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on May 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have never rowed. I have never read a rowing book that I can remember. If all stories about rowing were written like Daniel Brown's fabulous multi-level biography, I would read every one of them. This is a wonderful account, told with such detail and precision that I sometimes felt as if I were in this tale. Mr. Brown totally sucked me into his adventure. These young men who rowed for the USA in the 1936 Olympics faced huge obstacles. It was the Depression. Many were dirt-poor. They came from a small (then) and nondescript town of Seattle. They could not have had more difficult problems thrown their way. But by taking every sliver of hope, and mixing in superb craftsmanship (from George Pocock), excellent coaching (Al Ulbrickson), and these nine perfectly attuned young men learning together........the result was perfection. This is a true Team sport. I learned that. It is nice to learn something you never knew, but is common knowledge to an entire set of other people. If you want to read a great, true story of success, this will fit the bill in spades.....and you will understand rowing to boot.

The research is mostly based on primary resources, including interviews with some members who were still living as the book was pulled together. Family members did supply additional information to make this undertaking feel solid and well thought out.

Concepts from Daniel Brown to consider that are mixed into the story to teach all of us: 1) One of the fundamental challenges in rowing is that when any one member of a crew goes into a slump the entire crew goes with him. 2) There are certain laws of physics by which all crew coaches live and die. The speed of a racing shell is determined primarily by two factors: the power produced by the combined strokes of the oars, and the stroke rate, the number of strokes the crew takes each minute. 3) To defeat an adversary who was your equal, maybe even your superior, it wasn't necessarily enough just to give your all from start to finish. You had to master your opponent mentally. When the critical moment in a close race was upon you, you had to know something he did not- that down in your core you still had something in reserve, something you had not yet shown. 4) The things that held them together--trust in one another, mutual respect, humility, fair play, watching out for one another--those were also part of what America meant to all of them. There are other great ideas to ponder in this epic almost 400 page, could-not-put-down story.

I am not giving away anything by telling you that they DO win Gold at the 1936 Olympics. It is HOW they did it that is so darn exciting. Even knowing the end result does not diminish this bigger than life adventure. This is a must read, period.
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on September 19, 2017
This is a heart-felt historical account that tracks the American 8-man rowing crew of the 1936 Olympics. The story combines the rugged and simple backgrounds of the University of Washington students with their quest for a spot on the University’s Varsity rowing team and a path to the Olympics. The strongest parts of this book capture the humility and hard-working ethics of a generation that grew up in the Depression. The setbacks and cruel heartache, challenges beyond individual control, set a poignant stage for all of their accomplishments. The book also interlaces historical news events. The news items are a key element, but at times are also a stilted distraction, and slow the book’s momentum. Taken together in all of its parts, the book does offer clear historical context and stirring personal studies, so works out to be an insightful read.
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on January 24, 2018
"Nine young men from the state of Washington - farm boys, fishermen, and loggers - who shocked both the rowing world and Adolf Hitler by winning the gold medal in eight-oared rowing at the 1936 Olympics." One of them is Joe Rantz, the central character of this book as he recalls the surprising hardships he and his team mates had to overcome. Astonishing tales of Joe's upbringing and resilience; the unbelievable drive of every member of the rowing teams, their coach Al Ulrickson and boat builder George Pocock; the rivalry between West Coast universities; and then the astonishment of the East Coast clubs and schools confronting the Seattle crew. Training takes places during even on bitterly cold January and February days on Lake Washington. "When you get the rhythm in an eight, it's pure pleasure to be in it. It's not hard work when the rhythm comes - that :swing" as they call it" this particular crew worked together and knew each other so well, that they succeeded despite serious illness of one of them. Every advantage was given to the favorites during the Olympic event, how and why the Americans won is a testament to their team spirit. A fascinating book.
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on August 24, 2015
Everyone should sit down and read or listen to this true story. Talk about courage, perseverance, and excitement....this book has it all. I've shared the book with several friends, and they all felt the same way. Gave it to my grandson for his birthday this month, am anxious to hear what his thoughts are when he's finished it. What an inspiring story, the life of one man, a team, a coach, and a boat maker. True stories are often the very best, I wish more were written.
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The Boys in the Boat chronicles the 1936 gold medal winning eight man crew team from University of Washington that represented the United States in the Berlin Olympics.

The focus of the story is a young man named Joe Rantz, who grew up under devastating family and financial conditions in the midst of the Great Depression. It follows his career at University of Washington on the crew, while also giving insights into the coaches and other peripheral characters associated with the team and Joe’s life.

A separate thread which arises from time to time deals with the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany and the staging of the 1936 Olympics as a tour de force propaganda effort. As Joe’s Washington team qualifies for the Olympics and departs for Germany, the two threads come together.

The book is captivating and educational as it relates to the subject of crew (of which I knew nothing), the region of the Pacific Northwest and the privations associated with the Great Depression. While I felt that some aspects of the story were perhaps a little overly dramatized, the story is certainly compelling enough to stand on its own.
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on May 1, 2017
Absolutely the best biography I have read about the greatest US rowing team ever. They won gold in the Olympic Games 1936 (Louis Zamperini - "the Zamp" is even mentioned as part of the story!). The team won against the Nazis and Fascists, even the boys were grossly and unfairly setup in the final. The long road from childhood to old age of the main character (including the photos) is for me more emotionally riveting and compelling than the final.

During the reading I very much enjoyed the quotes that begun each chapter. The quotes are from George Yeoman Pocock, master boat-builder and with deep wisdom and insights into both men and materials. I shared 19 quotes from the book all in all. Exiting, well researched book, must have taken many years to research and write. Highly recommended for all kind of readers aged 16 and up to senior citizens. 5+ stars.
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on August 1, 2017
Fantastic book about a very fascinating topic. Not only it is a look into what people were going through during the Depression, it shows the different way that training was viewed back in that day. My current position has me working with a number of college athletes, so I recognize the amount of time and effort today's athletes put into their training and playing on top of the academic requirements placed on them. Back in the day, it was at a whole different level. These coaches were all about working and then working harder and doing it again. There are a number training regiments which have come down through the decades, but a coach that kept his rowers out on the water in the middle of a driving sleet storm would probably get in trouble now days. This is on top of spending summers hanging on the side of a cliff to work at dam building. Again, these guys are just at a whole different level. Great read, great topic.
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on October 3, 2016
I'm glad I read "In the Garden of Beasts" before this book. It helped to know more of the backstory of what was going on in Berlin. This book is mostly about the University of Washington's rowing team. Very little is about Germany. It traces the gold medal team from their time as freshman to their junior year olympic medal. It follows them through competitions in California and New Jersey.

This must be a good book if it had me cheering for a boat of Huskies. Even though I knew that the main character, Joe Rantz must ultimately end up on the team, and that the team ultimately would go on to win the gold medal, the book was full of suspense and had me on the edge of my seat.

The author met Joe just 10 months before Joe passed away. The book is as much a biography of Joe as it is a story of the Husky rowing team. Also featured prominently is George Pocock, the builder of the boats that most U.S. rowing teams used at the time.

Joe was an astonishing person. His mother died when he was young. His father then went on to marry the sister of the wife of Joe's older brother. This women proved to be a horrible human being. Joe's father wasn't exactly father of the year material. At 13 Joe's step mom insisted Joe had to move out of the house. At 15 Joe's father packed up the rest of the family and left Joe on his own. Joe didn't see his father again for almost 5 years. His stepmom wouldn't even let him in the house when he went to visit. One highlight of the book was the stepmom's death.

George was from England, but came to Canada to make more money and then moved to Seattle to make boats for the University of Washington. He shared space with the UW's team, but built boats for schools across the country. Each chapter begings with a quote from Pocock. Although not a coach of the UW team, he served as a bit of consultant and was important in the gold medal team's victory, beyond building their boat.

This is a narrative history book, like Erik Larson's books. Well written and very interesting. I highly recommend this book.
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VINE VOICEon May 6, 2015
This is one of my favorite genre history told as a fiction.This story reminds me "Unbroken" as you read it you forget this is a real person and this really happened. I love this novel in so many levels. It's well written and I really love how he immersed himself in the story, meeting the main character and the authors note is sincere and heart warming. You know he cared about the characters and the books shows that.
As for the story, is about the true tale of nine men from University of Washington beat everybody and especially Hitlers Germany in 1936. You learn how Germany held the Olympics as a movie set hiding all the ugliness and showing the propaganda of Germany being a friendly and civilized country. I personally found fascinating, Leni Riefenstahl, the Actress, movie director who was ahead of her time doing movies with all the cameras and making these incredible movies to promote the Nazi. The movies as told were brilliant. Too bad , she was doing for the devil.
I had several takeaways, first you think you got it bad now, read or talk to people who went through the depression and you will get a perspective. My dad told me stories as I am older I understand a little better how bad it was during that time. My other takeaway is that to achieve you have to let go with Joe Rantz had to let go of his distrust of people after being hurt and that in a group like the Washington Rowing team , you do it for the team, you don't want to let your team go- your ego doesn't exit.
This story about a bunch of farmers, loggers and country bumpkins became the best in the world by winning the gold metal -is a testament to hard work, luck and sometimes in life the planets and starts aligned just right to make miracles.
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on February 9, 2018
I would never have thought I would enjoy a book about rowing or any sport for that matter, but I fell in love with this book! I loved everything about it. It was so interesting to read about Nazi Germany's deceptions leading up to and throughout the 1936 Olympics and the journey this rowing crew, especially Joe Rantz, went through that led them to the Olympics. Things were so difficult for so many people in the 1920s and 1930s, but they usually at least had their families that they could count on to be there. There were so many times while reading this book that, if I could have reached through time and history to throttle members of Joe's family for their callous and heartless treatment of a young boy, I definitely would have. He had to overcome so much and I'm so glad he found a loving family of his own in the end. Amazing story, amazing young men, and amazing book that I definitely recommend!
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