Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura HillenbrandUnbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars!

I don’t read very much non-fiction (for pleasure anyway), but this book was recommended to me by a friend.  So, I decided to give it a try. Written by Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Seabiscuit, Unbroken reads more like a novel than some novels I’ve read. This one had me at the Preface.

Unbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini; a reckless boy turned Olympic hopeful, an Olympic hopeful turned WWII bombardier, a WWII bombardier turned POW, a POW (eventually) turned civilian and then a troubled civilian desperately in search of peace after the war.

Honest and unflinching, I kept having to stop and close my eyes just so I could try to process what I was reading. Louie’s (and those of the other South Pacific POWs) is an incredible story of endurance and survival in the face of unimaginable suffering, but it’s also a story of hope and forgiveness, and of the true, life-sustaining power of human dignity.

I highly recommend it.

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The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived

The 101 Most Influential People Who Never LivedThe 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived
by Allan Lazar, Jeremy Salter, Dan Karlan

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I first came across this book I was hoping for a thought-provoking read about how we’ve influenced both our culture and social identity not only by the things we do, but by the things we make up.  Sounded intriguing!  And, as a college Philosophy major myself, when I learned the authors were also philosophers I expected to be in for a real treat.

I wasn’t.

In retrospect, I wish whoever wrote the preface had actually written the rest of the book.  The tone set in the preface is completely betrayed by the chapters which follow.  Have you ever been to see a movie you were really looking forward to watching only to have someone talk through it and completely ruin the experience for you?  Yeah.  This book was that for me.

As books of lists go, this is a good one with plenty of unexpected “influential” characters included.  Some are obvious and still others were delightful surprises.  I had more than a few “ah ha” moments reading it.  Nevertheless, on balance this book feels a lot like someone invested a great deal of time and research to create an interesting reference work then, fearing it was too boring, decided cracking jokes throughout it would liven things up.

It didn’t.

Sure, some of the humor actually is funny.  But the humor only helped me to a greater appreciation of the particular character being explored once.  Maybe twice.  In the whole book.  While most of the humor is too sarcastic to mistake (or to overlook), on the occasions when a more subtle form is employed I found it difficult to know if the authors were presenting some fascinating new little-known nugget of truth they had discovered or if they were just cracking jokes.  Again.

Based on my experience of the book, I actually considered giving this only one 1 star. However, the authors obviously put a lot of work into gathering this information.  And that’s worth a star all by itself.

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