Lost in Shangri-La

A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II
Narrated by: Mitchell Zuckoff
Length: 8 hrs and 32 mins
4 out of 5 stars (2,436 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

On May 13, 1945, 24 American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over “Shangri-La,” a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea .Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s best-selling novel Lost Horizon, , this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals.

But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed. Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside - a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man - or woman.

Drawn from interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor’s diary, a rescuer’s journal, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio - dehydrated, sick, and in pain - traversed the dense jungle to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.

By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives’ remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.

©2011 Mitchell Zuckoff (P)2011 HarperCollins Publishers

What listeners say about Lost in Shangri-La

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Best use of a credit in quite a whlle.

Very good story. I enjoyed hearing the viewpoints of the New Guinea natives some 60 years after the event. Don't let the fact that the auithor narrates the book scare you away - he does an excellant job.

33 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Facinating history

I made this selection because it was recommended for those who enjoyed "Unbroken", and it was an excellent recommendation. The stories are similar in time period and setting (Pacific theater, WWII) and both deal with a tragic air crash with survivors in need of rescue. But this is not a copy of the earlier story and is compelling in its own way. The narrative follows the events up to and subsequent to the crash, but but also puts into context the backgrounds of the players, allowing us to know them as more than vague historical characters who experienced a unique event. He also puts historical context to the exploration of New Guinea which deepens the understanding of the hardships caused by the nearly impenetrable terrain. I especially appreciated Zuckoff's research into the culture of the native New Guinea people. By explaining their point of view we get a facinating picture of cultural exchanges that are sometimes comical, sometimes touching and sometimes unfortunate. Also appreciated was the attention given to the passengers who did not survive the crash. I found it respectful to acknowledge their presence and who they were as individuals. Interviews with survivors, recuers and natives, or family members of those (decades later of course), and the use of diaries kept by several of the main characters adds authenticity to the story.
As another reviewer has stated, the reading by the author was excellent, and added to the enjoyment of the book. Highly recommended.

42 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Not as interesting as I would have thought

This is a straightforward historical account of an unusual event at the end of WWII. The facts are clearly laid out and the story is well crafted but somehow it misses the mark and fails to engage. I had to give up 2/3 of the way through due to boredom and a tendency to feel extremely sleepy whenever I listened. Sorry but it's true. Should/could have been fascinating but not for me!

12 people found this helpful

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Lost in Shangri-La

Mitchell Zuckoff did an good job in researching the story and staying true to the information in the writing of it. It was great to read about women (WAC) in the war and that they were on the plane and one survived the crash. The story of survival in the jungle, wounded revealed the toughness of each individual involved. The news reporters apparently provided a great deal of research information. Enjoyed that he interviewed some of the natives 60 years after the event to get their insight of the event. I did note that many of the people involved in the event died young after the war.

9 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

A worthy purchase!

Mitchell Zuckoff does an excellent job as both the author and reader of this superb book. Lost in Shangri-La may be non-fiction but it has all the drama, humor and strong characterization of a good novel. It deals in anthropology and individual personalities as well as adventure and history and provides us with a fascinating account of a story worth remembering. Don't hesitate to use a credit on this one!

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

AMAZING!!

I heard Mitchell Zuckoff being interviewed about this book on a local talk show here in Denver, CO and became very intrigued. That evening I found the book on Audible and I must say that this book by far has become my favorite since first joining Audible back in 2004! Truly I was amazed at how much of a story teller Mitchell is and what is even more amazing is that everything he has to say is all TRUE. I found myself in the most interesting “History Lesson” of my life and his narration is truly superb. As the listener of this audio book I can not think of any other narrator who could surpass the author himself.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Lost in a Long Tale

I was looking forward to hearing this story, especially after listening to Unbroken. Sad to say the story was nowhere near as captivating as Unbroken. I felt the author veered off too often into background history that did not add to the story. Usually I am sad to end a book. This time I was happy to be back from Shangri-La!

11 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

An incredible experience, well worth the time

This was an exceptionally well done book. It is a story I had never heard and appreciate all the research work the author went through to bring the story to the public.

This book makes me understand why the WWII generation is and always will be the Greatest Generation.

11 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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I'm Intrigued by other reviews

This is not they type of book I typically choose, but the description sounded interesting and I'm glad I gave it a try.
I was really engaged by this story. I imagined what it must have been like to be a survivor of a plane crash in such a remote place. The amount of bravery and strength it took for these survivors to persevere was just miraculous.
I too agree that there was a racist tone at least initially, but I also appreciate the growth expressed by the survivors. It can't be ignored that the survivors came to befriend the tribal members and that they came to truly respect their strength, kindness, creativity and intelligence.
I also felt Mr. Zuckoff conveyed a great amount of sensitivity and insight towards the autonomy of the tribe. I was moved by how sadly he explained that the ways of modern world have now negatively impacted these previously self-sufficient happy peoples.
I thought that this story was terrific on many levels.

16 people found this helpful

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Riveting story

I was totally captivated by the story. An added bonus is that the author turned out to be an excellent reader - could not have been done better! I was so enthralled by the story that I did a Google search to find pictures of the survivors and other people mentioned in the book. There are some images of "Maggie", the female survivor. She was really something!

8 people found this helpful