenbrand must be congratulated for chiselling out such an uplifting story.

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The Telegraph

Excellent
Reviewed by Nigel Jones on Jan 16 2011

Displaying the same qualities of meticulous research and identification with her subject that brought Seabiscuit alive. . .

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Dallas News

Excellent
Reviewed by Michelle Jones on Nov 21 2010

. . .this is biography taken to the nth degree, a chronicle of a remarkable life lived through extraordinary times.

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Oregon Live

Excellent
Reviewed by Elinor Langer on Oct 20 2010

It is hard to decide which aspect of "Unbroken" is more remarkable -- Louis Zamperini's life story or Laura Hillenbrand's telling of it.

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Bestsellersworld

Good
Reviewed by Nancy on May 25 2012

It is seldom that you can actually journey step-by-step with someone along their life as you can in this book. By this observation, you can’t influence Louis but you have a deeper respect for the man and who he became...It is the powerful and memorable story of one man’s extraordinary life.

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About.com

Excellent
Reviewed by John M. Formy-Duval on Sep 06 2013

Hillenbrand's retelling of his survival, fall from grace, and hard-fought redemption and forgiveness of his former captors is the stuff of legend.

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MostlyFiction Book Reviews

Above average
Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky on Jan 26 2011

Unbroken is not for everyone. Hillenbrand spends a great deal of time depicting grisly details about excruciating subjects. In addition, the book is a bit too long...anyone who is unfamiliar with the travails of those who left family and friends behind to serve in the Second World War will find this book both enlightening and wrenching.

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Oprah.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Sara Nelson

Through astonishingly detailed research. . .Hillenbrand tells a clear-eyed tale of yet another underestimated creature who tried hard, ran fast, and miraculously beat the odds.

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New York Magazine

Below average
Reviewed by Sam Anderson on Nov 14 2010

I found myself wondering. . .if that devotion was an obstacle, if it led Hillenbrand to accept a version of Zamperini’s life that is slightly less complex than his actual life might have been.

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Bloomberg

Below average
Reviewed by Craig Seligman on Nov 15 2010

Nevertheless, the deeper in I got the less I found myself wanting to return to her endless atrocity anecdotes. . .

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Metro

Above average
Reviewed by metrowebukmetroT on Jan 18 2011

Yet despite an abundance of detail, Unbroken’s embrace of this remarkable man barely scratches the surface of the emotional and psychological shadows that surely crowded his soul. Zamperini’s story keeps you turning the pages with almost indecent haste but you can’t help but wish it took the form of a memoir rather than a blockbuster...

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The Aquila Report

Above average
Reviewed by Collin Hansen on Jul 06 2014

Gifted and dedicated writers like Hillenbrand can make even ordinary stories interesting. So you can imagine what she does with one of the most remarkable and unlikely stories of the twentieth century.

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The Miami Herald

Good
Reviewed by Connie Ogle on Jul 01 2011

I am not a particular fan of war stories, but I will think about Unbroken for a good long while. It's the perfect sort of book to read whenever you feel that fate has dealt you a bad hand.

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Marine Corps Gazette

Excellent
Reviewed by ColEric Chase

The narrative of Unbroken is so compelling, the story so riveting, and the lessons so insightful and permanent that every American in uniform should read, savor, and learn from this book.

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Women's Inc.

Above average
Reviewed by Susan O’Keefe on Apr 19 2015

After seven years of research, and meticulously combing through a sixty-three pound scrapbook belonging to the story’s war hero, Hillenbrand offers a mesmerizing account...While this story evokes tears and heartache, it is a story many Americans need to read. The price for freedom is written on every page.

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St. Cloud Visitor

Excellent
Reviewed by Ann Jonas on Sep 06 2013

Unbroken tells a riveting story of a man with tremendous courage and perseverance. Hillenbrand herself mustered a great deal of courage and perseverance in order to write her books.

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Statesman.com

Above average
Reviewed by Sharyn Vane on Nov 27 2010

Such well-sketched scenes are gripping enough without Hillenbrand's occasional lapses into melodrama, telling us how dire a situation was when the anecdotes themselves are ample illustration. Still, it's a minor quibble.

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Destination Wake Forest

Excellent
Reviewed by Julie on Feb 16 2012

I highly recommend this book for book clubs as there are many interesting topics for discussion. I also recommend it for anyone who enjoys biographies and war stories, of course.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Nate W on Apr 21 2015

This book was an amazing read for me. I never really liked reading books but this book -no joke- I could not put down...It’s a long book but flies by really quickly. I would suggest this book to anyone who wants to either have a good book to read or likes reading about sad war stories.

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Teen Ink

Above average
Reviewed by Jacob L on Apr 18 2015

Resilience and the ability to overcome combined with the human spirit allow for anything to be possible. This is demonstrated time and time again through the hardships of Louis Zamperini....Louis Zamperini embodies the best aspects of mankind.

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Teen Ink

Good
Reviewed by Austin212 on Apr 19 2015

The book Unbroken is hands down one of the best books you will ever read in your life time...This book is put higher than a teen level of reading but I managed to be able to read it and it is amazing what happens in the book and how that it is all a true story this you can find out what happens in the book Unbroken.

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Gather Books

Good
Reviewed by Elizabeth Vollbach on Jun 06 2011

I found the book un-put-downable just because I wasn’t familiar with Louie’s story...Hillenbrand continues the story after Louie’s military service, and we see his (and others who were with him) ability and inability to cope. We see lives forever changed, often disastrously.

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Booking Mama

Good
Reviewed by Julie P on Sep 19 2013

It's a story that proves that real life is definitely stranger than fiction...I was extremely impressed with how much research Ms. Hillenbrand conducted to write this story...UNBROKEN is an incredible survival story about an incredible man. Definitely recommended!

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Brothers Judd

Excellent
Reviewed by brothersjudd on Sep 07 2014

Laura Hillenbrand had the good fortune to take up the true-life story of Louis Zamperini, a life that seems so impossibly eventful as to be very much the stuff of fiction...And, in lovely codas, he got to carry the Olympic torch in Japan in 1988; returned to the Olympic Stadium in Berlin...You see, he really had a wonderful life.

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Guys Lit Wire

Good
Reviewed by swolk on Feb 24 2011

And now I have read Laura Hillenbrand’s remarkable biography of Louis Zamperini, Unbroken. You should too...Hillenbrand’s account of one his bombing missions will leave you breathless and full of wonder...Reading history – and this remarkable story of the perseverance of Louie Zamperini -- can aid us all in shaping a more humane world.

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Take Me Away

Good
Reviewed by Jenny on Nov 17 2014

This books provides a long look at the best of people and their resilience as well as into the worst of people when they are put into a situation of power and authority...I would say it's on my list of the best EVER books. I will recommend this again and again... along with a box of tissues.

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Lit and Life

Good
Reviewed by Lisa on Oct 01 2012

Louie had previously written his own book and Hillenbrand drew on a wealth of other resources to craft a book that evokes strong emotio...She is certainly helped by a compelling story...Hillenbrand does not make this solely Louie's story. Throughout the book, Hillenbrand incorporates and memorializes the men that pl*ayed a part in Louie's life...

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It's All About Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Suey on Oct 23 2014

I was surprised at the things this guy had to endure and am so impressed that he came out of it so well...The writing is amazing too and I will read anything this author writes. She blows me away with her ability to take a story and make it so readable...Everyone should read this.

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Book Coasters

Excellent
Reviewed by Bibliophile on Jul 29 2014

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand will WOW you...It is one of the most amazing tales I’ve ever read and one that is worthy of much wonderment and respect...If you haven’t already read Unbroken, I highly recommend reading it before seeing it on the big screen.

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Mike Kueber's Blog

Above average
Reviewed by Mike Kueber on Jan 22 2012

The fact that I finished this 400-page book is a testament to Hillenbrand’s writing ability because the story of Louie Zamperini never captured me...What kept me reading was Hillenbrand’s vivid description of civilian life in pre-WWII America, the life of an airman in WWII, the torture in Japanese POW camps...

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What Would the Founders Think?

Excellent
Reviewed by Marcia on Apr 18 2015

The book jacket describes the contents as “A World War II story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption.” It is all of that and more...This reviewer strongly recommends this book. Hillenbrand is a compelling writer and she tells an extraordinary story. There is enough suspense and action between these covers to fill several novels.

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http://www.apl.org

Above average
Reviewed by Susie on Aug 15 2014

When faced with supposed insurmountable obstacles, Louie proves to be a survivor and an example of the power one person can have over his own destiny...The author paints a vivid picture of the recklessness of war and what it steals from the hearts and souls of its survivors.

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Novel Chatter

Excellent
on Nov 16 2010

Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken is an amazing study in resilience, defiance and strength that takes you on the journey of one man’s lifetime...Although Unbroken is over 450 pages in length, but there’s never a dull or lagging moment, just the opposite. The story flows quickly and the suspense keeps you turning the pages.

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Info Barrel

Excellent
Reviewed by mmatos on Sep 29 2014

The book Unbroken is an amazing story of survival, resilience, positivity, and what a human being can accomplish. I highly recommend the book if you are looking for a good read, a motivation to overcome something in your own life or give you inspiration to try a new endeavour.

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Reading for Pleasure

Good
Reviewed by Maria Miaoulis on Apr 26 2012

To say “Unbroken” is awe-inspiring would be a complete understatement. Hillenbrand’s depiction of Louie Zamperini is epic, a triumph in narrative storytelling. This man lived a remarkable life. From the moment you begin reading, you’re hooked, for lack of a fancier way to put it.

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The History Lady

Excellent
Reviewed by The History Lady on Nov 10 2011

It is quite simply the most moving story I’ve ever read about the human spirit and triumph over adversity...Hillenbrand writes with precision and clarity—there is no overblown prose...They are not needed—this is sharp story-telling that grabs you and keeps you turning the pages in horror, in hope and finally in joy.

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Reader Rating for Unbroken
92%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 32296 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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Michael Manley 18 Aug 2013

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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dilip kumar 23 Mar 2014

this is a nicde book i ever read

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Alexandra Goodman 14 Jan 2015

Rated the book as 4 out of 5

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Carter Doyle 11 Feb 2015

Totally absorbing account of a remarkable and harrowing life written with great cinematic flair by Hilienbrand. The religious undertones that tie it all together more than raised my eyebrow but und...

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