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Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life

Review

Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life

There are a lot of self-help and inspirational books currently in print. Some are written by people who spent years in academia getting credentials in some rather narrow fields. DON’T GIVE UP, DON’T GIVE IN is different, not so much in the advice given, as in the way the author learned his lessons: he definitely received a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks.

Louis Zamperini was always in trouble. He began smoking at age six and would steal anything that wasn't nailed down, and developed a taste for alcohol at a very young age. The local police and Louie's parents were running out of ideas on what to do with the boy. His older brother, Pete, got him interested in running track at age 15, and something just clicked with him from then on. Life wasn't always smooth sailing once Louie developed an efficient and winning running style, but he learned how to set goals, be disciplined, and put in the hard work required. He enjoyed the success that accompanied winning his meets.

"There are a lot of self-help and inspirational books currently in print. Some are written by people who spent years in academia getting credentials in some rather narrow fields. DON’T GIVE UP, DON’T GIVE IN is different, not so much in the advice given, as in the way the author learned his lessons: he definitely received a PhD from the School of Hard Knocks."

Louie represented the United States in track at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He attended college on an athletic scholarship and became an Air Force bombardier during WWll. When his plane went down, he and another airman spent 47 days adrift on a dinky little raft. Rather than becoming a meal for sharks, they were "rescued" by the enemy. Louie then spent 2 1/2 years as a prisoner of war, enduring unspeakably violent treatment.

When the war ended, Louie returned home. He was full of anger and had a problem with alcohol. He was suffering from what we now recognize as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Everything he attempted turned into defeat. In 1949, his wife talked him into attending a tent revival led by the young and not-yet-well-known Billy Graham. Louie fought the messages he heard at first, but then realized that his life was a mess and finally accepted Jesus into his life.

Louie’s conversion did not guarantee that life would be easy, and it often wasn't. But as he learned to rely on his inner strength and newfound faith, his positive attitude returned, and with energy and a sense of purpose he accomplished a great deal. He returned to Japan where he spoke to his former prison guards and forgave them. He began rescuing troubled boys (to whom he could certainly relate) and created camps that were similar to what would later become Outward Bound. He taught the boys survival skills and self worth, became a highly sought-after motivational speaker, and had the honor of running with the Olympic torch at five different venues.

The chapters here are brief, and their titles give a hint as to the message of each section. Among them are: “The Family Rules,” “It's Not How You Win, It's How You Lose,” “Don't Forget to Laugh,” “A Race Isn't Over Til It's Over” and “You Need a Cloud to Have a Silver Lining.” Louie's advice is fairly basic: be prepared, help in any way that you can at any time, don't let anyone take away your dignity, give it your all, you must have hope, and, of course, don't give up and don't give in. These aren't just words; they are the essence of Louie's life.

Sadly, Louie died this summer at the age of 97, Although he was unable to enjoy this book’s publication, he nevertheless was full of life, plans and hope right up until the end.

There are two other books about Louie that you should consider reading if you haven’t already: DEVIL AT MY HEELS, an autobiography also written with David Rensin, and, of course, UNBROKEN, the bestselling biography by Laura Hillenbrand that will be coming to the big screen as a feature film in December.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on November 20, 2014

Don't Give Up, Don't Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life
by Louis Zamperini and David Rensin

  • Publication Date: November 18, 2014
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dey Street Books
  • ISBN-10: 0062368338
  • ISBN-13: 9780062368331