Try to choose a single book, among the many thousands of titles out there, which changed the direction of your life in some way. Perhaps the book you’re considering made you think about yourself differently. Maybe it changed the way you see the world, or took you to a different time and place.
Then again, choosing a favorite book is probably an impossible task. Like asking a parent to pick out their favorite child. Unconscionable, even. Indeed, all books are unique. Books not only mean different things to different people, they’re also open to different interpretations at various points in our lives. A book read at age 20 might not seem like the same book at age 40 — since that book is likely to have a completely different impact. But the book hasn’t changed. We change.
Louis Zamperini’s name is a probably unfamiliar to you, that is, unless you’ve read Lauren Hillenbrand’s second book, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. By this time next year, you most certainly will know of this book and his name as well as his incredible story, since it’s being made into a movie. Unbroken is scheduled for release in December 2014. A review of the book follows.
Laura Hillenbrand is one of the best American writers living today.
She’s written only two books, but both are incontestable masterpieces. A decade ago, she penned Seabiscuit, the remarkable true story of a thoroughbred racehorse during the 1930s which captured working-class America’s imagination and inspired a generation through the Great Depression.
Her more recent book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption is no less inspiring and just as compelling.
Unbroken tells the true story of Louis Zamperini, who lived one of the most extraordinary lives of any human being of the 20th Century. True to the book’s title, Zamperini’s life was one of survival, resilience, and redemption, disseminated here across 473 breathtaking pages of narrative. His was a remarkable life meriting the skills of our best writer, with an intense love of storytelling and a masterful talent for descriptive detail.
Consider his stellar body of work, so far. He’s authored: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000), Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005), Outliers: The Story of Success (2008), and What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures (2009).
Each of his previous books was a marvelous symbiosis of insight and originality, conveyed in a wonderfully entertaining and easy-to-read style, a sort of pseudo-intellectualism for the everyman. Indeed, Gladwell has become a one-man orchestra of instigation and provocation. He’s a master of remolding our minds, taking so-called conventional wisdom and flipping it upside down and turning it inside out, and then connecting all dots together in ways we never imagined. Each previous volume packed a wallup of a punch, forcing us to re-evaluate what we believe and think about familiar subjects in new ways. SEE FOOTNOTE BELOW
And so it is with his latest release, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.
When I started this blog some 15 months ago, it wasn’t about achieving attention or gaining recognition. Plenty of other ways exist to do that, most of them less time consuming.
For me, blogging became an entirely selfish pursuit, the most convenient means of expression. In other words, a way to vent. Rather than screaming profanities at the television or spewing at a computer screen, my blog unintentionally became a sort of safety valve capping a pressure cooker of inner angst.
Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to the number of visitors who came to the site. Read this stuff if you want to, I thought. But I’m not going to lose any sleep if you don’t. I didn’t care about website rankings or SEO features. Why should I? This isn’t a money-making venture, so whether 5 people or 5,000 bothered to log on and read me really didn’t matter.
But over time my attitude began to slowly change. I gradually came to realize it’s important to maximize exposure, especially when discussing important subjects. It’s a waste to write something that’s original and perhaps even inspiring to others, only to have it fall into the abyss of the vastness of the internet.
Admittedly, I’m attracted to historical biographies. Perhaps it’s an inherent sense of curiosity combined with obligation to spend at least some measure of time reading the works of dedicated authors who in rare instances spent not merely years, but decades conducting extensive research and ultimately giving new life to people and subjects we thought we already knew well, but may have misunderstood.
Such is the definitely the case with one of my favorite books, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, the 1974 Pulitzer Prize winner for non-fiction. Such is the case for any of the four other Robert A. Caro books on Lyndon B. Johnson, clearly the most thorough research and writing exercise ever conducted on a U.S President by one man. Such is also the case with John Adams by David McCullough, arguably our most noted historian. I could go on and on.
Such is also the case with “Mao: The Untold Story,” written by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday. A historical watershed that began way back in 1986 ultimately came to fruition a few years back with this long-awaited release, a predictbly controversial narrative and what’s been called the most definitive biography ever written on one of the most ruthless, yet most powerful people in history. His story and the era when he ruled begs for our attention.