The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Summary

  1. Brown tells the story of the Washington crew team who overcame great odds in order to win gold at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin
Key Takeaways
  1. Joe Rantz had a rough childhood outside Seattle with an unhappy mother who accidentally dropped scalding bacon grease on her other son and disliked farm life. Soon after Joe’s parents abandoned him and he learned to never depend on anyone else for his happiness. Joe used his difficult childhood to toughen himself up and used this to his advantage during his grueling crew training at the University of Washington
  2. Joe never felt secure with himself or his surroundings and could never let up. This fostered a deep work ethic and insecurity which propelled him to great heights
  3. The regatta at Poughkeepsie was one of the largest sporting events in the world in the 1930s drawing hundreds of thousands of people with millions more listening on the radio
  4. The eastern Ivy League schools dominated for a while but soon Stanford and Washington could compete with the freshman boat with Joe on it dominated the field
  5. Context – Great Depression, dust bowls, famine, FDR is president, Nazi Germany growing in power
  6. On parents leaving him – I didn’t get angry because it takes too much energy to be angry and it eats you up inside. I need all the energy I can get
  7. Had great rivalry with Cal and some Ivy’s but in 1936 Washigton swept nationals and got the bid to go to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin
  8. The propaganda machine in Germany did an amazing job and the world didn’t know how dire the situation was there until some months or years after the olympics
  9. Although faced with a bad pole and a very poor start, the crew of 9 fought through the odds and came back to beat the Italians and the Germans in an extremely close race to win gold at that years olympics
  10. Joe found that in the middle of the race he knew he could not give any more of himself physically. The only thing he could do was believe in his boys with the entirety of his being. This was the first time in his life he truly trusted someone and would help shape the rest of his life
What I got out of it
  1. Beautiful and inspiring novel about boys overcoming themselves and outside adversity in order to row as one and win the biggest competition in the world

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