This is likely to be the book of the year for several reasons. It is beautifully written and beautifully structured. It has a compelling and inspirational subject. It is filled to the brim with fascinating facts (Which parts of a shark are edible? What was the mortality rate in Japanese prison camps versus that in Italian/German ones? What is it like to fly a B-24?). It is the product of exhaustive research. It combines the advantages and attractiveness of biography with the strengths and strategies of suspense fiction.
By now, most will be familiar with the subject. In Seabiscuit Laura Hillenbrand studied a California racer. She does the same in Unbroken, with the distinct advantage that (as her subject pointed out to her) he can actually talk and tell her what happened. Her subject, Louie Zamperini, was a difficult child who matured into an Olympic runner, racing in Berlin in 1936. He joined the Army Air Force in WWII, serving as a bombardier. His hideously-unreliable B-24 plummeted into the Pacific and he and two fellow fliers floated in an open raft toward the Marshall Islands, fighting heat, thirst, starvation, sharks and strafings from a Japanese plane along the way.
Interned in several Japanese prison camps he was treated mercilessly and criminally. Saved by the American forces in the Pacific, the relentless bombing of Japan by B-29's and, quintessentially, by the flight of the Enola Gay, he was freed and returned home. Enslaved by persistent memories and alcohol, his marriage on the edge, he was saved by none other than Billy Graham. He remains alive today at 93, still feisty and active.
This is the perfect Christmas gift for anyone, but particularly for those who remember the war, those who experienced it directly and those who need to be educated concerning it. Be warned, however. Once they start reading the book they will be absent from the rest of the family's holiday activities until they complete it.
I highly recommend it and tip my hat to the author for her personal courage and tenacity in writing a great book.