The #1 New York Times–bestselling story about American Olympic triumph in Nazi Germany, the inspiration for the PBS documentary The Boys of '36, broadcast to coincide with the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 80th anniversary of the boys' gold medal race.
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
A wonderful story to listen to on a road trip. Excellent story that gave listeners a good dose of American war history along the way. Powerful story of someone overcoming the odds against him, and how a team could pull together. Hooray for this team of Washington boys, the lessons learned and what we learned from them.
This book is wonderful on so many levels. Beautifully written, excellently crafted, poignantly nostalgic. There are so many descriptors. Perhaps the best I can think of is realistically unbelievable. It is a book which transcends the label of Nonfiction.
Except for memoir, which enjoys the fact that it so beautifully absorbs the essay genre, I have always held an aversion to nonfiction. Perhaps it was those awful history books foisted upon me during my school years or maybe the lack of literary joy imparted by news magazines. Whatever the case, I have seen nonfiction as a means of collecting information, knowledge, facts rather than as a means of losing myself in a world at the hands of a skilled writer.
Brown changed that for me with “The Boys in the Boat,” an incredibly respectful—I suppose, elegiac—recollection of a group of guys (boys? men?) I had never known of. The book is at times a naturalist depiction of a 1930s world outside the dust of Oklahoma and away from the gray steamy streets of New York City, in the state of Washington. Brown does not ignore the Depression, nor does he forget about Nazi Germany and the imminent war. Rather, he uses them as a means of framing the world from which these boys rose and the enormity and the gravity that their rowing meant to the world they were entering.
At times Brown waxes poetically about the trees and the water and the pastoral challenges of Washington, while at other times he positions the build-up of Nazi Germany as the true showdown awaiting these young boys of muscle, brains, and meager means. The rest of the time, Brown lovingly reintroduces us to a sport which is all but nonexistent to today’s mainstream America. He makes us understand the immense challenge of rowing well, the artistry of crafting the rowing shells, the fellowship of successful rowers (who “swing”), and he brings us into contact with the rowers themselves, not as faceless He-men but as humans, as Americans.
What is so incredibly surprising is that even when we know the outcome of the final race (Brown tells us outright in the Prologue), there is still an enormous sense of suspense throughout the many races depicted. Brown has such a great sense of pacing, taking what was only essentially a 6-minute race and stretching it into a Herculean effort of endurance, helping those of us, who would sit on the side and perhaps feel disappointed by the quick conclusion, to understand just what level of power, stamina, coordination, and heart were required to make the race happen.
I am not much for extreme jingoism (especially not if it costs an included sense of xenophobia), but I have to say this story certainly gave me a real sense of national pride. There’s a sense of ownership. I had nothing to do with their success; in fact, before this book I didn’t even know of their success. But at the end of it, I felt connected to it through my Americanness, through the fact that they are forever part of my shared history.
By the end of the book, I was sorry to leave these men behind, to listen to Brown tick off their deaths one after the other in the Epilogue. It felt as though I was leaving behind once more such an amazing piece of our cultural fabric and history again. I will come back to this book and read it again because it brought me into contact with something that simply felt ‘right.’ It was one of the right things that has happened in and for America, and I want to feel it again.
Narration: the narration is excellent. There is not much to say, other than the narrator seems the most exquisite fit to the material. I have nothing negative to say regarding his reading of Brown’s work.
Take away million dollar contracts and entitled athletes and put in real people. Then make those people a team and do amazing things together
I loved every second of this book.
Joe Rantz is my new hero.
While I prefer good fiction, this true story is as engrossing as any fabrication of the most imaginative author.
The layering of time and place made it even more interesting
I have been recommending it to clients and friend alike
What a story! It doesn't matter that you know the ending; it's the story of the boys and the beautiful way it's narrated that will stay with you. A timeless story of friendship, perseverance, grit, hard work, and courage.
Nonfiction doesn't get any better than the boys in the boat. The story is spectacular and Edward Herrmann does a great job in narrating this incredible story, just as he as he did in narrating Unbroken.. Loved every minute of it. Read the book twice, once in paperback, and then listened to the audio. I recommend it to everybody I know. Great great book. I loved it and, like all great books, I was so sad when it was over, both times.
This was a great read of the true story of this crew. It is a long one, which at times I found overly detailed. During other times the details were welcomed such as the descriptions given during the races. Overall worth the time.
This book was so good I did not want it to end!!! The characters were so well described you felt as if they were family members. The narrator was great and made the story come alive!
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