Author: Daniel James Brown

Audio Review: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Posted September 6, 2016 by Jonetta in Book Review | | 4 Comments

Audio Review: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James BrownThe Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Narrator: Edward Herrmann
Published by Penguin Audio on June 4, 2013
Genres: Historical, Non Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Length: 14 hours, 25 minutes
Source: Library
Audio | Goodreads

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam's The Amateurs.


icon 2016 Fave Icon NON-FICTION icon EPIC icon historical Icon Library Book 

This is a bit more than the story of the 1936 Olympic crew challenge by the team from the University of Washington. Using one of the crew members as the focus, it combines his personal experience against the backdrop of the important historical events of that era (the 1929 stock market crash and resultant depression, the dust bowls, the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich, etc.). It made for a richer story with the added context.


While the backgrounds and histories of the other members of the 9-man crew team were also provided, Joe Rantz’s story was the main focus. His was symbolic of the boys who became men even before they started college given the challenges of that time. By the time I got to the actual Olympic race, I felt these men had already reached heroic heights, especially Joe.


Edward Herrmann was fantastic as the narrator. He brought each character to life and his calling of the Olympic race was just outstanding. I highly recommend the audio version.


This story left me inspired and will continue to do so every time I think about the team. What a wonderful tribute to these men.


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About Daniel James Brown

Daniel James Brown fell in love with the written word when he was five and his mother first read Danny and the Dinosaur to him. Since then he has earned a BA in English from the University of California at Berkeley and an MA in English from UCLA. He has taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford University and now lives in the country east of Redmond, Washington, where he writes nonfiction books about compelling historical events.

Brown’s newest book is the New York Times bestseller–The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book chronicles the extraordinary saga of nine working class boys who stormed the rowing world, transformed the sport, and galvanized the attention of millions of Americans in the midst of the Great Depression. The Weinstein Company has purchased the rights to adapt the book for a feature film.

HIs previous book–The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride–was Chosen as an INDIE NEXT NOTABLE SELECTION by the American Bookseller’s Association, it recounts the extraordinary journey of a young woman whose fate became entangled with that of the infamous Donner Party in 1846. His earlier book–Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinckley Firestorm of 1894–takes the reader back to the events of September 1, 1894, when his great-grandfather and more than 300 other people died in one of America’s greatest forest-fire disasters. That book was selected as a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, was named one of the Best Books of 2006 by Booklist magazine, and was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges: