"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand

Louis Zamperini, the subject of this book, piqued my interest for a couple of reasons - he was stationed in the Pacific Theater, like my grandfather.  He also attended USC, like myself and my father.  And as I also volunteer in the Rose Parade, his selection as Grand Marshal for the 2015 parade interested me further - although I'd already placed this book on my to-read list.

But Laura Hillenbrand is such a fantastic author, you don't need to find connections with Louis Zamperini to appreciate his story.  The connections are already there.  Zamperini's humanity comes out in this book in a way that has you feeling that you're with him.  And Hillenbrand, with her carefully researched details, allows you to use all five of your senses as you become immersed in the story.

Zamperini, a miler in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, became an officer in the Army Air Forces during the war.  Stationed in Hawaii, he flew a number of missions until his plane went down.  He, his pilot, and a fellow crewman survived the crash, but drifted in a raft for over a month before they were picked up by the Japanese.  Hillenbrand recounts all of this, plus Zamperini's experiences as a POW.

As much as I value the prewar and war portions of this book, I greatly admire Zamperini for sharing his experiences with post-traumatic stress after the war.  Hillenbrand does an amazing job of painting the picture of a man who was tormented by his memories.  So often, I think, we don't hear about this of our World War II veterans.  I feel they were expected to just cowboy up and get over it because of the associated stigma.  But so many of them have struggled with their memories, even 70 years later.  And so, both Zamperini and Hillenbrand offer an important perspective that many war stories ignore.  Zamperini's tale is especially inspirational as he shares the spiritual awakening that finally led him out of his misery.

Hillenbrand's book is a biography that reads like a novel.  I highly recommend it for anyone who is interested in the time period in general, or for anyone who is looking for a truly moving book.

Five out of Five Stars