The Boys in the Boat

By Daniel James Brown,

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

Book description

The #1 New York Times-bestselling story about the American Olympic rowing triumph in Nazi Germany-from the author of Facing the Mountain.

Soon to be a major motion picture directed by George Clooney

For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the…

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Why read it?

10 authors picked The Boys in the Boat as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I loved that the characters in this true story were able to accomplish something that no one ever expected of them. This book follows the crew team of nine working-class American boys from the University of Washington who, against all odds, ended up competing in the 1936 Olympics.

The main character in the story is Joe Rantz who comes from an incredibly harsh background with no family, no money, little food, and few clothes. He arrives on campus, discovers a love of rowing, and develops a great proficiency in the sport, ultimately helping his team achieve their dream.

You’d think…

This is an amazing history of how the University of Washington rowing 8 formed the US team that won gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. 

It tells how a group of working-class young men were molded into a winning team that triumphed against the odds. No knowledge of rowing is needed to understand this great story of human endeavor. Extremely well written, it reads like a novel but is based on massive research. 

I found it absolutely gripping, so much so that I did not want to say goodbye to the real-life characters who can teach us the values…

Until I read this book, I never dreamed that the intricacies of crew rowing could be so compelling; nor did I realize just how spotlighted a sport collegiate crew racing was in the early twentieth century.

This is microscopic history at its best. The focus is on a group of young Western American males, generally working-class, attending the University of Washington, and how they got sucked up into that world of competitive crew racing, a world that I always assumed was solely inhabited by (effete?) elite collegians at eastern colleges.

You learn so much about these particular young men, you…

Who wouldn’t want to read the story of how a hardscrabble bunch of northwestern kids molded themselves into a nationally ranked crew team, beating not only Ivy League competitors but Hitler’s finest? 

The real reason this book resonates so much with me may have more to do with an author interview featuring Brown. He certainly had me with the epic athletic journey of a handful of unlikely heroes. But it was the way he layered the story, detailing scenes and otherwise bringing history to life, that really interested me.

In that author interview, he talked about going through old newspapers…

This book is a great read, a superbly written morality play about the triumph of the underdog and the cathartic effect of sport. Brown, a former teacher of creative writing, now specializes in dramatic narrative nonfiction.

In The Boys in the Boat, Brown recounts the efforts of a group of young men at the University of Washington to reach their dream, winning gold in the coxed eights at the 1936 Olympics. The book vividly captures the physical and psychological demands placed on the neophyte rowers, demands that winnow out all but the toughest competitors.

Brown grounds his story by focusing…

Several years ago, I was in a reading slump. It seemed like months since I had read a really good book. 

So during some school visits (children’s authors visit schools), I asked some school librarians for book suggestions. “The Boys in the Boat,” was the immediate answer of two consecutive librarians.

The moment I picked up the book, my reading slump was over. While the premise of the book – the true story of the University of Washington men’s rowing team in the 1930s – does not sound promising, Brown magically weaves the stories of the nine “boys…

This book wouldn’t normally count as historical biography, but to me it’s one of the most inspiring tales about grit. It’s the true story of a group of boys like Joe Rantz, who grew up poor in the woods of Washington State and was abandoned by his family. Still, he claws himself through life, picking up skills, courage, and stamina along the way, and finds a ramp to meaning and success in rowing. The book would be worth reading just for the worm’s-eye view of athletic disciplinethe pain and perseverance inside the boat and outside. But then these…

It’s been years since I read this book, but I remember vividly the thrill of this unlikely crew of kids from working-class families in Washington state shocking Hitler by beating his rowing team on his home turf at the Olympics, an extravaganza designed to display German superiority. Add to that, the nine-man crew’s earlier upset victories against the American Ivy League teams that dominated one of the most popular American sports in the days before television, and you’ve got the makings of a wonderful underdog-come-from-behind story. Which it is, in the hands of this author, and is why I’m recommending…

From Victoria's list on American heroes to inspire your teenager.

Amazing read! The detail in this book was incredible, especially about the sport of rowing, even down to how rowing shells are made. I was completely invested in the lives of the real-life characters because they were so well drawn. And then there was that final Olympic rowing race! I felt as if I was in the boat with the wind blowing and water splashing against the side of the shell. 

From Lorna's list on determination and perseverance.

This remarkable true slice of history 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.

I especially enjoyed learning about the backgrounds of the crew, many of whom were dirt poor because of the Great Depression. This fine book combines the craftsmanship of boat-building, superb coaching, laws of physics,…

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