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

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

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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Title:The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
Author:Daniel James Brown
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Edition Language:English

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

  • 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

    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 the man he became is simply heart breaking and admirable. He and the other boys wormed their way under my skin and I found myself holding my breath more than once during their races.

    The book went back and forth between the US and Germany. The snow job they pulled on the world during the Olympics, convincing many others that they were a progressive and fair nation. There were small moments of humor too, as when the German people greeted our athletes with a raised arm and shouted, Heil, Hitler, our athletes raised their arms and answered back, "Heil, Roosevelt.

    The sport of course took up much of the book from the scull maker, Popcock to the coach, Al Ubrickson. The hard work that went into training, and of course the races, competitions between the East and West coast. The lives of the men in the boat and what happened to them after.

    All in all I found this a stirring read, a wonderful book.

  • 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

    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 Seattle with national races against the IV League in Poughkeepsie; we see developments in a militarizing Germany paired with college competitions in depression-era United States; individual portraits of the “boys” (now dead) are placed alongside cameos of their coaches; he shares details of the early lives of a single oarsman, Joe Rantz, with details of his wife's parallel experiences.

    The 1936 Olympics in Berlin was the stuff of legend, when Jesse Owens swept four gold medals in field and track, but a Washington crew team won that summer also, against great odds.

    that victory took place and how a group of great athletes became great competitors is something Daniel James Brown spent five years trying to articulate. Quotes from George Pocock, crafter of cedar shells, head each chapter, sharing his experience watching individual oarsmen become a team.

    At various times I have heard sports like baseball or golf, and now crew, described as “the thinking man’s game.” I like to imagine that any sport, particularly a team sport, is best performed when one is thinking. Surely strategies and tactics are involved. But when a team sport is performed fast and in key, there is something organic in its growth and peak performance that transcends “thinking.”

    For one thing, there is the sustained coordinated rhythm of many bodies performing as one, starting from zero and demanding as much as two hundred heartbeats per minute in a sprint, erasing the individual and coalescing into something much bigger than each individual effort could achieve. This particular crew overcame the usual and expected race-day catastrophes to deliver the sweetest win they or their coaches had ever experienced. It is a story at the time and on the level of the historic

    victory: speaking of the horse, the race,

    the book by

    .

    One of the things about a great book is the energy one derives from having encountered it. Great teachers generate interest in a subject and Brown did that in this book. Even if you have no knowledge of or interest in rowing before you begin, you will be fascinated by the end. In addition, Brown tells us some things about the Third Reich and Leni Reifenstahl’s photography for Hitler and of the 1936 Olympics that makes me want to revisit that film record. Reifenstahl had taken pictures (after the event) of the rowing crews from inside their boats, among other things, and when the film

    came out two years later, it cemented her reputation as a great filmmaker. Of course she is best known for creating the great propaganda film,

    . She used camera angles and techniques that had never been used before and was extraordinarily successful in supporting the political machine that was Germany in the 1930s.

    A film version of

    is scheduled,

    with Kenneth Branagh directing, which is sure to capture further interest in this remarkable story. A

    is available to download from San Francisco radio station KLLC (radioalice). In it Daniel James Brown shares a little of his narrative non-fiction technique of keeping readers dangling at critical moments and turning instead to talk of parallel events to keep the tension high. He does it better than almost anyone—writers take note!

    I believe I can guarantee this title—either you or someone close to you will find this a riveting summer read. I am pleased to be able to offer a giveaway of this title through

    , ending August 15, 2013-- just enough time to receive it and read it before summer ends. So all of you unsure whether nonfiction is your “thing,” put aside your reservations, add your name to the list, and see if this story doesn’t float your boat.

  • 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

    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 it made things easier.

    Wow, I was surprised at all the things I learned about Joe and Joyce I had not known before. I remember holding Joe's Olympic gold medal long ago when I first married his son, the first and last such medal I have ever held. I remember because it made such an impression on me. I remember the talk of the other "boys" and how they got together and I remember being invited to the planting of the tree for Joseph Rantz but did not go. I don't remember why. I have always proudly told everyone that my son's grandfather won an Olympic Gold Medal in Hitler's Germany in 1936. Who else can say that? Not many. But really, I had no idea what was involved in that accomplishment.

    But after reading this book I realize how very special those boys were, and how important it was that it all came together, the very special men who all had hard upbringings, who had to scrape and scratch for every morsel they ever got, the now legendary boat maker and the coxswain. It took a very unique mix of ingredients to make that win happen and take home that Gold Medal.

    But it had to be told in a way that we could all see it,feel it, get it. And Daniel Brown did just that. He interviewed Joe Rantz months before his death.

    I remember a man who was tall, handsome, strong and always willing to help. I remember as a young single mother after I had divorced his son, how very warm and welcoming they were to me and how Joe would not only fix my broken down cars but would show me how he did it.

    I remember when he fell from the tree when he was still out there too late in his life, climbing trees and cutting them down. I remember saying to myself, if only I could find a man like him, I would keep him. He was my ideal man but I had no idea how he came to be that man.

    So now I know.

    Sadly last December 15th 2016 At 1:15 pm Joseph Devon Rantz, great grandson of Joe Rantz, was killed in a car accident riding with his friend who was driving in the pouring rain. The car hydroplaned in the rain crossed the median and hit a utility truck and then the bridge abutment. Both boys were wearing seatbelts but the driver was thrown from the car into Dry Creek. Both boys were killed instantly.

    We have had tremendous, kind support from the community. We were devastated and just broken by the loss. He was a good kid, 18 years old in his senior year of high school, a lefty pitcher on the varsity baseball team. We loved him and miss him every day.

  • Matthew

    I love books and movies that get you interested in sports you never cared about before. Also, I love how the Olympics does the same thing. You turn on the TV and suddenly life itself depends on the outcome of some not quite mainstream sport like biathlon, cycling, diving, curling, etc. - and, while watching, you become an expert at all the finer points of the sport. The Boys in the Boat is the perfect example of this type of story. And, with the Winter Olympics coming up, the perfect way to whet

    I love books and movies that get you interested in sports you never cared about before. Also, I love how the Olympics does the same thing. You turn on the TV and suddenly life itself depends on the outcome of some not quite mainstream sport like biathlon, cycling, diving, curling, etc. - and, while watching, you become an expert at all the finer points of the sport. The Boys in the Boat is the perfect example of this type of story. And, with the Winter Olympics coming up, the perfect way to whet my appetite for the competition.

    In this case, the sport is rowing. The underdogs are the working class Western US college boys competing against the upper class Ivy Leaguers of the East. The true story of their progress to success and Olympic glory is enthralling. The writing is superb. You will find yourself falling in love with rowing even if you have never seen an oar slice through the water before.

    History buffs, sports fans, and people who love a good story about the disrespected underdog finding ultimate success in the end - this book is for you!

    Side note - this book also does a great job capturing the development of the Nazi regime as they rose to power while preparing for the 1936 Olympics. The stories of whitewashing the towns to cover up poverty and the newly established oppression of Jews and other minorities is heart-wrenching. Tales of the propaganda machine and the wool pulled over the eyes of the world is amazing. At one point, the author goes through a list of the things the athletes did "not see", and I was wondering if this was an intentional play on "Nazi".

    A 5+ star book! I am sad that it is over!

  • Brina

    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

    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 to make it to the Olympics and subsequent epilogue.

    The story is definitely inspiring not just because the US team won gold in rowing in Berlin but because of Joe's story. Abandoned by his father and stepmother and forced to live alone from his early teens, Joe worked his way to college and lived at the university gym. Joining the rowing team as way to keep in shape, Joe still had to work between semesters and during the summer even taking part in the construction of the Cooley Dam, just so he would have enough money to pay for tuition. Although during the depression, he somehow cobbled together the $25 necessary each term to stay in school. This is definitely a far cry from today's pampered NCAA athletes.

    Boys in the Boat is a story about perseverance and I enjoyed it immensely. The reason I give this highly regarded book a 4 instead of a 5 is because the writing is not the absolute best, usually referring to Joe and Joyce in third person. I recommend this often overlooked chapter in history to all who haven't read it yet.

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