The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

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My mom had been pushing me to read The Boys in the Boat for almost a year! I had picked it up shortly after she suggested it at Vinnie’s Ptbo, and it has been sitting on my shelf since. This year I had made a goal of actually reading books that people suggest to me. Sometimes it’s easy to just get caught up in what you want to read, but there is so much pleasure in being able to share a the thoughts and feelings a great book can bring. The minute I finished this book, I called my mom to tell her she was right. This is a great book, in which you feel adrenaline, you cry, and you fall in love with the characters.

In the middle of the Depression you are introduced to Joe Rantz. He’s been abandoned at their family farm by his family when he isn’t even a teenager, and you learn quickly that even though Joe has nothing, he is unbreakable. He eventually goes to the University of Washington, and ends up on the rowing team. Here is where he meets the 9 man team in which will end up at the 1936 Olympics. This is the story that describes the making of a the boat, the mechanics of rowing, and the rhythm of a team in unison.

To see a winning crew in action is to witness a perfect harmony in which everything is right… That is the formula for endurance and success: rowing with the heart and head as well as physical strength.

Daniel James Brown was approached by Judy Rantz, the daughter of Joe Rantz, because her dying father was a fan of him and wondered if he could talk to him about the story of his rowing team who won gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. What he learned was the incredible story that became this book.

What I loved about this story was so many things, but here we go… this is when sport was just purely raw, and beautiful. Before the protein powders, insane calculations about body mechanics, and blood doping. These are boys who literally worked as lumberjacks, farmers, and smoked cigarettes, and ate whatever their hands could get a hold of. Daniel James Brown built a non-fiction book that reads as exciting as a fictional novel. The whole time you have the back story of the dark looming cloud that Hitler would bring upon the world after Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics.

You are introduced to the team, and the coaches, even the man who was behind the building of the boat. I became so intertwined in their lives that I ended up crying several times during this book. I even felt the adrenaline rushing through my veins as the races were being described. It’s an incredible story, that I can’t wait to see in movie form. One of the most interesting things is that in 1936, they had to travel by boat to get to Germany for the Olympics. Some of these athletes partied pretty hardy, others lost tons of weight due to sea sickness, or gained tons of weight because they were eating and not moving for the 2 week journey.

Well, that’s about all I think I will say about this one, otherwise I will be gushing for a LONG time. And Mom… if you are reading this, great book pick and I can’t wait to chat more about it 🙂