2014 nonfiction finalist
Daniel James Brown | The Boys in the Boat
About the author
Daniel James Brown is the author of two previous nonfiction books and was a finalist for the B&N Discover Award for Under a Flaming Sky. The Boys in the Boat has been on bestseller lists across the country, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and NPR. Brown has taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford. He lives near Seattle. Visit DanielJamesBrown.com.
About the book
The Boys in the Boat is the irresistible, dramatic, and poignant story behind one man’s personal quest, and the triumph of his team, the University of Washington rowing crew, that stunned the world at Hitler’s Olympics. Gordon Adam, Chuck Day, Don Hume, George “Shorty” Hunt, Jim “Stub” McMillin, Bob Moch, Roger Morris, Joe Rantz, John White, Jr.—these were the boys in the boat, the University of Washington’s 1936 crew, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans in the depths of the Depression. 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.
At the emotional heart of the story is 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 one another 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 trust, 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 a portrait of an era, a celebration of a historic achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest. The Boys in the Boat is a perfect combination of a compelling and beautifully written narrative and a little-known piece of history that illuminates an entire era making for one immensely satisfying book.
Critics / Reviews
“This riveting and inspiring saga evokes that of Seabiscuit…Readers need neither background nor interest in competitive rowing to be captivated by this remarkable and beautifully crafted history. Written with the drama of a compelling novel, it's a quintessentially American story that burnishes the esteem in which we embrace what has come to be known as the Greatest Generation.” — Associated Press
“The astonishing story of the UW’s 1936 eight-oar varsity crew and its rise from obscurity to fame…The individual stories of these young men are almost as compelling as the rise of the team itself. Brown excels at weaving those stories with the larger narrative, all culminating in the 1936 Olympic Games…A story this breathtaking demands an equally compelling author, and Brown does not disappoint. The narrative rises inexorably, with the final 50 pages blurring by with white-knuckled suspense as these all-American underdogs pull off the unimaginable.” — The Seattle Times
“For those who like adventure stories straight-up, The Boys in the Boat … is this year’s closest approximation of Unbroken.”
— New York Times
“A stirring tale of nine Depression-era athletes beating the odds and their inner demons to compete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. You can Google the result and spoil the sport, but that won’t dull the many pleasures in Daniel James Brown’s colorful, highly readable celebration of a grueling collegiate challenge.” — Bloomberg News
“If you imagined a great regatta of books about rowing, then Brown’s Boys in the Boat certainly makes the final heat….”
— Boston Globe
“This riveting tale of beating the odds (and the Germans) at the 1936 Olympics is a rousing story of American can-do-ism. It’s also a portrait of the nine boys who first rowed together for the University of Washington, and of the one in particular who made the sport his family and his home.” — Parade
“Brown’s book juxtaposes the coming together of the Washington crew team against the Nazis’ preparations for the Games, weaving together a history that feels both intimately personal and weighty in its larger historical implications. This book has already been bought for cinematic development, and it’s easy to see why: When Brown, a Seattle-based nonfiction writer, describes a race, you feel the splash as the oars slice the water, the burning in the young men’s muscles and the incredible drive that propelled these rowers to glory.” — Smithsonian Magazine
“Cogent history… and a surprisingly suspenseful tale of triumph.” — USA Today