The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

84%

53 Critic Reviews

The Boys in the Boat is...an often inspiring feat of narrative non-fiction, though it could never be as thrilling as the victory of those nine boys from Washington state on a windy day in Berlin once upon a very dark time.
-Guardian

Synopsis

The #1 New York Times–bestselling story about American Olympic triumph in Nazi Germany, the inspiration for the PBS documentary The Boys of '36, broadcast to coincide with the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 80th anniversary of the boys' gold medal race.

For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew team was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coast and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by defeating the German team rowing for Adolf Hitler. The emotional heart of the tale lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but also to find a real place for himself in the world. Drawing on the boys’ own journals and vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Brown has created an unforgettable portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest.

 

About Daniel James Brown

See more books from this Author
Daniel James Brown is the author of two previous nonfiction books, Under a Flaming Sky and The Indifferent Stars Above. He has taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford. He lives near Seattle.
 
Published June 4, 2013 by Penguin Books. 417 pages
Genres: History, Sports & Outdoors, Biographies & Memoirs, Travel, War. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 04 2015
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Weeks as Bestseller
Bookmark Counts:
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Critic reviews for The Boys in the Boat
All: 53 | Positive: 52 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Good
on Mar 17 2013

...the Berlin Olympics were carefully orchestrated by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels and filmed by Leni Riefenstahl to show the world the terrifying images of Aryan “purity” and Nazi supremacy. Yet for these American boys, it was an amazing dream. A touching, fairly uncomplicated portrayal of rowing legends.

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Publishers Weekly

Excellent
on Jun 19 2016

Brown lays on the aura of embattled national aspiration good and thick, but he makes his heroes’ struggle as fascinating as the best Olympic sagas.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Jay Parini on Jul 12 2013

The Boys in the Boat is...an often inspiring feat of narrative non-fiction, though it could never be as thrilling as the victory of those nine boys from Washington state on a windy day in Berlin once upon a very dark time.

Read Full Review of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Am... | See more reviews from Guardian

Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Jay Parini on Jul 12 2013

...an often inspiring feat of narrative non-fiction, though it could never be as thrilling as the victory of those nine boys from Washington state on a windy day in Berlin once upon a very dark time.

Read Full Review of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Am... | See more reviews from Guardian

Publishers Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Tom Allen on May 24 2013

As in Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit...even though we know the outcome, the results are thrilling. These Boys make a great story, engagingly told.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
on Apr 15 2013

Brown lays on the aura of embattled national aspiration good and thick, but he makes his heroes’ struggle as fascinating as the best Olympic sagas.

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Kirkus

Above average
on Mar 17 2013

A touching, fairly uncomplicated portrayal of rowing legends.

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Examiner

Good
Reviewed by Karina Wetherbee on Sep 13 2015

“The Boys In The Boat” is riveting and cinematic, a worthy tribute to nine individuals who fought through the hardships of a generation and stood proud and tall in front of a dictator and a country determined to annihilate the human spirit of individuality and personal identity beneath the weight of its dogmatic and bigoted beliefs.

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Examiner

Excellent
Reviewed by Amy Goodfellow Wagner on Apr 15 2015

Fans of Laura Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” – and fans of the underdog -- are sure to enjoy “The Boys in the Boat.” It’s a story that glides to its uplifting conclusion with all the power, grace and beauty of an eight-oared racing shell.

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Kurtis Scaletta on Jun 14 2013

...Brown has picked his subject and central characters well, telling their story with knowledge and passion. “The Boys in the Boat” makes for absorbing and sometimes thrilling reading, even by people who have no previous interest in rowing.

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Book Reporter

Good
Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on Jun 21 2013

Daniel James Brown has written an engaging, informative and inspirational book. For most readers, the sport of rowing is a mystery; great accomplishments against difficult odds are not. THE BOYS IN THE BOAT is a story for everyone.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Fenna Corry on Nov 05 2013

It's already scheduled to be made into a movie, but don't deprive yourself of the depth of information gained from Brown's years of research in this outstanding and very inspirational book.

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Margaret Stone on Aug 30 2013

It is a story of unbelievable hard work, dedication, humility, and the ultimate in team spirit. I'll read it again!

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Christian Science Monitor

Good
Reviewed by Katherine A. Powers on Jun 21 2013

As it happens, this book could not be more timely, for, as I write this, the 2013 University of Washington varsity eights have just vanquished Harvard to win the Challenge Cup Trophy (for the third year in a row) in the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Championships.

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The Seattle Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Kevin J. Hamilton on Jun 03 2013

A story this breathtaking demands an equally compelling author, and Brown does not disappoint. The narrative rises inexorably, with the final 50 pages blurring by with white-knuckled suspense as these all-American underdogs pull off the unimaginable.

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The Seattle Times

Good
Reviewed by Kevin J. Hamilton on Jun 02 2013

A story this breathtaking demands an equally compelling author, and Brown does not disappoint. The narrative rises inexorably, with the final 50 pages blurring by with white-knuckled suspense as these all-American underdogs pull off the unimaginable.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Matt Damsker on Jun 08 2013

The Boys in the Boat is Daniel James Brown's cogent history of that shining moment, and a surprisingly suspenseful tale of triumph. But it's not about individual glory...

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USA Today

Above average
Reviewed by Matt Damsker on Jun 08 2013

Brown certainly romanticizes this era of supremely rugged individualism -- as boats drift through the gloaming of Lake Washington and eight unsophisticated Americans stick it to Hitler's Aryan champions -- and he sometimes loses the war against cliché...Yet he limns memorable characters in Joe's mentors...

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City Book Review

Good
Reviewed by Adam Henig on Oct 07 2013

The author skillfully depicts the meticulous process of mastering the “synchronicity” of rowing, no easy feat for these young, inexperienced lumberjacks, who, in 1936, made Olympic history at the Berlin games.

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We Love This Book

Good
Reviewed by Sally Hughes on Jun 06 2013

Historians, sports buffs and more general readers will all find something in this beautifully written and inspiring chronicle.

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Patheos

Good
Reviewed by JONATHAN KEIM on Feb 05 2014

There is much to love about the book. Readers who are new to the sport of rowing will have little trouble understanding the terminology.

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Bookin With Sunny.

Good
Reviewed by Ann Ronald on Dec 14 2013

It is also the story of how individual commitment can lead to teamwork and, ultimately, win after win after win. There’s a word for that in the rowing world: “swing,” when it feels as if the boat is part of each rower...Poetry, that’s what a good swing feels like.” The ‘boys in the boat’ learn to swing repeatedly, as does The Boys in the Boat.

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South China Morning Post

Above average
Reviewed by Jay Parini on Aug 18 2013

The Boys in the Boat is, then, an often inspiring feat of narrative non-fiction, even though it could never be as thrilling as the victory of those nine boys from Washington state on a windy day in Berlin once upon a very dark time.

Read Full Review of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Am...

'Bout Books

Excellent
Reviewed by Kimberly Hays on Jul 05 2013

The cost of the book is a bit higher than most, but it is worth the price. If you are not one to spend nearly $20 on a paperback, then borrow it from the library. Being one of the best books I have read in a long time, I would give this book an extra bookmark if I could.

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Lancashire Evening Post

Good
Reviewed by Pam Norfolk on Mar 03 2014

Using meticulous research and an array of photographs, Brown helps us to feel the pain of hours of tough training, the inevitable self-doubt, the fight to find the right rowing combination and the joy of making the boat fly across the water.

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Shelf Life ~ Book reviews from the VC/UHV Library

Good
Reviewed by Amanda B. on Oct 11 2013

The next time the summer Olympics rolls around, I’ll probably pay more attention to the rowing events. The Boys in the Boat is a fantastic, easy read that will hopefully inspire you to take on a new challenge.

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TCPalm / AP

Good
on Jun 09 2013

Readers need neither background nor interest in competitive rowing to be captivated by this remarkable and beautifully crafted history.

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Booking Mama

Good
Reviewed by Julie P. on Jun 26 2013

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT is much more than a sports story. It’s a human interest story, a suspense story and a pretty good work of history.

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https://bookpage.com

Good
Reviewed by Anne Bartlett on Jun 01 2013

...an inspirational yarn that joins books like Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time as a reminder of how bad it can get and how tough ordinary Americans can be.

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Reading for Sanity

Excellent
Reviewed by Heather on May 13 2015

Narrative nonfiction at it's finest. Read it, You won't regret a minute of the time you spend within these pages.

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Sophisticated Dorkiness

Below average
Reviewed by Kim on Jun 03 2013

I know intellectually that the book leaned a little heavy on sappiness at times and that some of Brown’s conclusions about what make this particular group of young men so remarkable might be a bit of an overreach...

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Bermuda Onion's Weblog

Excellent
on Jul 25 2013

The story of these men made me realize why Tom Brokaw called those who grew up when they did “The Greatest Generation.” Their story is truly inspiring and it’s one I recommend to everyone.

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Guys Lit Wire

Good
Reviewed by Kelly Fineman on Sep 08 2015

This book manages to near perfection as well. I'm indebted to my extended family for sending it my way. I should note that this book is in development to be a movie directed by Peter Berg.

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Rated Reads

Good
Reviewed by Melissa Fox on Oct 29 2014

While I think it would have been interesting just reading in print, listening to the story made it riveting...It was a remarkable event, a remarkable story. And I’m so glad I know about it, now.

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BookNAround

Good
Reviewed by Kristen on May 01 2015

A fascinating story of amazing perseverance and glory spun from the humblest of origins, this will certainly appeal to athletes and WWII buffs. But even those who have no interest in crew as a sport should not miss this gripping and stunning tale.

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You've GOTTA Read This

Good
Reviewed by Sandy on Oct 22 2013

...what a heartwarming story. It just doesn't hit any closer to home than this, and makes you stand up a little straighter knowing what can be accomplished if the will is strong.

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Helen's Book Blog

Excellent
Reviewed by Helen on Oct 28 2014

It is well written--the detailed research that went into this book is obvious. He has quotes from radio shows, newspapers, personal diaries, and more, all of which do the most important thing, which is make it a story well told!

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Reading World

Above average
Reviewed by Susan on Apr 07 2014

The book is being compared to Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and I can see why, although certainly what Zamperini went through was orders of magnitude greater. Still, there is always something stirring about a come-from-behind sports story, especially when there is a villain to beat.

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The Booksellers New Zealand blog

Above average
Reviewed by Christine Frayling on Dec 06 2013

I commend Daniel James Brown for bringing this story to print and to life. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even if at times, I felt a bit overwhelmed by facts and details.

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Book Rap

Good
on Jun 11 2016

I am sure it will be an exciting film but this book alone captures a vivid picture of the Boys In The Boat that you will not forget.

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A Bookish Affair

Good
Reviewed by Meg on Sep 05 2013

Oh, this book is so rich. History buffs like myself will absolutely love all of the detail in this book.

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The Bowed Bookshelf

Good
on Jul 19 2013

I believe I can guarantee this title—either you or someone close to you will find this a riveting summer read.

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Bookpleasures.com

Excellent
Reviewed by John Cowans on Jun 20 2013

...this is a book to delight the lover of sports writing as well as the historian. One cannot ask for more than masterful writing and flawless research all wrapped up in a unique historical human story...

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Shelah Books It

Good
Reviewed by Shelah on Jun 23 2015

I realize that I am probably the last person in America to read The Boys in the Boat, but if I'm wrong, it's worth a read for sure. I listened to it while I was running the Ogden Marathon, and it was definitely engrossing enough to keep me reading, even when the running was not fun.

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Words Written Down

Above average
Reviewed by Dave on Apr 25 2015

...Brown has fascinating material in the book about Germany leading into the Berlin Olympics...This time and place in the world is really interesting to me...

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Dolce Bellezza

Excellent
Reviewed by Bellezza on Jul 24 2013

It is the best book I have read all summer, a book I recommend with all my heart. It is inspiration, it is character, and it is victory over every kind of enemy that rears its ugly head in our faces.

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Info Barrel

Good
Reviewed by kellapat on Jan 04 2015

I have never been more taken with a book than I was with “The Boys in the Boat.” It was an experience which took me wholly into the setting without realizing that it was happening.

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Of Books and Boys

Good
Reviewed by Wendy on Jun 24 2015

It was a glorious story, with a victorious ending and so much life-application. Even if you have no interest in athletics or rowing, you will glean something powerful from the experience of reading this book. History comes to life in full-color at the pen of Daniel James Brown.

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Junkyard Wisdom

Excellent
Reviewed by Roy Goble on Jun 17 2014

Beautifully written, fun to read, and filled with charming anecdotal stories. A must read on my list. In fact, The Boys in the Boat is already at or near the top of my 2014 reading recommendations. Yes, it’s that good.

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Patricia's Wisdom

Good
on Jun 11 2016

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT is a story about integrity and honest pursuit with big outcomes and finally a huge reward. The training was rigorous and the coaching tough and productive. The beautiful excerpts about building the boats graciously told.

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Patricia's Wisdom

Good
on Jan 26 2015

It was wonderful to figure out where each of the 9 spent their lives after the big race. Brown is quite the storyteller and you will feel like you have been there rooting for the team in the crowd.

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http://www.jonosbookreviews.com

Excellent
Reviewed by Jono on Oct 24 2014

The Boys in the Boat is not complicated, but it is deeply satisfying. I highly recommend that you go and put your oars in it!

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http://buffalorising.com

Good
Reviewed by Buffalorising on Aug 04 2013

Even knowing the outcome, final chapters will be read with white knuckles and exhilaration – it’s that good.

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