Boys in the Boat:

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

by Daniel James Brown

The-Boys-in-the-Boat-tn1The boys in the Boat is a marvelous piece of work, well written, well researched.  I was interested in how Daniel Brown could combine the rowing program at the University of Washington with Hitler’s Germany.  Recommended reading for anyone familiar with the University of Washington and the greater Seattle area.  The description of northwest life in the 1920s and 1930s is seen from the perspective of the young men comprising the U of W’s eight-oar rowing team, Joe Rantz, in particular.  Challenging times for many: the depression, prohibition, Seattle’s soggy disposition.  Easy to become sullen and depressed. Some thrive on adversity and challenge as if they don’t even see it.  Where others see an impassable mountain, they see steps leading to the summit.  Whatever their background, all of these boys were tenacious, competitive and focused.

To his great credit, Daniel Brown shows these young men as human individuals, not only as an heroic winning team, unified with one goal.


From Amazon:

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 of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

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