The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat

Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Book - 2013
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This 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. It traces the story of the team that defeated elite rivals at Hitler's 1936 Berlin Olympics, sharing the experiences of their enigmatic coach, a visionary boat builder, and a homeless teen rower.
Publisher: New York :, Viking,, [2013]
ISBN: 9780670025817
Characteristics: 404 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

April 2015

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Jan 09, 2019

I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book. It was well-written, with an easy reading style. I especially enjoyed the thoughtful quotes at the beginning of each chapter. The storytelling blended information about the boys in the boat, the social and economic happenings of the country, and the German preparations and progression toward war over in Europe. As someone who doesn't usually enjoy non-fiction, this was a wonderfully told story that kept me reading on the edge of my seat even when I knew the ultimate outcome of the story.

TSCPL_Miranda Dec 19, 2018

I didn't expect to enjoy this much, honestly, but I really, really did. I admit to doing some skimming in the moment-to-moment descriptions of the races, but I found this book hard to put down, and the human story was wonderful and inspiring, especially juxtaposed against the larger picture of national and international trends as the world headed closer to the horror of WWII. Powerful and a real joy to read.

Dec 12, 2018

This book was very well written. I think the author did an amazing job on how rowing worked and fluently described the workloads on the rowers. Brown talks his material with impressive energy, trying to understand the dynamics of the sport, which he conveys with enthusiasm. Such slumps occur, and Brown dramatizes them well, arranging the facts in ways that create a narrative drumbeat that never eases till the end. As the Washington crew races in Seattle, Poughkeepsie, New York or, finally, in Nazi Germany, Brown describes the races with pin-point accuracy and with dynamic factuality.
Another good fact that Brown has integrated into the story is that two of the American rowers fell desperately ill before the race, though they persevered at the insistence of their coach. Also, as if to increase the tension, the American team was given the worst lane, putting them in the path of severe crosswinds. Throughout the race, the crowd cheered wildly for Germany, as they would. Everything seemed to tilt against the boys in the boat, but they prevailed, coming from last, beating Italy by eight feet, leaving the German crew in third place.
I was impressed with Brown's research, imagining the countless interviews, the exhaustion of journals and logs, and the patient review of long-defunct newspaper articles and photographs it must have involved. I rated this a 10/10 because of the huge amount of effort clearly put into this book.

Sep 26, 2018

5++ STARS!!

Seriously, one of the best books I've ever read. This author turned a non-fiction account into a poignant, nail-biting, and cinematic event. I was transfixed by the superb writing that endeared me to nearly every character involved. This wasn't just the story of the 1936 Olympic crew team's win, but every step that got them there, as well as their pasts that shaped who they were up to that point. Most notably, Joe Rantz. I dare any person who reads this not to fall in love with him and his story of overcoming, enduring, and prevailing. I was already attracted to Depression-era stories, but this book was even more intriguing with a setting in and around the area where I grew up and still live. Although not it's primary focus, it was fascinating to learn more about how The Depression affected Seattle and it's environs.

Even if I already knew the ultimate outcome of this story, I couldn't help but feel anxious, exuberant, and tearful at moments when this group of young men came together and rowed to win race after race when it really mattered. It was one of the most exhilarating stories that I've ever read made even better because it's all true.

Sep 08, 2018

I wasn't expecting to like this as much as I did! First of all, I'm not into books that seem overly American to me and also, I don't know a thing about rowing. However, this book changed my mind. I liked the American-ness of it - it's actually more of a rivalry between the East and West Coast and also between California and Washington, and not so much about US being superior to every other nation. (Although they did win at the Olympics, which I thought was awesome, even though I'm not American.) The best part was that this was during the Great Depression, and these boys had to work hard ... not just for rowing, but for life. They overcame all of their challenges. They persevered till the end. I had a great respect for them after reading this. It's a really inspiring book.

There was also a lot about what was going on in Germany at this time, which I thought was well done. It puts everything into a more global perspective.

As for rowing, it made me want to start watching it. Each race was written in an exciting way; I never got tired of it.

This was really well written and entertaining. I recommend it for anyone. I'm glad I read it for my book club otherwise I probably would have never picked it up, and it's worth reading for sure.

Jul 18, 2018

This book is very, very well written. When he describes the races, I found myself rocking back and forth to help them row faster! It's exciting, educational, and at times relatable. I would definitely recommend this book!

plymc_linda Jun 05, 2018

Excellent! A true story about setting high goals, working hard and beating insurmountable odds to make it happen. A real feel good book, reminiscent of the theme in one of my favorite movies, Rudy!

PiPhi_1 May 25, 2018

Favorite read, great for book club discussion

May 12, 2018

Very good bordering on excellent. A tad bit dry and drawn-out in the Boys' early college years but overall a very enjoyable and enlightening read.

Apr 23, 2018

In many ways this is a Pulitzer Prize winner given the superior storytelling. We immerse into the world of skull racing which eventually takes us to the Berlin Olympics during the Nazi occupation. While not focused entirely on Joe Rantz, his story inspires by his ability to become mentally tough, find joy and be compassionate while learning the underlying elements of teamwork. Fast paced, illuminating and well crafted, this is a book that opens our eyes, hearts and minds to possibility. Highly recommended!

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Jan 02, 2017

“It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down,” he told his daughter, Marilynn. “What matters is how many times you get up.” - page 233

Jan 02, 2017

"To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn't necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally. When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something he did not - that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not yet shown, something that once revealed would make him doubt himself, make him falter just when it counted the most. Like so much in life, crew was partly about confidence, partly about knowing your heart." - page 106

WVMLlibrarianTara Nov 26, 2014

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew.”


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Oct 18, 2014

A timeless story of perseverance, of survival in a world full of obstacles. Joe Rantz faced abandonment by his family, putting himself through college, the dust bowl and great depression, and ultimately Hitler's influence in athletic competition. But his biggest obstacle at times was himself. Finally becoming a reliable piece of a cohesive whole, he and his crewmates lifted the Husky Clipper off the surface of the water, to the rafters of Washington's shellhouse, and into history.


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