Author: Louis Zamperini (1917-2014) was an Olympic runner and World War II veteran. He survived 47 days in a raft on the Pacific Ocean, only to be captured by the Japanese. After the war ended, Zamperini met Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles in 1949.
This book was written with David Rensin, who has co-written a number of biographies, including a Zamperini’s 2003 biography, Devil at My Heels.
Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In: Lessons from an Extraordinary Life (2014) is a collection of brief, inspirational anecdotes and life lessons, compiled up until days before Zamperini’s death. It was written with David Rensin and preserves Zamperini’s unique voice.
Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In is not a full biography, but it covers the main events in Louis’ story for those who have not learned the story elsewhere. Louis retells, for instance, of surviving on the Pacific by eating shark liver, and provides plenty of anecdotes about survival skills he used and where he learned them. We hear in his own voice some of his earliest memories of growing up as an immigrant. Much of the book tells interesting anecdotes about Louis’ conversion, his business dealings, his work with at-risk youth, that would not make it into biographical depictions.
This book is a light read that gives numerous glimpses into Zamperini’s life after World War II. It is inspirational but also filled with humor.
In my opinion, the most telling story in the book was about Zamperini’s dealings with gangsters, after he had given his life to Christ at the Billy Graham Crusade in 1949. A notorious gangster told Zamperini that he wanted to become a Christian, and had a number of conversations about it. At first, Zamperini thought that he was sincere; later, the gangster told him that he would only accept Christ if Billy Graham himself would come. Zamperini showed discernment by not pandering to this powerful man.
Louis Zamperini’s full biography is given in three other books: 1) His initial autobiography, Devil at My Heels, was written with Helen Itris and published in 1956. It had a foreword by Billy Graham. 2) A second autobiography was published in 2003 under the same title but completely rewritten with David Rensin. 3) Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken (2010) was soon transformed into a critically acclaimed film, mainly due to the efforts of Angelina Jolie.
Those who enjoy Don’t Give Up, Don’t Give In, will probably find their appetite whetted for a longer book about this fascinating man.