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

The team effort–the perfectly synchronized flow of muscle, oars, boat, and water; the single, whole, unified, and beautiful symphony that a crew member in motion becomes–is all that matters. Not the individual, not the self. – Boys in the Boat

I’m always a bit dubious when a publisher compares a soon-to-be released book to an established best seller. When Viking Press launched Daniel James Brown’s The Boys in the Boat, it heralded the publication as the next Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand’s masterpiece.

But in this instance, my suspicions were unnecessary.

 In his gracefully written narrative, Brown tells the Depression-era story of Joe Rantz, an impoverished yet determined young man and his rowing teammates at the University of Washington, who became the world’s fastest oarsmen.

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

But like all great books, the story’s core was not about attaining victory against insurmountable odds, but the perseverance of its central character.

How does Joe, who was abandoned by his family and forced to survive on his own, participate in a sport that required interdependence to the fullest capacity?

Allow Brown to show you in this unforgettable journey.


*Boys in the Boat has racked up several awards since it’s been published, including most recently being named one of the top books of the year by the Seattle Times.

NOTE: This book review was originally published in the Sacramento Book Review.

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