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How to Write a Book Review - Unbroken Example

How to Write a Book Review - Ubroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Writing a book review is an important part of every course. Students taking numerous classes on various subjects are required to work with multiple sources and very often are being assigned to pick one or two specific books to write a literary analysis on. There are no specific tips on how to write a book review, however, there are some useful tips on where to pay attention at and what your professor is looking for. 

Book review is not simply a summarizing of the content of the book, but rather is a critical analysis of the content and some personal attitude towards various scenes or characters from the book. Just to demonstrate how a good book review should look like, we came up with a number of questions that our writer is going to answer and make up in a literary analysis. 

Before writing any book review, it is important to come up with a list of questions that will help you reveal your personal attitude to the book and whatever is described in there. Making up questions that you probably won’t mention in the essay itself, will help you develop a critical analysis of the topic and writing the book review will become easier. But you may ask, what kind of questions do I need to come up with so that my essay sounds strong? We borrowed paper instructions and came up with our own answers to demonstrate you how the book review questions may sound like. 

How to Write a Book Review

You are to write an ESSAY that INTEGRATES your responses to each part.    Consider the numbered parts to be an organizational plan of sorts.

1.    Even before his wartime travails, Louie Zamperini’s athletic abilities had already guaranteed him a notable life. Do you think certain people are predisposed to greatness or do situations bring it out in them?

2.    What do you admire most about Zamperini? 

3.    What enables Zamperini to survive the plane crash and POW ordeal? Does he possess special strengths—personal or physical? Did his training in track, for instance, make a difference in his resilience?

4.    How do the POW captives help one another survive?  How are they able to communicate with one another? What devices do Zamperini and others use not only to survive but to maintain sanity?

5.    What do you find most horrifying about Zamperini's captivity?

6.    Does this book make you wonder at mankind's capacity for cruelty? What accounts for it—especially on the part of the Japanese, a highly cultured and civilized society? (The same question, of course, has been applied to the Nazis.)

7.    The role of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in Japan’s surrender and the U.S.’s ethical justification for them has been the subject of scholarly and popular debate for decades. Even one of the characters in the book, John Falconer – a survivor of the Bataan Death March, stated that the Hiroshima bombing was “beautiful.” What are your thoughts about the bombing after reading the book?

8.    Hillenbrand devotes time to the difficulty of veterans' re-entering life after the war. She says, "there was no one right way to peace; each man had to find his own path." What is Zamperini's path? How does his conversion under Billy Graham help him? What role does his wife, Cynthia, play?

9.    Follow-up to Question 7: Why, after World War II, did the medical profession fail to acknowledge Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? After all, this was the mid-20th century, and psychiatry was a fairly established discipline. Plus, the horrors of World War I were only one generation behind. What took so long?

10.    Did the book evoke empathy or disdain for the Japanese people and culture?

11.    Which Prisoner of War (POW) do you identify with most?

12.    Louie eventually went back to Japan and confronted his tormenter. Would you have been able to forgive the way Louie did? Is forgiveness a part of the religious experience Louie had at the revival?

13.    Talk about the parts of the book that made you feel uncomfortable? What were some of the ”feel good“ moments in this story?


How to Write a Book Review - Ubroken by Laura Hillenbrand

I think it takes both luck and efforts to have a notable life. Louie was a great runner and could have a wonderful career as an athlete. He discovered his running extraordinary abilities when he needed to get distracted form his troubled childhood. This discussion is very close to the controversial debate about the nature and nurture. People like Louie are predisposed to be great, but some circumstances bring even bigger for them. In general, every person has a change to become great, however, it is much easier if you are predisposed to be great. War did not give Louie a chance to be great, he was already a great athlete, but war gave him a chance to become better and greater. 

Zamperini amazes me with his mental strength and stubbornness. I think he never gives up and goes till the end. It seemed like death never scared him and he would do anything to protect others. He is very sacrificial as he would rather suffer himself than watch others suffer. I think he is a noble person and him being in sports brought up this desire to win no matter what and never give up. He adapts to any situation, excruciating pain, humiliation, dehydration, hunger and physical burnout. 

I think Louie being in sports and participating in the Olympics made him a strong competitor in everything, track, life and hardships. One of the most influential triggers why Zamperini survived the plane crash and the POW ordeal is because he wanted to see his family again. He lived in the middle of the sea in a raft for 47 days surrounded by sharks and sharing a toy raft with his fellow, staying dehydrated and hungry, catching fish with his bear hands and saving his life from sharks. He was just like every other man, even though he might have had some advantages of his athletic abilities. Louie put all of his strength together and never gave up and was an examples for his soldier peers to never give up.

POW captives were forced to work hard building the railroads. Besides that they have been humiliated and tortured by Japanese guards in any possible way. POW captives together with Zamperini tried to cheer each other and never were hostile to each other. They used Morse code to communicate with one another by tapping. They also tried to steel newspapers in order to get any news about the war. 

The most horrifying thing about Louie’s captivity is how he was tortured and humiliated. The attitude of Japanese guards was definitely biased and more cruel towards Zamperini. He suffered form disease, exposure, he starved and almost every day got beaten by the guards. The Bird was especially the one who enjoyed torturing Zamperini, constantly threatening to kill him. When Zamperini had to stand still with the wooden beam above his head, he stood in front of his friends and got humiliated and tortured at the same time. Watanabe took away Zamperini’s dignity and punished him for being a good runner. 

I did had thoughts about the nature of the human cruelty while reading this book. I was amazed how people change when they have power over others. I think it is not even the things about the Japanese or Nazis, it is about the power. There have been too many experiments, where equal men were put in the closed facility and had to play guards and prisoners for some time. The results have not been bright and encouraging. I think some people just have this presence of cruelty inside of them. It may also be a result of the previously experienced cruelty in their own lives. It may be triggered by a very low achievements in life and whenever a person like that gets any power, something he has no mercy at all. 

I have always been very critical about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when the United States decided to drop the A-bomb. However, the book gives a little bit another perspective making the reader realize that these events saved a number of lives by interrupting executions. The book presented the view of the soldiers who have been captives and tortured and what they thought when they realized that the war was over and they do not have to go hungry anymore. Even though the author tried to bring a different opinion about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki like it saved lives, my personal opinion on these events haven’s changed. 

Zamperini’s path was not easy as he needed to forgive Watanabe and other guards who humiliated him and took his dignity. Billy Graham helped Louie to practically commit to what he promised to God in a raft in the middle of the ocean and so he became the follower. Louie’s wife Cynthia supported Zamperini in his choices to follow God and commit to the church. She supported him during his struggle with alcohol and ability to overcome the fears and memories from he captivity. 

I think people back then were not open to talk about diseases, especially psychological and psychiatric. Soldiers who had PTSD were considered as psychologically or psychologically weak. There also has been an explanation that this post-war stress is strictly dependent on the biology and may be a result of some pathologies from the childhood. And only could years later medicine came to the conclusion that this post-war stress is something more than just a physiological weakness. 

After reading the book I felt different about Japanese. My first thought would have been to consider them as a very cruel nation, however, it should be considered that there has been a war and that most individuals described in the book were guards over prisoners from the other side.Especially when other guards were not as cruel as Watanabe was and so it is unfair to judge the whole nation just because of one person. I do not think Japanese people are cruel in their essence, but I think they have way to different traditions than Americans do. They might be more strict and more committed to the rules, but I cannot remember any examples from the history where would people behave noble while soldiers from the opponent side being present on their land during the wartime.

I do not think I may identify myself with anyone from the novel. But only for the reason that I dislike treason and would never agree to be used for the propaganda against my country, I would stick to the soldiers who refused the opportunity to eat normal food and sleep in the normal bed and never let Japanese use them to say bad things about the United States. 

I think it is extremely hard to forgive, especially when the level of torture was that severe. I think I would be super traumatized if something similar happened to me, but forgiveness is not something that is easy to do. Some people find forgiveness in religion and Zamperini was one of them. I think I would be able to forgive my abusers, but I would need a strong support, just like Zamperini had God and Billy Graham as him mentor. It is impossible to handle it on your own and so forgiveness is possible only with the support of the family and a mentor who can you  share thoughts with. 

One of the moment that terrified me was the moment when Watanabe asked Louie to compete with some Japanese runners. When Louie won, Watanabe nearly killed him. I think this was not only the physical abuse but a severe psychological trauma for Zamperini. I felt so bad for him and while I was reading it I constantly knew that Louie would never go back to running even again. This is not the psychical torture, it is like killing an individuality from the inside. One of those moments that made me feel good is Zamperini refused the opportunity to live in better condition away from Watanabe for being used as a source of propaganda against the United States. For Zamperini it could be a way out of the torture he experienced on a daily basis, but he was a noble man and he could not let the enemies use him. He would better die than fall so low. 


Works cited

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Airman's Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. New York: Random House Large Print, 2010. Print.