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

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4.27 of 5 stars 4.27  ·  rating details  ·  43,898 ratings  ·  6,145 reviews
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
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Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Viking (first published June 1st 2013)
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Becky In addition to what everyone else has said- Brown does a superb job of weaving other facts into the narrative that would create excellent sidebar…moreIn addition to what everyone else has said- Brown does a superb job of weaving other facts into the narrative that would create excellent sidebar conversations. Such as when he mentions that Seabiscuit's owner was inspired to change the horse's diet after hearing how the Seattle boys were eating. (less)

Community Reviews

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Trish
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 ...more
Donna
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
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Diane S.
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
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Cher
4 stars - It was great. I loved it.

The fact that I had no interest in, and in fact dreaded reading this book club selection yet ending up loving it, is testament to how compelling this inspirational story was.

I have no interest in rowing. Actually, I have no interest in sports. Thankfully, this is not just a book about rowing and Olympic races. The author seamlessly weaves in details about Germany and Hitler's rise to power, the dust bowl, America in post-depression years and on the cusp of WWI
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Emily
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,
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Elyse
Wow!!!

The books power is in the storytelling. Starts right out on page 1

These were remarkable men -their sacrifice - committed dedication - had to scape for everything -their boat wasn't just handed to them... not all had cozy supportive families.
Joe Rantz's humanity - especially - makes you want to be a better human being yourself.
All these men were humble - with committed dedication -- they were a team. Proud to be American!

With the American depression -the dust bowl -the rise to Hitler -
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Michael
Quite an uplifting story of the young men from the University of Washington who took the gold medal for nine-men shell rowing at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Like Hillenbrand’s wonderful book “Seabiscuit” this is a tale of underdogs overcoming personal adversities and capturing the attention of a nation laid low by the Great Depression. Starting in 1933, we get the story of a young man, Joe Rantz, arriving at the college and merging the dreams from his hardscrabble life with that of other sons o ...more
Cathy
This book is so good you won't want to pick up another book for a while after finishing it, knowing that nothing else could be this good. High marks for story, characters, writing, and research. Nine University of Washington students, the sons of loggers, farmers, and miners, overcome many disadvantages of their impoverished circumstances and learn to row their eight-oared racing shell to perfection. The transcendent experience of coming together as a team doesn't happen without a struggle, and ...more
Pam
Finally a 5 for a non-fiction read! Not since Moneyball : The Art of Winning an Unfair Game and Seabiscuit: An American Legend have we had a sports book this good! This story about the University of Washington crew team that won gold at the 1936 Olympics is fantastic and oh so much more than a book about crew, sports, or merely nine guys. It cover the depression, collegiate crew, Leni Riefenstahl's role in the rise of Nazi power, emergent of the Western states, and the magic that can happen when ...more
Linda
My high school boyfriend went to college at MIT and joined crew. He sent me his workout jersey and I slept in it until we broke up. We both looked at "crew" the same way: upper class, rich boys' sport. Something slightly risqué for an unathletic Midwestern engineering student to do. Now I live in Seattle, near what I have discovered is the hub of the West Coast rowing Mecca - University of Washington.

I always keep my eye out for interesting books to read. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest
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Tom
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 ...more
Mike
5 Olympic Stars for this superb tale from the days of the Great Depression just before WWII. Nine young men from the Pacific Northwest fight their way to an Olympic Gold Medal but when you read the book, you will be on the edge of your seat for every race as the nail-biting tension builds.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is mainly told through the experiences of Joe Rantz, a young man who endures hardships that will amaze you. Many of
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Nancy Oakes

Considering that I'm not at all a sports person, it seems odd to me that I would even be reading a book about the University of Washington crew team. I didn't know what to expect, but after reading the first chapter I was totally hooked. It only got better from there. The brief review is this: I loved this very well-written, carefully-researched and compelling book, and the bottom line is that it's one I can recommend very highly -- a book that absolutely should not be missed. You don't have to
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Carol
Really enjoyed reading about The Boys In The Boat and their quest to win US GOLD at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. While a bit heavy on the practice runs (for me) the excitement of the actual races kept me engrossed as well as the heartbreaking personal background of Joe Rantz, and his struggles to overcome adversity.

Although not particularly a fan of boat racing, I found this work of non-fiction and the many tidbits of historical data laced throughout the story informative and memorable...........a

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Stephanie
Best book I have read this year! Hands down. Now, I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I have recently taken up rowing as a sport and right now this is a passion of mine. However, that is simply one reason I loved this book. The bigger and more pressing reason is that the author made me love and root for these nine boys. I laughed and I cried and I fell in love...with these young men, with Mr. George Pocock, Mr. Ulbrickson....and most importantly...with the sport. The pace was fant ...more
Kathleen
See the quiz for this book here: https://www.goodreads.com/quizzes/res...

Thanks to Jane for the recommendation. A good story beautifully narrated by Edward Herrmann, even if some place names are not pronounced correctly. That might bother a Washington native, but it got past me. Sadly, this talented narrator passed away December 31, 2014 at the age of 71.

I knew nothing of rowing, but I understood this book, and I even came to understand the strategy employed by Coach Ulbrickson and the team coxs
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Bob
Here is my guess. Once you begin this book you will not want to put it down as it is just that good! When word gets out it surely will be on the best seller list and a pick of reading groups everywhere.
In 1936 a group of nine boys from the University of Washington, Seattle made up the eight-oar crew team that won the 1936 Olympics showing up Hitler and his Nazi propaganda. This is the inspiring story of who they were and how they did it and the sport of crew. The main focus of the book is on o
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Lisa
Aug 23, 2013 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lisa by: Trish
Shelves: audio, book-club
Amazing! This is the best book I've read/listened to this year. It's only my second five star book and I'm so glad I listened to it. Well researched and extremely well written, author, Daniel James Brown, took me a ride into the world of rowing that I didn't know anything about but I'm fascinated and wildly impressed with these athletes. I love books nonfiction books about athletic endeavors and athletes, and "Boys in the Boat" is at the top of the list. I actually cried while listening to a few ...more
Doug Bradshaw
An amazingly detailed, up close and enthusiastic telling of the story of the team from the state of Washington that won the Olympic Gold medal in Nazi Berlin in 1936 for 8 oared rowing, against all odds. It's also the story of one of the rowers, Joe, and how he survived in bare minimum conditions when his step mother and real father just up and left him behind to survive on a little farm and how, all on his own at the tender age of 15, he rose to the top.

It's definitely an important part of the
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Jennie
If you don't read non-fiction (which I don't), READ THIS BOOK. If you don't listen to audio books, LISTEN TO THIS BOOK.
Even though you know the outcome it was like watching the race live. Your heart was racing while those boys are rowing down the lake towards that finish line.
Daniel James Brown did an amazing job at blending the stories of these boys and coaches (especially Joe Rantz)with the back ground of what Hitler and Goebbels were doing in Germany.
Annalisa
Can you fall for a book the same way you do people? I guess it's not exactly the book I fell for as much as the boys but I sure enjoyed reading about them. The greatest generation indeed. Humbled by The Great Depression and tested by war, this was a generation of fighters with heart.

But the book isn't about the war. Unlike Louis Zamperini's story in Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption which breezed through the Olympics and focused on the war and its aftermath,
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Chihoe Ho
Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a huge non-fiction fan. If given the choice, I would almost always go for a fiction read. I passed up on the first opportunity to read "The Boys in the Boat," but after the fantastic word of mouth this book had gotten between the first and second time it was presented to me, I felt I had to push through my lack of enthusiasm and give this a try. And, boy, am I glad I did. "The Boys in the Boat," about 9 American boys who defied all odds in their quest for Olympi ...more
Mary
This is the best book I've read this year (2014). The story itself is inspiring, amazing and incredible. The grit, strength and determination of the boys who rowed to victory in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin was beyond belief. The back story, which focused on one of the boys, Joe Rantz, was even more inspiring. He was so poor and neglected that he barely had enough food to eat, but yet he gave his all to become a part of Washington's rowing team and do his best for his teammates. The author's desc ...more
Christi
If Olympic medals were given for storytelling skills, Daniel James Brown would certainly get the gold medal, that’s for sure! A beautifully written non-fiction book that reads like a fiction..

Daniel James Brown tells the story of nine boys, all from underprivileged backgrounds, all working class boys from Washington State, working as lumberjacks, farmers and quarrymen to earn enough money to put themselves through school. True sons of the Great Depression. The focal character is Joe Rantz, whose
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Andrew
Being quite honest about this book, I expected a superficial history forced into the sort of narrative needed to sell books in a fairly historically illiterate marketplace. I was completely wrong.

The book did start slowly, but only to give you the necessary understanding of the central actor, Joe Rantz. His story and that of his Olympic medal winning crewmates (no spoiler here - the author reveals it early on) naturally comes to the fore through Brown's flowing prose. The muscle and mental tensi
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Elly Sands
I won this on Goodread's Giveaway and am ever so thankful I did. Before reading this I knew absolutely nothing about rowing but now feel very well informed. Who would have thought a book about this extremely competitive, muscle aching, disciplined sport would be interesting? Believe me it is! It's incredibly well written, well researched and reads like an fascinating novel and it's all true! At times it felt as though I was in the boat with the boys especially in Germany. Yes, I was teary at the ...more
Camie
The true story of the 9 man University of Washington rowing crew who against all odds compete for Olympic gold during the depths of the depression era in Adolf Hitler's Berlin Olympics. Daniel James Brown wrote this book assisted by personal journals, documents, family members , and the personal account of a dying Joe Rantz . Rantz is at the heart of this inspiring story , which is that of impoverished but determined farm boys and shipyard workers competing against professional athletes. If you ...more
Brennan
Perhaps it is serendipity that my 100th review on Goodreads turned out to be for one of my new favorite books. Put simply, Daniel James Brown’s book is the best work of non-fiction I have ever read. It goes beyond a simple re-telling of a historical event and manages to capture the highest ideals of the human spirit. Contrasted with the historical bleakness of the great depression and Germany’s ascension to power in the 1930s, Brown’s telling of the story of the 9 men who rowed to Olympic gold i ...more
Becky
Standing there, watching them, it occurred to me that when Hitler watched Joe and the boys fight their way back from the rear of the field to sweep ahead of Italy and Germany seventy-five years ago, he saw, but did not recognize, heralds of his doom. He could not have known that one day hundreds of thousands of boys just like them, boys who shared their essential natures- decent and unassuming, not privileged or favored by anything in particular, just loyal, committed, and perseverant- would re
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Lisa B.
My Thoughts

We meet Joe Rantz and the other boys in the boat at the beginning of their freshman year at the University of Washington, 1933. We follow them through each year of rowing, leading up to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi dominated Germany. Along the way, we learn so many things. The author provides significant detail regarding the art of rowing and the construction of the racing boats. He touches on important aspects of the time period - the great Dust Bowl, the Depression, the building o
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Daniel James Brown fell in love with the written word when he was five and his mother first read Danny and the Dinosaur to him. Since then he has earned a BA in English from the University of California at Berkeley and an MA in English from UCLA. He has taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford University and now lives in the country east of Redmond, Washington, where he writes nonf ...more
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“It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can't waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead. When they left, it took everything I had in me just to survive. Now I have to stay focused. I've just gotta take care of it myself' Joe Rantz” 22 likes
“It was when he tried to talk about 'the boat' that his words began to falter and tears welled up in his eyes...Finally, watching Joe struggle for composure over and over, I realized that 'the boat' was something more than just the shell or its crew. To Joe, it encompassed but transcended both - it was something mysterious and almost beyond definition. It was a shared experience - a singular thing that had unfolded in a golden sliver of time long gone, when nine good-hearted young men strove together, pulled together as one, gave everything they had for one another, bound together forever by pride and respect and love. Joe was crying, at least in part, for the loss of that vanished moment but much more, I think, for the sheer beauty of it.” 12 likes
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