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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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4.33  ·  Rating details ·  145,205 Ratings  ·  16,822 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 of
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Hardcover, 416 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Viking (first published June 1st 2013)
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Stacey Falls it depends on the nature of your book group. some book groups, i think, are just an excuse to get together and drink, snack, socialize, and very…moreit depends on the nature of your book group. some book groups, i think, are just an excuse to get together and drink, snack, socialize, and very little book discussion happens. if your book group is like that, this is a fun book, and i am sure it would be appropriate.

i am in a book group that is NOT like that; we actually discuss the book, and in that case, having a book that is complex and layered and needs dissecting and processing is essential. for a book group like that, i would say, "no" this book isn't fabulous for that.

i mean, don't get me wrong, the book is fabulous, but there really isn't much to discuss. brown spells out all the details. you read it, you get his point, you feel moved by it, and it might be fun to share your reaction, but you don't need to process through what happened. you don't need to discuss deeper meanings or conundrums. you won't gain any extra insight by talking through the subtle details, because it just isn't that subtle.

it is a great book, but read it on your own, unless you and your book group just like to get together after reading a book you all enjoy and lounge around relaxing in each others' company. (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
Sep 07, 2013 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
Jun 13, 2013 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
Brina
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I read this book because my father kept telling me that I would enjoy it. Truthfully, l finally picked up so he would stop nagging me about it even though 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
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Diane S ☔
May 26, 2013 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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Emily
Jul 27, 2014 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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Jen
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 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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Tom
Aug 27, 2013 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
Elyse
Jul 10, 2014 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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Stephanie
Aug 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
4+ stars. Inspiring story of University of Washington's rowing team's rise to win the 1936 Olympics with great historical detail!!

Prepare to be inspired!! This compelling story is largely told through the eyes of Joe Rantz (one of the rowers), who is an amazing individual! His neighbor, author Daniel James Brown interviewed him when Rantz was dying of congestive heart failure.

I had heard such great things about this book, but hesitated to pick it up because I am not a fan of rowing and wasn'
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Dem
Jul 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Dem by: Diane
Shelves: favorites, ww2, 5-star


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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Carmen
Sep 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Non-Fiction Fans, History Buffs
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 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
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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Jonetta
May 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonetta by: Cathrine
This is a bit more than the story of the 1936 Olympic crew challenge by the team from the University of Washington. Using one of the crew members as the focus, it combines his personal experience against the backdrop of the important historical events of that era (the 1929 stock market crash and resultant depression, the dust bowls, the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, etc.). It made for a richer story with the added context.

While the backgrounds and histories of the other members of the 9-m
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Cathrine ☯️
Mar 03, 2015 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
Michael
Oct 12, 2014 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
Sep 13, 2015 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
Carol
Sep 03, 2014 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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Perry
Mar 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Vivid part of "eternal landscape of the past" embodying the "mighty hopes that make us men" and women*
Story of Glory, Evocative of Greek Mythology


Jesse Owens Wins Olympic Gold in 100 meter sprint, as Hitler watches on


1936 U.S. Olympic Rowing Team

You probably already know this book is about the majestic quest of the U.S. rowing team for Olympic gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. I doubt I can add much to persuade you to read this outstanding book of gold and glory telling a story evocative of Gr
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Geza Tatrallyay
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It is a study of human struggle, teamwork, the striving for perfection. As a former Olympic athlete, I can understand what these boys went through to achieve a dream -- and that for some, the dream comes alive as they struggle, and then the struggle only becomes more intense. Also, set against the backdrop of the Berlin Olympics, the struggle is just that much more poignant. My grandfather who was the official doctor of the Hungarian team in 1936, left a wonderful book for me ...more
Cathy
Sep 16, 2013 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
Britany
Jun 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm going to start off by saying that I'm in the minority on this one, and I'm ok with that.

I felt like I was rowing through the Nile River getting through this book. I wanted it to be great, I wanted it to read like a narrative story, and most of all, I wanted to connect to the characters. I mean, who wouldn't love poor Joe Rantz- a guy that comes from nothing and literally gets left behind by his family- succeed at something?? The story at small points held my interest, and the last chapter w
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Chrissie
Jul 02, 2015 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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Michael
May 15, 2015 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.
Linda
Sep 01, 2013 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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Pam
Jun 24, 2013 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
☮Karen
Jul 31, 2013 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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Jeannie
Jun 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
I struggled with this book and set it down a couple of times, it just wasn't holding my attention. This time I read it with my book club so I really wanted to finish it and I am very glad I did. There are parts that are detailed and slow and parts where the pages don't turn fast enough. I ended up loving it, such a great story! I would recommend this book to everyone.
David
Nov 16, 2014 rated it liked it
What a hodge-podge mix of interesting and at other times dull events! The book jacket calls it "breathtaking" and I've not found that yet. It also says it's a "suspenseful tale of triumph" and I haven't found the suspense yet. The back jacket terms it "riveting" and I haven't found that yet. Turns out that about 60% through the story, the author kicks it in. The last of 4 sections picks up the pace and is a fine telling of an interesting story, and it becomes a fascinating tale of strategy, stre ...more
Clif Hostetler
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
When this book was published over two years ago I decided not to read it because I'm not interested in the sport of rowing and I've already seen enough newsreels of the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Since then some of my friends have recommended the book to me. What are friends for if not to try out some of their suggestions. Thus belatedly I have finally listened to the audio of the book, and I now agree with my friends. It's a good book.

This book takes the reader to a time and place, Washington State
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Suzy
This book is a thrilling story about what I will call a Cosmic Convergence starting in the early 1930's and culminating at the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics with the United States winning (against all odds and expectations) the 8-man crew rowing gold medal.

Brown tells us the story of how 9 working class boys possessing grit and determination born of their impoverished youth during the Great Depression became a team - at one with their boat, one organism flying through the water - at the Universit
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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
More about Daniel James Brown...
“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.” 56 likes
“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” 47 likes
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