Monday, February 6, 2012

Unbroken is Unbelievable

I can't come up with enough superlatives to  describe how much I love this book, it's subject, Louie Zamperini, and the author, Laura Hillenbrand.  Here's the review I posted on Amazon and Librarything, which doesn't begin to do justice. If you've read Unbroken, you know what I mean. If you haven't, trust me, you should.

Unbroken is an amazing work of narrative fiction, and Louis Zamperini's life story is phenomenal and inspirational. From his misspent youth to his Olympic feats, from his World War II service to his survival against all odds adrift at sea, then enslaved and brutalized in POW camps, Louie's spirit, endurance and courage embody the Greatest Generation at its finest. I raced through this book in two days and was amazed that I had never heard of this wonderful man, whose life deserves acknowledgement and celebration.

Laura Hillenbrand writes extremely well, deftly weaving historical facts and figures into the carefully researched and compelling narrative. It is not just the story of one man's journey and survival, it is a fascinating overview of the War effort on the home front and the Pacific theater, as well as a sobering look at the unimaginable plight of prisoners of war. I was moved to chills, tears and cheers repeatedly throughout this book, which I consider one of the best I have read in years. Very highly recommended.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Hair of Harold Roux

Thomas Williams wrote his National Book Award winning novel The Hair of Harold Roux decades ago, yet it remains a richly fascinating and relevant work of literature today. 

There are stories within stories, 5 in all, woven together to create a ponderous exploration of life's struggles and mysteries. From the opening sentence - Aaron Benham sits at his desk hearing the wrong voices. - to the touching afterword written by his daughter, this book was captivating. There were so many intricate details to absorb, words and ideas to ponder, character motivations to analyze, fictions versus realities to discern, symbols of warm fires and the chill of absolute zero, twists of fate and luck, all written by a master. I took pages of notes as I read, not so much to help me write a review as to help me remember the unique and meaningful prose.

I was often reminded of the rich detail and style of John Irving, and was not surprised to learn he was a former student and friend of Williams. Thomas Williams never achieved Irving's commercial success in his lifetime, but based on this work, he should have. This is a highly recommended, well written novel.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

My Most Useful Read of 2011

Although this should be a quick read, I've been taking my time to let the lessons sink in. From an overview of Buddhism to a variety of coping mechanisms, this book is filled with useful advice for accepting not just the aging process, but life in general. I enjoyed the personal reflections and the case studies provided by the author, Lewis Richmond, and gained new perspectives that I expect to use throughout my life. This is the first book I have read on this topic, and it was a great starting point for me, as it was not too technical or preachy, just honest, practical and caring. I would recommend this book to anyone facing a mid-life crisis, a spiritual crisis, health problems, or frustration with the aging process.