The Boys in the Boat

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
The front cover art of The Boys in the Boat
AuthorDaniel James Brown
Original titleThe Boys in the Boat
GenreNarrative nonfiction
PublisherPenguin Books
Publication date
June 4, 2013
Media typePrint

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is a non-fiction novel written by Daniel James Brown and published on June 4, 2013.


This novel is about the University of Washington eight-oared crew that represented the United States in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, and narrowly beat out Italy and Germany to win the gold medal. The main character is Joe Rantz.

There are two backstories. One illustrates how all nine members of the Washington team came from lower-middle-class families and had to struggle to earn their way through school during the depths of the Depression. Along with the chronicle of their victories and defeats in domestic competition, the reader learns the importance of synchronization of the eight rowers as they respond to the commands of the coxswain and his communications with the stroke, consistent pacing, and sprint to the finish.

The second backstory begins with a depiction of Hitler decreeing construction of the spectacular German venues at which the Games would take place. Along the way, the book also claims that the Nazis successfully covered up the evidence of their harsh and inhumane treatment of the Jews so as to win worldwide applause for the 1936 Olympic Games, duping the United States Olympic Committee among others.

All comes together with a description of the final race. During the 1930s, rowing was a popular sport with millions following the action on the radio. The victorious Olympians became national heroes. In accordance with the strictures of amateur athletics, the boys sank into relative obscurity after their victory but were still better off than their parents, and for the rest of their lives proud of their accomplishment. After their win, they would come together every few years to row again.


On March 3, 2011, The Weinstein Company acquired the film rights to the novel with Kenneth Branagh directing and Donna Gigliotti producing.[1][2] In October 2018, Lantern Entertainment (the successor of The Weinstein Company) contracted with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to distribute the film worldwide.[3] In March 2020, it was announced that actor George Clooney would direct the film.[4]

The story of the gold medal-winning crew also inspired a 2016 PBS American Experience documentary The Boys of ’36.[5]

Awards and honors[edit]

Other works by this author[edit]

  • Under a Flaming Sky: The Great Hinkley Firestorm of 1894. May 1, 2006.
  • The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride. April 28, 2009.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Weinstein Company Captures Book Proposal On 1936 U.S. Olympics Crew Team". March 3, 2011. Retrieved September 21, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ "Weinsteins acquire Olympic rowing tale". Variety. March 3, 2011. Retrieved September 21, 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  3. ^ McNary, Dave (October 30, 2018). "Weinstein Film 'Boys in the Boat' Saved by MGM, Lantern Entertainment".
  4. ^ "Clooney set to direct Berlin Olympics true life drama". March 9, 2020 – via Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "The Boys of '36". American Experience. PBS. 2016. Retrieved August 3, 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "New York Times Best Sellers Paperback Nonfiction -". Retrieved June 29, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ "ABA Announces 2014 Indies Choice and E.B. White Read-Aloud Award Winners -". April 15, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. ^ "Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction Awards & Grants". February 6, 2014. Retrieved February 15, 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)