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

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

by Daniel James Brown
4.4 407


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

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.

For readers 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780670025817
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/04/2013
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 39,827
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)
Lexile: 1260L (what's this?)

About the Author

Daniel James Brown is the author of two previous nonfiction books, The Indifferent Stars Above and Under a Flaming Sky, which was a finalist for a Barnes & Noble Discover Award. He has taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford University. He lives outside Seattle.

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 407 reviews.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.    
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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....
MinTwinsNY More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Inspirational, motivational - All around well written - Great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A narrative of the development of the Olympic Gold winning crew of 1938. Excellent information on the sport and its intracacies with the depression years' impact on the country and one of the crew as he developed from college freshman crew to the varsity and then, with the crew, the Olympics. The narrative is narrowly focussed upon the topic at hand. I recommend either experience in the sport or an academic interest in it as a prerequisite. Nicely written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Skeptical if this book would be worth the read. How do you turn a six minute event into a book worth reading? Brown does, and does it extremely well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a truly great book. It is filled with rich descriptions. It is truly inspirational. Two thumbs up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First off I have never written a 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!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting story surrounded by some very tedious chapters.
HPSolon More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the way the author set the stage for the story, talking about what things were like in Seattle and in the country as a result of the depression, as well as how events in Joe's life led to his involvement in rowing. Information about Hitler's Germany and the preparations for the Olympics are deftly woven in as well. You can almost feel the chill of the wet, cold practice days, and smell the cedar as George Pocock works on his racing shells. The team faced obstacles I wouldn't have thought about in their campaign for an Olympic medal. In the end it's is a stellar example of what can happen when people work together - the crew in the boat and all those who helped them in their quest.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Many of the customer reviews call this one of the best, most inspirational books they have ever read. THEY ARE RIGHT!
porchswingreader More than 1 year ago
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!
reilly1 More than 1 year ago
Extraordinary book! Reads like a "can't put down" novel. Even when you know what's going to happen! I was rowing with them in the boat. The writing, the story, the characters are all awe inspiring. Don't understand why this book is not  at the top of all lists. Oh wait, It's not about vampires.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I became quite connected to the people in this book and really didn't want to put book down. Loved all the historical tidbits, especially since our family are UW graduates and life residents of Washington state.
NoDak_Coyote More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The main character in Boys in the Boat is Joe Rantz, who is trying out for the crew team at the University of Washington, a highly esteemed college. Joe was born into a very poor family and when he was very little his mom died causing his father to become depressed. Joe's father remarried and moved his family to Sequim, Washington but later decided to move away because his malevolent, new wife did not like life there and also did not like Joe so she and Joe's dad left both of them behind in Sequim. Fending for himself in the city of Sequim shaped Joe into an independent, adroit man. One of Joe's major conflicts is the internal conflict over relying on his teammates to achieve victory because he was used to working to achieve what he wanted individually after being abandoned. Joe ends up trying to move the boat as an individual rather than working with his team putting the boat's swing in jeopardy. Another conflict is the Washingtion crew team against the California crew team. At this point in history it becomes obvious that the West is producing the best crews but the question is which one of them will be the creme de la creme. A major plot event in the rising action was the Washington Wictory at the 1934 Poughkeepsie Regatta when the freshmen crew that Joe was in seemed to effortlessly win their race. Another one was when the all sophmore varsity boat narrowly beat California at the Regatta against Berkley because this showed how evenly matched the West was. In the beginning of the book I disliked how much time the author spent describing what post WWI looked like in Washington because it added to much unnecessary information such as on page 8 when they said "tugboats belching plumes of black smoke nosed long rafts of longs into the locks that would raise them to the level of Lake Washington." I liked how the book was into sections based on the crew seasons they went through because it made the book feel very organized. I liked how the author put a quote before each chapter because it helps in showing wheat will be learned by characters in the chapter; fir example, at the beginning of chapter five the author quoted George Yeomen Peacock "Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are not time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance." I would recommend this book because it will inspire you to achieve something you want after reading what these penniless boys from twentieth century Seattle did. Also, it is a great was to learn about how Germany exposed itself to the world as a friendly, just nation. Lastly, it is neat to read about one of the long journeys most athletes we watch in the Olympics have to go through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A page turner even though you know the ending.
psycsuz More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of true stories. I didn't think this was a book I was going to like but since it came highly recommended by a friend, I thought I would give it a try. What a surprise!! I LOVED this book. Could not put it down. Besides the enjoyment, I learned a lot about rowing and what it takes to be a crew member. That was a sport I never paid much attention to. The author also researched and interviewed the main character in depth. It was personal, informing and interesting. I highly recommend this book.
Reads-to-live More than 1 year ago
Never would have just picked up this book to read, but a friend recommended it. I trusted her and am so glad I did. Well written. The "boys" come alive and their quest becomes palpable. Will engage you from start to breathless finish.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book vividly describes the personal challenges of the 30's in the USA, the growing power of Nazi Germany while providing a gripping account of competitive rowing.