• The Boys in the Boat

  • Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
  • By: Daniel James Brown
  • Narrated by: Edward Herrmann
  • Length: 14 hrs and 24 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (36,585 ratings)
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Publisher's Summary

The number one New York Times best-selling 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.

For readers/listeners of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times - the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant. It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

©2013 Daniel James Brown (P)2013 Penguin Audio

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What listeners say about The Boys in the Boat

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  • Overall
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Timeless Story of a Great American Triumph

STORY (True Historical) - I am not from the Pacific Northwest and I'm not a rowing enthusiast, but this still was a great listen. It is for all Americans who like stories of courage and determination and people who have made their mark in history. The story begins as hopeful boys show up at Washington to try out for the university rowing teams. As the book progresses, the teams are chosen and begin their training. Alternately, you will get a glimpse of Berlin as it prepares to host the 1936 Olympic Games. The book goes back and forth between Berlin and Washington until the final American Olympic team is chosen and travels to Berlin.

It was interesting to hear details about the sport of rowing which I knew nothing about. I even looked on Wikipedia to see a diagram of the seating positions so I could understand the titles of the different rowers and how they contribute to the overall speed of the boat. What I enjoyed the most was the massive effort made by Hitler and the Nazis to hide the "real Germany" and appear to the world as a beautiful, peaceful Berlin. There was a little too much character development of each of the boys in the boat, but I suppose it contributed to the overall story. The best part of the book, of course, is the end when the Washington rowing team competes for the USA on the world stage. That is followed by an epilogue which updates each boy's life after the games.

PERFORMANCE - Good job. Some people from Washington complain about mispronunciation of local places. This Texas reviewer didn't notice a thing.

OVERALL - Recommended for just about anyone. There is no cursing, violence or sex. My only criticism is I thought it moved a little slowly at times.

14 people found this helpful

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Do you believe in miracles??

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.

95 people found this helpful

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Dear Publishers of Audio Books

If you could sum up The Boys in the Boat in three words, what would they be?

Fascinating, exciting and captivating

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Boys in the Boat?

There were actually several, but most had to do with how the lads had to push themselves beyond what they (and others) thought possible.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

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.

95 people found this helpful

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The Best Audiobook You'll Listen to This Summer

‘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’.

66 people found this helpful

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Epic read

One of the most inspirational stories of our time, with a great narrator to tell you all about it.

5 people found this helpful

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Narrative Gold

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.

16 people found this helpful

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Non-fiction at its finest.

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.

33 people found this helpful

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Great story, narrator didn't do his homework.

Any additional comments?

Wonderful story, but the narrator made many egregious (too numerous and irritating to be laughable) mispronunciations of Pacific Northwest place names. If you're from Washington state you'll be happier reading it than listening to it. Penguin Books: don't you have editors?

22 people found this helpful

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Best book of the year!

I wish more books like this were available on audible. It was the most thrilling and uplifting story I've read in a long time! I wasn't sure I'd be interested in a rowing team from 1936, but I was wrong. I LOVED this story!

Don't pass this book up. You need not know a thing about rowing. Often rowing is associated with Ivy League snobs, or dapper Englishmen from Oxford. This book will change that misconception! You might even become a fan of the sport. :)

Perfect narration, incredible story! Easily the best audiobook of 2013.

28 people found this helpful

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  • MM
  • 10-05-19

Overrated.

People had been telling me it was an amazing book for years now. It is not. I realized they thought so because they must have read very few books, and it is melodramatic, maudlin, and overall too poorly written to bear.

3 people found this helpful