The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

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 o...

Title:The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:067002581X
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:416 pages

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Reviews

  • Diane S ☔
    May 26, 2013

    If someone had told me I would become emotionally invested is a book about rowing, I would have thought they were crazy. First, I knew little about rowing and second, I had no desire to learn. A read for a group I am in had me picking up this book and I am so glad I did. As many mothers have said, try it before you decode you don't like it.

    An amazing balance of human interest, history and sport. Joe Rantz's story had my mothers heart wanting to give his ten year old self a big hug. His story and

    If someone had told me I would become emotionally invested is a book about rowing, I would have thought they were crazy. First, I knew little about rowing and second, I had no desire to learn. A read for a group I am in had me picking up this book and I am so glad I did. As many mothers have said, try it before you decode you don't like it.

    An amazing balance of human interest, history and sport. Joe Rantz's story had my mothers heart wanting to give his ten year old self a big hug. His story and the man he became is simply heart breaking and admirable. He and the other boys wormed their way under my skin and I found myself holding my breath more than once during their races.

    The book went back and forth between the US and Germany. The snow job they pulled on the world during the Olympics, convincing many others that they were a progressive and fair nation. There were small moments of humor too, as when the German people greeted our athletes with a raised arm and shouted, Heil, Hitler, our athletes raised their arms and answered back, "Heil, Roosevelt.

    The sport of course took up much of the book from the scull maker, Popcock to the coach, Al Ubrickson. The hard work that went into training, and of course the races, competitions between the East and West coast. The lives of the men in the boat and what happened to them after.

    All in all I found this a stirring read, a wonderful book.

  • Trish
    Jun 13, 2013

    If I told you one of the most propulsive reads you will experience this year is the non-fiction story of eight rowers and one coxswain training to attend the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, you may not believe me. But you’d need to back up your opinion by reading this book first, and you will thank me for it. Daniel James Brown has done something extraordinary here. We may already know the outcome of that Olympic race, but the pacing is exceptional. Brown juxtaposes descriptions of crew training in Sea

    If I told you one of the most propulsive reads you will experience this year is the non-fiction story of eight rowers and one coxswain training to attend the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, you may not believe me. But you’d need to back up your opinion by reading this book first, and you will thank me for it. Daniel James Brown has done something extraordinary here. We may already know the outcome of that Olympic race, but the pacing is exceptional. Brown juxtaposes descriptions of crew training in Seattle with national races against the IV League in Poughkeepsie; we see developments in a militarizing Germany paired with college competitions in depression-era United States; individual portraits of the “boys” (now dead) are placed alongside cameos of their coaches; he shares details of the early lives of a single oarsman, Joe Rantz, with details of his wife's parallel experiences.

    The 1936 Olympics in Berlin was the stuff of legend, when Jesse Owens swept four gold medals in field and track, but a Washington crew team won that summer also, against great odds.

    that victory took place and how a group of great athletes became great competitors is something Daniel James Brown spent five years trying to articulate. Quotes from George Pocock, crafter of cedar shells, head each chapter, sharing his experience watching individual oarsmen become a team.

    At various times I have heard sports like baseball or golf, and now crew, described as “the thinking man’s game.” I like to imagine that any sport, particularly a team sport, is best performed when one is thinking. Surely strategies and tactics are involved. But when a team sport is performed fast and in key, there is something organic in its growth and peak performance that transcends “thinking.”

    For one thing, there is the sustained coordinated rhythm of many bodies performing as one, starting from zero and demanding as much as two hundred heartbeats per minute in a sprint, erasing the individual and coalescing into something much bigger than each individual effort could achieve. This particular crew overcame the usual and expected race-day catastrophes to deliver the sweetest win they or their coaches had ever experienced. It is a story at the time and on the level of the historic

    victory: speaking of the horse, the race,

    the book by

    .

    One of the things about a great book is the energy one derives from having encountered it. Great teachers generate interest in a subject and Brown did that in this book. Even if you have no knowledge of or interest in rowing before you begin, you will be fascinated by the end. In addition, Brown tells us some things about the Third Reich and Leni Reifenstahl’s photography for Hitler and of the 1936 Olympics that makes me want to revisit that film record. Reifenstahl had taken pictures (after the event) of the rowing crews from inside their boats, among other things, and when the film

    came out two years later, it cemented her reputation as a great filmmaker. Of course she is best known for creating the great propaganda film,

    . She used camera angles and techniques that had never been used before and was extraordinarily successful in supporting the political machine that was Germany in the 1930s.

    A film version of

    is scheduled,

    with Kenneth Branagh directing, which is sure to capture further interest in this remarkable story. A

    is available to download from San Francisco radio station KLLC (radioalice). In it Daniel James Brown shares a little of his narrative non-fiction technique of keeping readers dangling at critical moments and turning instead to talk of parallel events to keep the tension high. He does it better than almost anyone—writers take note!

    I believe I can guarantee this title—either you or someone close to you will find this a riveting summer read. I am pleased to be able to offer a giveaway of this title through

    , ending August 15, 2013-- just enough time to receive it and read it before summer ends. So all of you unsure whether nonfiction is your “thing,” put aside your reservations, add your name to the list, and see if this story doesn’t float your boat.

  • Tom
    Aug 27, 2013

    This may not be my final rating of this book, but I have to put it down for a while because I find it simply boring, and I have a backlog of other books that look SO much more interesting. Why this has achieved an average rating of 4.5 on Goodreads I don't understand, unless it all comes together in the second half. The first half has been a struggle to get through, and I find myself resisting picking it up every day. A great story made dull by a weak author? Or just me? I usually love books lik

    This may not be my final rating of this book, but I have to put it down for a while because I find it simply boring, and I have a backlog of other books that look SO much more interesting. Why this has achieved an average rating of 4.5 on Goodreads I don't understand, unless it all comes together in the second half. The first half has been a struggle to get through, and I find myself resisting picking it up every day. A great story made dull by a weak author? Or just me? I usually love books like this (e.g., "Unbroken").

  • Donna
    Sep 07, 2013

    I don't know why I put off reading this book so long, except I was reading other things. BUT when I went to visit my son, who is the grandson of Joe Rantz and named his son Joe after him, I began reading their copy and could not put it down. Everything else I was reading was put aside.

    I then realized I would not finish it before I had to leave and besides, I wanted to OWN it. So I got the Kindle version. Besides, my son was also reading it and we had two book marks, his and mine in the book. So

    I don't know why I put off reading this book so long, except I was reading other things. BUT when I went to visit my son, who is the grandson of Joe Rantz and named his son Joe after him, I began reading their copy and could not put it down. Everything else I was reading was put aside.

    I then realized I would not finish it before I had to leave and besides, I wanted to OWN it. So I got the Kindle version. Besides, my son was also reading it and we had two book marks, his and mine in the book. So it made things easier.

    Wow, I was surprised at all the things I learned about Joe and Joyce I had not known before. I remember holding Joe's Olympic gold medal long ago when I first married his son, the first and last such medal I have ever held. I remember because it made such an impression on me. I remember the talk of the other "boys" and how they got together and I remember being invited to the planting of the tree for Joseph Rantz but did not go. I don't remember why. I have always proudly told everyone that my son's grandfather won an Olympic Gold Medal in Hitler's Germany in 1936. Who else can say that? Not many. But really, I had no idea what was involved in that accomplishment.

    But after reading this book I realize how very special those boys were, and how important it was that it all came together, the very special men who all had hard upbringings, who had to scrape and scratch for every morsel they ever got, the now legendary boat maker and the coxswain. It took a very unique mix of ingredients to make that win happen and take home that Gold Medal.

    But it had to be told in a way that we could all see it,feel it, get it. And Daniel Brown did just that. He interviewed Joe Rantz months before his death.

    I remember a man who was tall, handsome, strong and always willing to help. I remember as a young single mother after I had divorced his son, how very warm and welcoming they were to me and how Joe would not only fix my broken down cars but would show me how he did it.

    I remember when he fell from the tree when he was still out there too late in his life, climbing trees and cutting them down. I remember saying to myself, if only I could find a man like him, I would keep him. He was my ideal man but I had no idea how he came to be that man.

    So now I know.

  • Emily
    Jul 27, 2014

    This book was all right, but there was just too much of it and the title isn't very descriptive. It's really only about one of the nine "boys in the boat," plus their coach and the boatbuilder. Oh, and Hitler.

    Perhaps the author came to the project 10-15 years too late; only one of the main subjects survived to be interviewed by 2006, and that figure (Joe Rantz) makes the book worthwhile. Having grown up dirt poor, abandoned by his family, with a strong work ethic and a charming, loyal fiancée,

    This book was all right, but there was just too much of it and the title isn't very descriptive. It's really only about one of the nine "boys in the boat," plus their coach and the boatbuilder. Oh, and Hitler.

    Perhaps the author came to the project 10-15 years too late; only one of the main subjects survived to be interviewed by 2006, and that figure (Joe Rantz) makes the book worthwhile. Having grown up dirt poor, abandoned by his family, with a strong work ethic and a charming, loyal fiancée, he's someone you can't help but root for. But his story is buried in dozens of pages of descriptions of early twentieth century crew rivalries and what woods to make boats out of and a highly superfluous retelling of the early years of Nazi rule. All of that material is less interesting than Joe Rantz's life, and all of it is noticeably less immediate. I often like nonfiction that

    so my complaint here is chiefly about the comparative worthwhileness of the strands rather than the author's art in pulling them together. Then there's the factor of the book's sheer length; my sigh when I realized I was hundreds of pages in and only up to the start of junior-year training must have been audible from Lake Washington.

    I've written in

    or two about how the events of WWII, when you stare at them long enough, go from incomprehensible to almost unbelievable. But this book (and

    ) conjures the opposite cognitive problem, which is that it is impossible for the reader to put the facts of what happened after the 1930s out of our minds. Both books are trading on a rather ghoulish dramatic irony of innocent, upstanding Americans willingly visiting the evil Nazi state without realizing the depth of its coming crimes, but neither manages to evoke the mindset that allowed the Americans to do so, or the historical fact that the later events of WWII and Holocaust were

    inevitable. In Erik Larson's book, I think there is a point to be made that a different man serving as ambassador might have measured up the danger more wisely, but where this book is concerned, it would be absurd to say Joe Rantz and his fellows--who had barely been out of Washington State--should have been more perceptive or that they could have

    anything.

    Even whatever pleasure you might get from seeing an American team win under Hitler's nose has to be tempered by an appreciation of how meaningless this was in the long run. The power in this story comes from the boys' personal stories of overcoming Depression-era obstacles, so padding the book with discussions of Leni Riefenstahl and the fate of a particular German-Jewish family after Kristallnacht draws the wrong kind of contrast by putting the race in the context of world history rather than personal achievement.

    I'm ultimately glad I read this because of its evocation of early twentieth century Seattle and its ability to make you cheer for Joe Rantz, but I suspect it was propelled onto the bestseller list by attracting the attention of readers who perhaps don't read 25-30 nonfiction books per year and liked the drama of the Olympic win and implied impending wartime victory more than I was bothered by the author's somewhat paint-by-numbers assembly of the elements of this story.

  • Jen
    Dec 10, 2014

    Why did I wait so long to read this? Well, a couple of reasons: 1) It’s about rowing…No offense, it’s just not a sport I’m wowed by. 2) It’s about a group of Americans going to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Hey, I’m Canadian, eh... American patriotism and propaganda isn’t my gig.

    So finally I picked it up; put it down. Then thought to hell with it, I’m doing this. I cracked the spine, sat down and for the last few days, every spare moment has been living and breathing this story.

    It starts with th

    Why did I wait so long to read this? Well, a couple of reasons: 1) It’s about rowing…No offense, it’s just not a sport I’m wowed by. 2) It’s about a group of Americans going to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Hey, I’m Canadian, eh... American patriotism and propaganda isn’t my gig.

    So finally I picked it up; put it down. Then thought to hell with it, I’m doing this. I cracked the spine, sat down and for the last few days, every spare moment has been living and breathing this story.

    It starts with the life of Joe Rantz, the crew member who sat in the 7th seat of the boat. The abandonment he experienced as a child that shaped him into becoming the man he did. It’s of course about the sport - which in itself is a paradox - while the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, each member brought unique qualities and experiences to compliment each other to make a successful and cohesive crew . The determination, the skill, the heart, soul and passion that goes into the making of an athlete; the making of a team; the realization of a dream.

    It’s about the two faces Germany wore for the hundreds of thousands of spectators who came to watch. The deception and political ploys used to prevent suspicions from being roused. It will always eclipse the event to a certain degree.

    But most of all, it’s an inspirational read and one that will remain most memorable to me. 4 ★

  • Brina
    Jul 12, 2015

    I read this book because my father kept telling me that I would enjoy it. Truthfully, l finally picked up so he would stop nagging me about it even though it is about sports and history- my two favorite things.

    Boys in the Boat is the motivational story of Joe Rantz, his wife Joyce, and the other members of the 1936 Washington University rowing team that won gold at the Berlin Olympics. This story is partially the story of Joe's perseverance during the depression and also his rowing team's quest

    I read this book because my father kept telling me that I would enjoy it. Truthfully, l finally picked up so he would stop nagging me about it even though it is about sports and history- my two favorite things.

    Boys in the Boat is the motivational story of Joe Rantz, his wife Joyce, and the other members of the 1936 Washington University rowing team that won gold at the Berlin Olympics. This story is partially the story of Joe's perseverance during the depression and also his rowing team's quest to make it to the Olympics and subsequent epilogue.

    The story is definitely inspiring not just because the US team won gold in rowing in Berlin but because of Joe's story. Abandoned by his father and stepmother and forced to live alone from his early teens, Joe worked his way to college and lived at the university gym. Joining the rowing team as way to keep in shape, Joe still had to work between semesters and during the summer even taking part in the construction of the Cooley Dam, just so he would have enough money to pay for tuition. Although during the depression, he somehow cobbled together the $25 necessary each term to stay in school. This is definitely a far cry from today's pampered NCAA athletes.

    Boys in the Boat is a story about perseverance and I enjoyed it immensely. The reason I give this highly regarded book a 4 instead of a 5 is because the writing is not the absolute best, usually referring to Joe and Joyce in third person. I recommend this often overlooked chapter in history to all who haven't read it yet.

  • Stephanie
    Aug 05, 2015

    Prepare to be inspired!! This compelling story is largely told through the eyes of Joe Rantz (one of the rowers), who is an amazing individual! His neighbor, author

    interviewed him when Rantz was dying of congestive heart failure.

    I had heard such great things about this book, but hesitated to pick it up because I am not a fan of rowing and wasn'

    Prepare to be inspired!! This compelling story is largely told through the eyes of Joe Rantz (one of the rowers), who is an amazing individual! His neighbor, author

    interviewed him when Rantz was dying of congestive heart failure.

    I had heard such great things about this book, but hesitated to pick it up because I am not a fan of rowing and wasn't sure that it would be for me. When this was chosen as a BOTM read for one of my groups, I grabbed the audio version and am so glad that I gave it a try!!

    The story surrounding Rantz read like fiction to me. His evolution from a little boy abandoned by his family to a young man putting himself through college (without financial support) and rowing on an Olympic team was incredible to experience. His independence and character are so strong -- with no family support. At several points, my heart was breaking for him. What a role model of a child who was able to overcome adversity and move on to an Olympic winner and a family man!

    The historical background is also interesting (and sad) -- with the Depression in the United States and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Events and color around both are meaningfully woven throughout the book and make it a rich experience.

    Following article is a great reference to the miracle of the underdog American team winning this event! The fact that a West Coast team even won to represent the United States over the East Coast was unexpected.

    I highly recommend

    to all readers of non-fiction, regardless of their interest in or knowledge of the sport of rowing. As a reader unfamiliar with this topic, I found it to be a wonderful experience. The audio version is especially good and creates some excitement around the more "sport" parts.


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