Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

I didn’t expect a book about rowing to be so exciting! – The Boys in the Boat

Posted on: September 10, 2015

This crew was like a band of brothers” Husky Crew Foundation photo: University of Washington

The Boys in the Boat  (Penguin, 2013) is the newest addition to my “memorable books” list. Daniel Brown’s nonfiction account of the University of Washington’s competition at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is almost as exciting as listening to a broadcast of a tie-breaker basketball ball game. While Washington the team was victorious, winning and getting there was not easy.  Brown describes life in Seattle and America during the Great Depression, the life-long struggles of Joe Rantz (the team member most highlighted) team training, competition with a rival California team, competing against prestigious Ivy League teams, and the art and physics of rowing.

Hitler’s emerging power and the conniving put into creating a positive impression for visiting teams are woven throughout the narrative. The work of Leni Riefenstahl, a producer of Nazi propaganda films, and the massive work dedicated to building the Olympic stadium are especially intriguing. I was also interested in the depictions of East vs West (reminded me of The Great Gatsby) and lt a “younger” and yet unknown Seattle.  The art, woodworking skills, and influence of George Pocock who built the shells are another fascinating part of the story.

As with other non-fiction, I was curious about the author’s resources. They are extensive, including interviews with surviving family members and friends, letters, diaries, photographs, Universal Newsreels, other films, newspapers, log books, and unpublished manuscripts. The end notes provide exhausting insight into just how much research goes into researching and writing a book like this. A few of these many primary resources are:

Read the book about this band to brothers to learn just how hard the team worked and how close the Olympic competition race was!  You will learn some new vocabulary and gain an appreciation on rowing along the way.

I never imagined a book about rowing could be so informative, interesting, and exciting!

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