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

Book Description

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.

The Author: Daniel James Brown


Daniel James Brown grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended Diablo Valley College, the University of California at Berkeley, and UCLA. He taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford before becoming a technical writer and editor. He now writes narrative nonfiction books full time. His primary interest as a writer is in bringing compelling historical events to life vividly and accurately.

He and his wife live in the country outside of Seattle, Washington, with an assortment of cats, dogs, chickens, and honeybees. When he isn’t writing, he is likely to be birding, gardening, fly fishing, reading American history, or chasing bears away from the beehives.

My Thoughts

What a remarkable story, a slice of history but told by weaving many strands together for a satisfying whole. I especially enjoyed learning about the backgrounds of the crew, many of whom were dirt poor because of the Great Depression. This fine book combines the craftsmanship boat building, superb coaching, laws of physics, psychology, and the mystery of hope. Rewarding and refreshing.


  1. I’m glad to see another book about the Depression. I don’t think the kids of today can actually realize what those people went through. The history is just not taught any more.

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