1. Unbroken. Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) was, without a doubt, one of the 20th century’s most courageous, resilient, and inspirational individuals. This riveting and redemptive story of “The Torrance Tornado” is one for the ages. Author Laura Hillenbrand (Seabiscuit) brilliantly tells Zamperini’s story by introducing us to a young, feisty, “street smart” kid who goes on to become an Olympic boxer. She continues with a riveting story of Zamperini’s harrowing experiences as a fighter pilot and POW in the South Pacific during WWII, and his traumatic escape. A tale of camaraderie, loss, unimaginable strength, unimaginable torture, and finally redemption. With Angelina Jolie’s film version of Unbroken hitting theaters on Christmas day, I can only hope that you’ll have an opportunity to read Hillenbrand’s biographical and inspirational memoire before buying that movie ticket. Unbroken debuted as a NY Times #1 bestseller; TIME Magazine and the Los Angeles Times awarded Unbroken the 2014 Book of the Year for Nonfiction. (Photo courtesy: laurahillenbrandbooks.com)
2. In Cold Blood. A fascinating true crime story chronicling the murder of four members of the Clutter family in rural Kansas in November of 1959, and the events that followed. Through extensive interviews, exhaustive research, and actually befriending the two men who were charged with the murders, Truman Capote masterfully recounts the chilling story. In Cold Blood is a spellbinding tale of violent murders, tireless investigations, a nationwide manhunt, long-awaited capture, trials and executions in a time and place where virtuosity and idealism were the natural order. This national best-seller has long been heralded as Capote’s masterpiece. The 2005 film Capote, starring the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, is also a gripping account of the author’s tireless work to recount the violent story of the Clutter murders. Hoffman won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance as Capote at the 2006 Academy Awards ceremony.
3. The Boys in the Boat. Daniel James Brown recounts the improbable story of the 1936 US Olympic Rowing team in a spectacularly vivid page turner. During the depths of the greatest depression this country has known, a resolute crew of eight unlikely members of the University of Washington’s rowing team trained, struggled, and persevered time and time again. These underdogs came from logging, farming and shipyard backgrounds. Joe Rantz, the narrator of this story, had been a homeless teenager. The individual stories of The Boys in the Boat reveal vast depths of valor, honor, and just plain true grit. Yet the tenacity, courage and resilience of this crew and that of their inspirational leaders (including world-class racing shell designer and builder George Yeoman Pocock) took the boys in the boat to the gold medal podium of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. This #1 New York Times Bestseller will no doubt be released as a film soon! (Photo courtesy, Google Images)
4. One Summer: America 1927. Bill Bryson can make historic events come to life on a page in a manner that is unparalleled in my book! One Summer is insightful, laugh-out-loud funny (but that’s Bill Bryson for you!), interesting, shocking and engaging … and chock full of adventure and history. Apparently 1927 was one for the history books, and Bryson brilliantly weaves together a seemingly endless summer of record-setting events. From a banner season for an aging and ailing Babe Ruth – to the worldwide frenzy caused by Charles Lindbergh’s successful transatlantic flight – to the birth of “talking pictures”-to a bizarre nationwide fixation on a rural murder spree – to the record-setting stock market boom and Cool Cal, the country’s laziest president to-date, Bryson’s narrative of 1927 America is fascinating and unforgettable. This was an unprecedented era of optimism, eccentricity, insane recklessness and delirium, and Bryson has recounted it in his classic inimitable style! (Photo courtesy, billbryson.co.uk.com)
5. But Enough About You: Essays. Humorist Christopher Buckley has compiled a marvelous series of essays here. His ability to segue from hysterical quips and ponderings on the history of bug zappers and name-dropping absurdities to impassioned thoughts on a personal visit to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp makes the book a fantastically emotional read. Buckley is a master at using play-on-words, culling his personal brand of humor, and interjecting amusing oddities and quirky sentiments. As son of conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr., Christopher has a bounty of subject matter concerning all things “Statecraft”; his memories of former employer George H.W. Bush (aka Vishnu, baahaahaa!) are, well, hilarious! The manner in which Buckley pokes fun at himself in But Enough About You puts readers at ease, allowing us to ponder and amuse in our own personal “odd-isms”. (Photo courtesy, Google Images)