Louis Zamperini was one of the great track prospects of the 20th century and a leading contender to pound out history's first 4-min. mile. He never got the chance. He expected to peak at the 1940 Olympics, but they were canceled, and instead he was drafted. Zamperini's plane went down in the Pacific, and he spent 47 days on a raft on the open ocean. (That was a record, but not the one he was trying to break.) He survived, only to be captured by the Japanese, who beat and starved him in prison camps for the rest of the war but never broke his will to live. Laura Hillenbrand, who also wrote Seabiscuit, tells his story with cool elegance but at a thrilling sprinter's pace.