Customer Reviews for

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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

If I told you one of the most propulsive reads you will experi



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 f...


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. How 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.

posted by TheReadingWriter on July 21, 2013

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Most Helpful Critical Review

2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

This book felt like a waste of time

I liked Paris Wife and Loving Frank, Sophie's World, so appreciate this genre, but this book was slow, uninteresting and I feel the history or science didn't come alive at all. It had no useful theme to extract. I would not recommend this book.

posted by 2460286 on October 10, 2014

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  • Posted July 21, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    If I told you one of the most propulsive reads you will experi



    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. How 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.

    27 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2013

    As a rower familiar with the '36 Olympics, I was drawn to the bo

    As a rower familiar with the '36 Olympics, I was drawn to the book out of a general interest; but I have to say it is exceptionally well written in how it puts together the characters and tells a story well beyond the world of crew. This book is going to be a best seller. If you have a chance, pick up a great coffee table book about George Pocock: Ready All Row. It sheds even more light on this central character and his accomplishments.

    18 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2013

    Highly Recommend-A Must Read

    One of the best books, if not the best, I've read this year.
    High School History teachers should read and recommend this book to their students.

    16 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    If all stories about rowing were written like Daniel Brown's fab

    If all stories about rowing were written like Daniel Brown's fabulous multi-level biography, I would read every one of them. This is a wonderful account, told with such detail and precision that I sometimes felt as if I were in this tale. Mr. Brown totally sucked me into his adventure. These young men who rowed for the USA in the 1936 Olympics faced huge obstacles. It was the Depression. Many were dirt-poor. They came from a small (then) and nondescript town of Seattle. They could not have had more difficult problems thrown their way. But by taking every sliver of hope, and mixing in superb craftsmanship (from George Pocock), excellent coaching (Al Ulbrickson), and these nine perfectly attuned young men learning together........the result was perfection. This is a true Team sport. I am not giving away anything by telling you that they DO win Gold at the 1936 Olympics. It is HOW they did it that is so darn exciting. Even knowing the end result does not diminish this bigger than life adventure. This is a must read, period. Many of the old luminaries of American rowing are in this story, the good, the bad, and the legendary, including Hiram Conibear, Tom Bolles, Al Ulbrickson and George Pocock. The story of the Pocock racing shell, which was still the best racing boat in the US when I started rowing, is detailed, along with the life story of George Pocock, his personality, and his contributions to Washington crews. This is an inspirational story, one that will lift you up, and it is wonderful, not only because Brown is a great writer, but because it is true.    

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2014

    Love it

    Loved the book....Great insight to the athlete as well as the Coach....In additiin to the historical signifigance tgat was not ignored... must read by rowers and their familiy....

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2013

    A riveting read!  I had no idea of the tough training and total

    A riveting read!  I had no idea of the tough training and total dedication this sport requires of the rowers.
     This biography of  Joe Rantz , one of the rowers, told the incredible story of the very tough life situations he had to 
    overcome from an early age and repeatedly throughout his life.  A very well written book which I highly recommend!  

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2013

    Wonderful story, wonderfully told

    Wonderful story, wonderfully told. Am in my 3rd season rowing as an adult, with a coach who rowed at Washington, so was interested in the history. But was delighted that the book is more about the rowers and the time. Really enjoyed the author's style, voice and details. Will look for more

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2013

    Inspirational, motivational - All around well written - Great bo

    Inspirational, motivational - All around well written - Great book

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 7, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    The 1936 Olympics may be best remembered for Jesse Owens winning

    The 1936 Olympics may be best remembered for Jesse Owens winning gold medals, by nine young men from the University of Washington rowing team also had their moment of Olympic history at those games as well. Their story, from the time they were a rag-tag bunch of college freshmen to a polished team representing America in Nazi Germany, is well-documented in this outstanding book by Daniel James Brown.

    The book is driven by personal stories, especially that of Joe Rentz, a young boy whose father and stepmother abandoned him and his siblings during the Great Depression. Left to fend on his own, Joe was able to keep the family alive and also find a way to the University of Washington, where he was part of a seemingly rag-tag bunch of young men thrown together to form the freshman rowing crew.

    These young men became a team through hard work, camaraderie, excellent coaching, and a lot of perseverance. The research on this team – everything from the results to the coaches to the lives of the young men – is outstanding. Much of the knowledge came from accounts provided by either the team members or their surviving family members. Painstaking detail is written for some of these stories, such as the courtship of Joe and his future wife Joyce, the conditions the team endured in Poughkeepsie during the regatta championships (Washington became the first school to sweep the three events – varsity, junior varsity and freshman), and the experiences they each shared during their time in Berlin at the Olympics.

    The events of the time shaped how this team would be viewed at the Olympics, and the author does a good job of writing about the history of that time without getting too deep. The references made to the rise of the Nazis, the Dust Bowl gripping the country and the effects of the Great Depression all are important to the story but do not take away from the central theme – namely the nine young men from the University of Washington rowing team.

    Every aspect of the book is well researched, well written and told in the proper amount of detail. This was an inspiring tale and a book that kept my interest from beginning to end. An outstanding read that anyone will enjoy.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    This is a truly great book. It is filled with rich descriptions.

    This is a truly great book. It is filled with rich descriptions. It is truly inspirational. Two thumbs up.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2014

    I have to give it five stars

    First off I have never written a review..read many books but have not been this moved in a long time! Don't let subject turn you off..sooo much more to this great book!!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2014

    The reviews are right!

    Many of the customer reviews call this one of the best, most inspirational books they have ever read. THEY ARE RIGHT!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2013

    A must read

    This is the best book I've read in years. Daniel Brown does an amazing job of telling this story, from the opening interview to the epilogue. It was very difficult putting the book down when I absolutely had to go to sleep or eat or get to work. It was good to learn about the "boys" as well as the coaches and the building and builder of the boats. I'm thankful that this story has come to light. USA! USA! USA!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 21, 2013

    A truly exceptional telling of the coming together of 9 young me

    A truly exceptional telling of the coming together of 9 young men. An engrossing read that involves in you deeply into the life of one of the main characters, Joe Rantz.
    I never expected to be so engrossed in a book about, of all things, crew rowing.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 21, 2014

    Boys in the Boat was insightful and inspiring

    I loved Boys in the Boat and I am not a sports enthusiast. But I gained an insight to the rigors of the rowing sport and the team spirit that is required and I also got a different look at the effects the depression had on people. It was inspiring to read how those young men rose above very difficult life situations to achieve their goals and I was proud of the American Olympic team. I am going to recommend this book to my book club.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 12, 2014

    Highly recommend

    A powerfully written, touching, and historic account of the creating of the 1936 Olympic Rowing team. This lives of these men, especially Joe, the main character, was amazing in the struggle they had just to stay in school in the Depression. The poverty and struggles the team overcame to become the Gold Medal winners at the Berlin Olympics was proof that we can overcome such great challenges. I also loved the weaving of the history of Germany woven throughout the story. I went from knowing nothing of rowing, to be becoming a fan that can't wait to see an actual race. Great read, hard to put down, and sad that it is over.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2014

    Although it had a slow start, it was a very great book. Once I w

    Although it had a slow start, it was a very great book. Once I was past page 200 (about), I was in love. The last few chapters had me reading faster than ever. It was so intense, emotional, and exciting! As a freshman in high school and having read this for honors English, this made me look at my sport (soccer) in a new way. Just being around my teammates and being able to play the game is an award itself. 

    I highly recommend this book! It gives you inspiration, and teaches you things. 

    For me at least, I entered a whole new world. I lived with Joe Rantz. I rowed with him, I ate with him, and I enjoyed every moment.
    Before, I looked at rowing to be a boring sport. After reading the detailed descriptions found in the story, I came to realize that rowing is in fact very beautiful. It takes grace, trust, and pure dedication to pull off what these men did. Daniel James Brown, you have a wonderful piece of writing. I find it a privilege to have been able to read it. Well done! :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2014

    Fantastic and Inspirational Read

    Loved this book that we read for our Book Club. I didn't know anything about the story but was delighted to start reading it and seeing so many quotes from George Yeoman Pocock and part of his story too as my son currently works making the Racing Shells for the Pocock Company.

    The book is so educational regarding rowing, the wonderful lives of these great gentlemen, the rivalry between the Huskies and Cal, the war and Hitler's regime during the Olympics. A great "can do" book that will inspire everyone :-)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2014

    Fantastic story

    Great story about athletes and rhe 1930's. Made me proud to live in Seattle and be an UW alum.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 31, 2014

    Great book!

    For the first couple pages, it seemed a little slow. Now I'm almost done, having raced through it, getting to know the boys. It was a great time in history, when nothing was taken for granted, and everything was earned. The author is fantastic, making connections between random occurrences in history, but it all comes together. You feel like you are right there, cheering them on, knowing what the boys are capable of. Of course, I'm living in the Northwest, so I have a special fondness for the University of Washington--I rowed in the very same place. Can't wait for the movie!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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