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Review: The Boys in the Boat

July 25, 2013

The Boys in the Boat

As congestive heart failure was claiming the life of Joe Rantz, he asked to meet Daniel James Brown.  Rantz’s daughter was reading one of Brown’s books to him and Rantz knew one of the people in the book so he thought it would be nice to meet the author.  When they met, they spoke of the book and then began chatting about Rantz’s life and when Brown realized what a remarkable story it is, he asked if he could tell his story.  Rantz said that he’d like that, “But not just about me.  It has to be about the boat.”

After a tough childhood in Sequim, Washington, Joe Rantz found himself trying to survive on his own.  In an attempt to better himself, he enrolled in the University of Washington.  He tried out for crew only because he would be guaranteed a part time job if he made it and he needed the money.  He made the team and rowed with the sons of blue collar workers, most of whom had never rowed before in their lives.  Remarkably, they found themselves rowing for the United States at the 1936 Olympic games in Berlin.

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, is the story of that remarkable Olympic team.  Joe Rantz is at the center of the story, but the stories of his teammates, future wife, coach, and even the shipbuilder who built their shell are included as well.  Brown expertly weaves the history of the time with their stories and it makes for one wonderfully compelling book.  With the depression ending and war looming, the country was desperate for some good news and these boys were it.  Rowing was one of the most popular sports at the Olympics at the time so the country – really the world – followed these young men very closely.  They served as a reminder of what could be accomplished with integrity, team spirit, and hard work.

I listened to the audio version The Boys in the Boat which is on 12 CDs and lasts approximately fourteen and a half hours.  It took me a little while to warm up to Edward Herrmann’s narration but once I did I was totally hooked.  I loved this book not only for the story of these remarkable young men but for a glimpse into the time period.  I listened to the book in the car and sobbed at the end – I had to pull into a parking lot to compose myself.  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.

Review copy provided by Penguin Books.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
29 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2013 7:23 am

    There are so many inspirational stories that came out of this particular Olympics and the generation! This sounds like one that both my husband and I would enjoy. I’ll be prepared for the emotional ending.

  2. July 25, 2013 7:34 am

    Sounds very inspirational!

  3. July 25, 2013 7:53 am

    I need to bump this one up in my queue — I know I’ll love it.

  4. July 25, 2013 8:18 am

    I have not read a non-fiction in awhile. This sounds like a good one. Thanks for your review.

  5. July 25, 2013 9:13 am

    This sounds like a wonderful book – one my husband and brothers would love. I haven’t heard of it before, so I’m glad to be introduced. Thanks for the recommendation! (VIsiting from Tina’s Booknificent Thursday link up :))

  6. July 25, 2013 9:22 am

    Booking Mama already highly recommended it. Your endorsement adds gravitas to this choice.

  7. July 25, 2013 9:46 am

    What an interesting story,thanks for your review.

  8. July 25, 2013 10:14 am

    I’m sure I’ll enjoy this one. I have an audio copy that I’ll be listening to soon.

  9. July 25, 2013 10:46 am

    Wow, this sounds like such an emotional book. I think it’s one that I’d like to listen to as well.

  10. Beth Hoffman permalink
    July 25, 2013 11:04 am

    Wonderful review, Kathy! I know what it’s like to have to pull off the road when an audio brings me to tears.

  11. bookingmama permalink
    July 25, 2013 11:47 am

    I love this review! My dad couldn’t stop telling me about this book too! The story must be something special!

  12. Jennifer @ The Relentless Reader permalink
    July 25, 2013 11:49 am

    This book! SO good! It will definitely be on my list of favorites for 2013. Incredible 🙂

  13. July 25, 2013 2:06 pm

    Oh, my–between your review and Bellezza’s, I’m going to have to read this one very soon!

  14. July 25, 2013 2:17 pm

    Wow, this sounds incredible! And I think I have it! Will have to investigate my shelves and bump it up!

  15. July 25, 2013 3:04 pm

    This sounds intriguing…the Berlin Games were so controversial.

  16. July 25, 2013 5:57 pm

    Having enjoyed Unbroken, and well frankly anything around WWII, I think I would really like this one.

  17. July 25, 2013 7:12 pm

    This sounds like a book that would stay with you long after you finished reading it.

  18. sandynawrot permalink
    July 25, 2013 7:51 pm

    I’m glad you told me about this one. I loaded it right before I left for IN and I’m hoping to listen to it soon(ish).

  19. Patty permalink
    July 25, 2013 9:32 pm

    Sounds intense and amazing…14 hours is incredible!

  20. Staci@LifeintheThumb permalink
    July 28, 2013 5:05 pm

    I think this sounds like a great read!!

  21. swright9 permalink
    July 28, 2013 5:06 pm

    A story out of the Olympics — would love it. Sounds great

  22. July 29, 2013 4:24 pm

    I’ll definitely keep it in mind. It sounds fantastic!

  23. July 30, 2013 12:02 am

    Wow. This story sounds incredible.

  24. July 31, 2013 10:23 pm

    I love a good sports story, and when you combine it with history, that would have to be a winner! This sounds like a fantastic read (or listen!)
    Thanks for sharing with Booknificent Thursday last week. Hope to see you again this week!

  25. August 2, 2013 10:08 am

    Hermann’s delivery on audio (for any of his audiobooks) is always a bit cold and sterile. You get used to it, but he does so many of them you’d think his approach would be a bit, I don’t know… warmer now?

  26. August 5, 2013 9:39 pm

    I’m hearing so many good things about this book. I wonder if I should skip the audio and just read the print edition. I do so love that area and know my husband would probably enjoy the book, too.

  27. August 15, 2013 9:23 pm

    I ignored this book when I first saw it, but now I have the audio on hold at the library and really looking forward it. I’m so happy to see that you recommend it.

  28. December 6, 2013 8:57 pm

    This is the best nonfiction book I’ve read all year – and I’m not at all interested in rowing (although I do love sports and sports books). I think the mark of a truly great writer is enthralling the reader in a topic he/she previously had no interest in – and Brown mastered this! Reminded me of Unbroken and Seabiscuit.

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