Laura Hillenbrand’s new work, UNBROKEN (Random House, $27), is more than worth the nine-year wait since her last book. The author of Seabiscuit turns her eye this time to Louie Zamperini: recalcitrant juvenile delinquent, Olympic runner, WWII Army Airman, POW survivor, and ultimately a man who found God and the strength to forgive his tormentors and forge a happy life. Zamperini’s story, as improbable, resplendent, horrific, despondent, and triumphant as it is, reveals Hillenbrand’s fantastic skill in portraying Louie both as a staunch individualist, which allowed him to survive a difficult life, and as a touchstone for the times in which he lived.
When people say “they don’t write ‘em like that anymore,” people are referring to writers like Gay Talese. THE SILENT SEASON OF A HERO (Walker, $16) is a mandatory collection of essays for any sports-lover with a sense of history. “The Silent Season of a Hero,” “Ali in Havana,” and “The Loneliest Guy in Boxing” are alone worth the price of this book. Story after story shows Talese’s gifts: his muscular style, with never a word wasted; the angles of approach to a narrative that other writers could never see; the vivid details that put us momentarily inside the story, looking out. Luckily for us, Talese wrote ’em like that, and he still does.
Stefan Fatsis' tale of trial by fire in the modern NFL is a must read for anyone wants to know what Mike Shanahan can do for this year's Washington Redskins. Fatsis exhibits his soft touch and hard kick as he spends the offseason as the oldest rookie on the Denver Broncos. His story gives hope to the dormant athlete in all of us and silences our internal Monday Morning Quarterback (if only until Tuesday).