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Download Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II Audiobook, by Mitchell Zuckoff Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.33 out of 54.33 out of 54.33 out of 54.33 out of 54.33 out of 5 4.33 (6 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Mitchell Zuckoff Narrator: Mitchell Zuckoff Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2011 ISBN: 9780062072801
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On May 13, 1945, twenty-four 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 bestselling 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 who was 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 US 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A lost world, a man-eating tribesman, lush and impenetrable jungles, stranded American fliers...What an utterly compelling and deeply satisfying read!”

    Simon Winchester, New York Times bestselling author

  • Lost in Shangri-La is a riveting work of narrative history and a thrilling journey to the beginning of time. Mitchell Zuckoff embarks on an amazing journey of his own, climbing mountains and braving jungles, to resurrect witnesses and discover remnants of the downed plane. Along the way, he discovers not only the truth about the crash and its aftermath but also deeper truths about how modern and prehistoric people view the world, each other, and themselves.”

    James L. Swanson, New York Times bestselling author of Manhunt

  • Lost in Shangri-La delivers a feast of failures—of planning, of technology, of communication—that are resolved in a truly incredible adventure…Even at the level of exposition, the book is breathless.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “[A] gripplingly cinematic account...[with] a remarkable cast of characters.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “Mitchell Zuckoff has uncovered, and vividly reconstructed, such an astonishing tale.”

    Washington Post

  • “This is an absorbing adventure right out of the Saturday-morning serials...Lost in Shangri-La deserves a spot on the shelf of Greatest Generation nonfiction. It puts the reader smack into the jungle.” 

    Cleveland Plain Dealer

  • “In this well-crafted book, Zuckoff turns the long-forgotten episode into an unusually exciting narrative...Polished, fast-paced, and immensely readable—ready for the big screen.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • “Zuckoff transforms impressive research into a deft narrative that brings the saga of the survivors to life. His access to journal accounts, letters, photos, military records, and interviews with the eyewitnesses allows for an almost hour-by-hour account of the crash and rescue, along with vivid portraits of his main subjects...In our contemporary world of eco-tourism and rain-forest destruction, Zuckoff’s book gives a window on a more romantic, and naïve, era.”  

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Ably read by Mitchell Zuckoff, the book chronicles three military personnel who survived a plane crash near the end of the war, only to find themselves stranded without a method of communicating in a jungle known for cannibals. The story of their rescue is gripping, and Zuckoff’s narration is adept. He delivers the story with confidence.”


  • “What makes Zuckoff’s story an essential read is the interaction between the survivors and the indigenous tribe they encounter after crashing...This excellent book will be enjoyed by anyone who loves true adventure stories of disaster and rescue.”

    Library Journal

  • “A mesmerizing narrative...Energetic and empathetic, Zuckoff delivers a page-turner for WWII readers.”


  • A 2011 Seattle Times Best Book for Nonfiction
  • An Amazon Best Books of the Year: Top 10 Editors' Pick for 2011
  • Selected for the May 2011 Indie Next List
  • An Amazon Best Book of the Month, May 2011
  • An 2011 Entertainment Weekly Best Book for Nonfiction
  • Selected for the 2011 Salon Magazine Best Book Award for Nonfiction
  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • One of the 2011 Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathy | 5/23/2011

    " Fascinating book! I really enjoy true heroic stories and this one did not let me down. I always feel bad when 'moderm man' visits 'a primitive tribe' and think that they can make their life better. Usually they can't. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amy | 5/20/2011

    " My type of book....amazing TRUE story with a good ending! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Natasha | 5/17/2011

    " Fascinating story. Interesting part of the world. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Peter | 5/17/2011

    " Can't wait for the movie! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Juanita | 5/16/2011

    " I loved this book. I hope it becomes a movie! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 5/16/2011

    " I can't imagine anyone not finding this book interesting - at the very least. It's a well-researched true account of 3 survivors of a plane crash in the New Guinea jungle during WWII. They were rescued but that's the biggest surprise of the book. You'll just have to read it. "

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About the Author
Author Mitchell Zuckoff

Mitchell Zuckoff is a professor of journalism at Boston University. Previously, he was a reporter and writing coach for the Boston Globe, where he was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting. He has won the Distinguished Writing Award from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Livingston Award, and the Heywood Broun Award, among other national honors. He received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri and was a Batten Fellow at the University of Virginia. He lives outside Boston.