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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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4.29  ·  Rating Details  ·  82,476 Ratings  ·  10,742 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)
Caitlin I would say if you have ever seen rowing (even practice) that it is an engaging book. You do not have to be a sports enthusiast in the least to enjoy…moreI would say if you have ever seen rowing (even practice) that it is an engaging book. You do not have to be a sports enthusiast in the least to enjoy it, as it covers biography, Dust Bowl, the Depression, and the beginnings of Nazi Germany, so it creates a historical setting as well as an athletic one.(less)

Community Reviews

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Donna
Mar 18, 2014 Donna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography
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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Trish
Jul 20, 2013 Trish rated it it was amazing
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
Diane S ⛄
Dec 01, 2014 Diane S ⛄ rated it it was amazing
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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Jen
Jan 14, 2016 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-stars-or-more, own
Why did I wait so long to read this? Well, a couple of reasons: 1) It’s about rowing…No offense, it’s just not a sport I’m wowed by. 2) It’s about a group of Americans going to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Hey, I’m Canadian, eh... American patriotism and propaganda isn’t my gig.
So finally I picked it up; put it down. Then thought to hell with it, I’m doing this. I cracked the spine, sat down and for the last few days, every spare moment has been living and breathing this story.

It starts with th
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Dem
Aug 07, 2015 Dem rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dem by: Diane
Shelves: favorites


The Boys In The Boat in an extremely beuatifually written account of the Universary of Washingtons's Rowing team that won a gold Metal in 1936 Berlin Olympics'

I had no real desire to read a book about sport let alone read a book about rowing but something about a frinds's review here on goodreads pushed me to read this book and I am so glad I did as I loved every moment of it.

I read this on Kindle (oh how I wish I owned a Hard Copy of this book) and I listened to it on audio and what wonderful
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Emily
Aug 08, 2014 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2014, history
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
Mar 26, 2015 Elyse rated it it was amazing
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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Carmen
Sep 10, 2015 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Non-Fiction Fans, History Buffs
Recommended to Carmen by: Library
Everyone should have heard of this book by now. It's about the crew team that won the gold medal in the Berlin Olympics.

This is really perfect from a non-fiction standpoint. We have poverty and hard work - Joe, our focus, is very poor and works insanely hard just to afford food.

We have Hitler's Germany - always a winner if you want to sell books.

We have Americans triumphing on an international stage, "sticking it to Hitler," as it were. Surefire winner there.

We have "men, patriots! united in har
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Cher
May 22, 2014 Cher rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookclub
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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Tom
Sep 23, 2013 Tom rated it did not like it
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
Michael
Nov 02, 2014 Michael rated it really liked it
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
Esil
Nov 02, 2015 Esil rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to The Boys in the Boat on audio, which was a good way to absorb this book. It's the story of the US rowing victory in the 1936 Olympics. There's way more to this book than "they worked hard, and then they won". Daniel James Brown cleverly pulls together a lot of great information, which I listened to in 40 minute increments on my walk to work every morning. He focuses particularly on one of the oarsmen, Joe Rantz, giving a very detailed portrait of his family, background and characte ...more
☯Cathrine
May 23, 2015 ☯Cathrine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
To be able to tell a story about an event where the outcome is known ahead of time, about a subject the reader has no interest in, the pages seemingly turning themselves and keeping one riveted all the way is some feat. A team of nine boys, sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, whose coach would come to think of as the greatest racing crew in history, take us on a vision quest through the depression years. Hard work, sheer guts, extreme determination, and supreme respect for one anothe ...more
Cathy
Sep 16, 2013 Cathy rated it it was amazing
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
Chrissie
Aug 09, 2015 Chrissie rated it really liked it
I am not competitive and team sports do not enthuse me, yet still I got excited and was rooting for the American team. Crazy but true. Every darn reviewer says the same thing! I have to explain what I think happened to me.

It took me a while to feel the excitement. Half-way through the book I had an epiphany. The reason why I am not into competitive team sports is not that I couldn’t care less who wins, but that I am one who doesn't and never has enjoyed working together in a group. I am a loner
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Pam
Jul 18, 2013 Pam rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 01, 2013 Linda rated it it was amazing
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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Carol
Apr 01, 2015 Carol rated it really liked it
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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Michael
Jun 02, 2015 Michael rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audio-book, 2015
Surely one of the best books I've read, and undoubtedly one of the finest audiobooks ever produced. Without any bells, whistles, or voices, Edward Hermann magnificently narrates the story of 9 ordinary kids and their extraordinary path to Olympic gold.

It's one of those rare works of non-fiction: one that told me the whole story, and yet left me wanting to find out so much more.
Diane Barnes
Sep 12, 2015 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-2015
It's been on the paperback bestseller lists for months, one of the high schools in my area has assigned it for sophomore reading, I've been told by countless people that I should read it, and still, it took a bookclub assignment to get me into this book. This is why I love bookclubs; the members open up reading doors that I never would have walked through myself.

Here we have not only the story of the nine men from the University of Washington who won the 1936 Olympic Gold Medal for rowing at the
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☮Karen
Jul 25, 2015 ☮Karen rated it really liked it
Such an inspiring story of how the boys from the University of Washington rowing team worked their way to the 1936 Olympics. Spanning about three years, it skillfully illustrates determination, drive, teamwork, and so much more.

The back story of Joe Rantz, one of the rowers who will earn a spot on the Olympic rowing team, captured my heart. Despite his father and step-mother abandoning him as a teenager, Joe refused to let anger or bitterness take over his thoughts. He had to learn to survive i
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Mike
Jun 14, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 10, 2015 Nancy Oakes rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, history

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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Brina
Jan 14, 2016 Brina rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Average writing captivating story. I read this book because my father kept telling me that I would enjoy it. Truthfully, l finally picked up because it is about sports and history my two favorite things.
Boys in the Boat is the motivational story of Joe Rantz, his wife Joyce, and the other members of the 1936 Washington University rowing team that won gold at the Berlin Olympics. This story is partially the story of Joe's perseverance during the depression and also his rowing team's quest to mak
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Book Concierge
Book on CD narrated by Edward Herrmann

At the 1936 Olympics nine working-class boys from the University of Washington in Seattle took the gold medal in eight-man crew at the Berlin Olympics. This is their story, but particularly the story of the man in the #7 seat – Joe Rantz.

In the tradition of Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and Unbroken this is a story of strength, courage, tenacity and triumph in the face of great obstacles. In a sport that traditionally attracted the scions of wealthy famil
...more
Annalisa
Feb 02, 2016 Annalisa rated it it was amazing
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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Kathleen
See the quiz for this book here: https://www.goodreads.com/quizzes/res...

A good story beautifully narrated by Edward Herrmann, even if some Native American place names are mispronounced. Sadly, this talented narrator passed away recently.

Told in 3rd person, the author focuses primarily on Joe Rantz, from his birth in 1914 and through a challenging childhood and adolescence. Then the book flashes back and forth between America and Germany, mainly from 1933-1936, when Joe attended the University o
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Christi
Jan 23, 2014 Christi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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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Stephanie
Aug 02, 2013 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa
Aug 23, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
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
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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” 32 likes
“It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.” 27 likes
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