Boys in the Boat is a tremendous read. It is well written, but even more importantly, the story is absolutely compelling. The book tells the story of the men who comprised the 1936 US Olympic rowing team who won gold in Berlin. Previous to that significant accomplishment, the book follows the team’s journey through their time as competing as one of the University of Washington’s men’s crews. It recaptures, with great suspense and detail some of their most impressive collegiate victories as well as their biggest disappointments.
Primarily, the book tells the heart-gripping story of Joe Rantz, a poor youth with a troubled, tumultuous childhood, and how he overcame adversity through a wily combination of street smarts, ingenious thinking and back breaking labor.
My thoughts so far (I’m currently about 1/3rd of the way through the book), is that especially for someone like me, who grew up as an outsider playing an elitist sport (tennis), the book represents the very real struggle of accomplishing goals purely through hard work and effort. This is one area of my life where I have always felt resentment towards peers who have been given a head start or a “leg up” through the benefit of a better social standing or family structure. To read about Joe’s same struggles and the vitriol he felt towards “insiders”, vitriol that fueled his insane work ethic, has been therapeutic for me as it has reminded me that we are not alone in the various struggles we face in life.
I highly recommend the book and am excited to finish it (even though I already know the main goal – Olympic Gold – is attained in the end.)