For readers of Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit and Unbroken, the dramatic story of the American rowing team that stunned the world at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics.
Daniel James Brown's robust book tells the story of the University of Washington's 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.
The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together - a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.
Drawing on the boys' own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times - the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.
©2013 Daniel James Brown (P)2013 Penguin Audio
Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
Many reviews offer comparisons of this book to Seabiscuit, appropriately so as the themes and narrative tone are remarkably similar. But I also see a strong resemblance to another American Olympic story that happened 4 decades later – our “Miracle on Ice” hockey team of 1980. In both cases global hostilities threatened Olympic boycotts, potentially crushing the once-in-a-lifetime dreams of humble college kids taking on the State subsidized titans of their sports. But the games were held, and against all odds (some of them suspicious in their advantages to the two Fascist teams) the kids rose to the occasion. This is not a spoiler – it’s well known that they win. The real drama is in the story that got them there in the first place. Brown writes that story effectively, developing the social, economic and political context, and fleshing out the characters: Coach Ulbrickson who struggled to find the right team chemistry among his talented rowers, employing crushingly superhuman training standards to ensure top conditioning. There is also shell builder George Pocock, who dispensed Yoda-like wisdom to the boys about the intangible qualities that make up a crew as opposed to a team. And of course the boys in the boat, whose own stories are compelling, especially Joe's, but several others are well highlighted.
Edward Herrmann’s flawless reading is smooth, clear and authoritative, yet also intimate in the telling of the very personal stories of Depression era America and early Third Reich Germany, as teams of rowers approached the race of a lifetime, that to the world was more than just a boat race. And just a side note - you can find video of the race on Youtube.
With a 4 1/2 hour commute to work, it's not hard for me to find time to listen to a good audiobook.
‘The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympic’ is a tireless story of triumph that endures beyond cliché and predictability. Reflective of a time where a generation of Americans was tested through the Dust Bowl and Great Depression, this true story of Joe Rantz and his eight University of Washington boat crew teammates follows their journey from humble origins detailing their sense of national pride and self determination to take on elite boat crews around the globe. The novel culminates into a true David and Goliath showdown between the Americans and the German national team at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
The drama within the novel lies more with the interpersonal stories than just the action on the water, but you will not be disappointed by author Daniel Brown’s balance and character development. This is a story that could easily be fraught with predictability, but it never happens. The novel has so much depth and narration so flowing, you will still be glued to the headphones with anticipation of finding out how the details of the story unfold.
Given Edward Herrmann’s remarkable storytelling of ‘Unbroken’ and ‘The Johnstown Flood’, he is undoubtedly the best, natural choice for narrator. Herrmann brings Dan Brown’s words to life with a balance of smooth calmness, wit, and explosive theatrics in storytelling that few narrators have mastered.
If you enjoy literary non-fiction audiobooks like ‘Unbroken’ by Laura Hillenbrand or ‘The Worst Hard Time’ by Timothy Egan, I promise that you will not be disappointed listening to ‘Boys in The Boat’.
Best audio book I have listened to thus far (along with Born to Run).
The description of the relationships between the crew members and how they depend on each other and learn to trust each other. The description of "swing" in the eight oared boat.
Very east listening. Good pace and expression.
Yes. I would spend more time running so I could listen more (I listen while running).
A must must must listen!
Say something about yourself!
Daniel James Brown takes a story about nine "boys," shows us how those "boys" were just regular people like the rest of us. And then he tells a wonderful tale of how, by committing to one another, they achieve something truly great. This is a book that highlights a little-remembered moment in history that is was so remarkable, it's chill-inducing.
I do want to add the cautionary note that after reading this book, there is a high likelihood that you will lose several hours on YouTube, watching the amazing footage of these young men at the Berlin Olympics.
One can never really go wrong when combining the stellar Edward Hermann with a great story. But in addition to that, this is a story everyone can relate to. It is about hard times, it is about pain, both physical and emotional. It is about fear. It is about going forward despite those things.
The sport of rowing has sadly devolved into being viewed as a very elitist activity. But from the late 1800s well into the later part of the last century, crew was a wildly popular sport, akin to baseball today. THE BOYS IN THE BOAT brings alive these nine young men, from humble--and even horrible--backgrounds and tells how they captured the attention of the entire world.
This book showcases one of the most demanding sports there is, and how these boys used that sport to quietly put Hitler in his place.
It's not really a character, but rather a moment that sticks out for me in this book. It is Hermann's narration of the final race at the Olympics. I already knew the result. But his description of the actual race--written captivatingly by Brown--had me on the edge of my chair. I found myself upset, anxious, pacing...and ultimately cheering.
I do want to add that I really loved the character of George Pocock, who built his handmade wooden racing shells with the quiet spirit of a Zen master. His quotes, which preface each chapter, can most assuredly be applied to rowing. But why stop there? Use them in life, as well.
"Chariot of Fire"--with oars. You will cheer!!
This is one of those rare books that can capture any reader. I've given it to friends who love crew--naturally, they loved the book. But I've also given it to my 80-year-old mother, who loved it despite having no interest in rowing whatsoever. I've given it to my BFF, who mostly reads romances and frothy mysteries--and she loved it.
To date, I've purchased 13 copies of this book, both in hard copy and audio. I've received back a 100% recommendation! Everyone loves this book.
In a few years, this book will be a fabulous film and it will sweep the Oscars. Read it now, so you can say "Oh yes. I read that story when it first came out. Great book. Better than the movie actually." ; )
Like everyone, I like a good story about overcoming daunting odds, persevering despite the curve balls life throws at you. This is what this story is about. It centers around Joe and his epic struggles through honestly his youngest and most formative years. It proceeds through his life and ultimately to the culmination of all of his efforts, to the 1936 olympics in Berlin. Everyone roots for the underdog and it'll make you tear up b/c you can honestly at times feel the pain he felt and the sweet taste of victory as well.
Expected, but it still had quite an impact b/c you went through such an emotional journey with Joe, the main character in the book. Even if you know the results, you don't know the journey, which is what made the ending special.
Joes girlfriend and father on the side of the course when Washington raced Cal and Joe finally getting that feeling of racing for someone other than himself, someone else being able to see what he made of himself.
I think the book was too slow to progress; it seems like it took chapters to get to much in the way of anything interesting. I understand that the character development was critical in order to give the reader the true impact of the looming success, but I honestly thought about trading the book in for the first few hours. Ultimately glad I listened to it, but man...a bit slow in the first 25%
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
When non-fiction really works, for me it's because there's a magical combination of a well-paced great story, good solid characters and a perfect narrator. That is precisely what "The Boys in the Boat" is all about.
I don't need to review the plot. It's all there in the intro. This is the best way I can describe this book: if you couldn't put "Seabiscuit" down, this is your book. It's a wonderful little slice of history that's written and narrated in a compelling way. If you have a long car trip this summer, this is the perfect book for a mixed audience.
if you liked Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken you will love The Boys in the Boat. This book was put together very well and was obviously well-researched. I enjoyed the stories of the individual men who were part of the 1936 University of Washington Crew team as well as lead up to the Olympics. The author, Daniel James Brown, takes the reader right into the boat and into the lives of these extraordinary men.
A huge credit has to be given to the incredible narration done on this book. Edward Hermann has narrated many books and have enjoyed most of his work. He has a cadence and sharpness to his voice that is fits the subject matter accurately. He manages to transport the listener to the era of the book. In this case I felt like the year was actually 1936 and I was listening to the story unfold on an old radio.
I'm a designer (interiors and graphics) with an English degree. I recovered my love of reading after a disastrous bout with grad school.
It's fairly astonishing that no one has stumbled onto this story before: it is narrative gold. Brown is not the most elegant writer, but he is a diligent researcher, and skillfully moves between the personal and particular, and the grander themes of the Depression and WWII. And, of course, the story is inherently thrilling, full of vivid characters and the vast machinery of history. Yes, we know how the story ends -- but the reader is nonetheless on the edge of his seat throughout.
One cavil with the otherwise excellent narration: many of the place names in the Northwest are hideously mispronounced. I will grant that "Puyallup" is a challenge (it's "pew-AL-up", not "pile-up") but Alki??? It's "ALK-EYE" not "al-kee", as if an entire neighborhood were deemed a drunk.
Fascinating, exciting and captivating
There were actually several, but most had to do with how the lads had to push themselves beyond what they (and others) thought possible.
Edward Herrmann is an excellent narrator, so I don't believe the problem is with him. Before a book is recorded, a staffer should be assigned to pick out ALL proper nouns, especially place names, and call a local Chamber of Commerce or somewhere to ascertain how these nouns are pronounced locally/correctly. This is not the first book where this has been a very big distraction for me, just the latest. Yes, the Pacific Northwest has some complicated and strangely named towns, but, in fact, so do places everywhere. As I listened, it was disruptive to mentally correct the pronunciations and eventually became frustrating at something so easily remedied. Again, Mr. Herrmann is a wonderful narrator. His voice mellifluous, his infusion of life into the characters sine qua non. Publishers, please...take the moments required to get the pronunciations right.
The combination of the amazing author skills of Daniel James Brown--along with the outstanding narrating ability of Edward Hermann--blew me away!
These nine athletes pull together in a quiet determination in preparation for the greatest achievement of their lives. They didn't have the money of some of the other teams, or the best clothing or living arrangements--what they had was some of the most remarkable resolve to maintain their goals and support for the team --each and every one of them. Not to be left out is the shell builder, George Pocock, who had as much influence on the boys as anyone. His dedication to making the perfect shell is quite a story in itself--I found out much more about this sport than I thought I would.
Listening to the winning race was breathtaking. I knew how the race ends- we all do - but I wasn't able to keep from being nervous and cheering the American team on as though I was in the stands. That is what this narrator does--just like in Unbroken, he pulls you in.
Everything came together at that time in history--the right team, the right coach, an amazing shell builder, and their combined efforts to achieve a once in a lifetime moment.
A must listen!
I found the propaganda efforts in Germany one of the most disgusting parts of the story--the fake front they were able to put up for the world during that time was nauseating -as well as Hitler's efforts to unfairly give advantages to the German team over the other's --this was a very small portion of the story, yet had to be included. It makes this story even more amazing.
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