Book Review of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

Book Review of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I love inspirational stories, and this one does not disappoint! Wow. The strength and determination of these men inspires me to do better, work harder, and dream bigger. If they can do the impossible, so can I! I hope you enjoy my book review of The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. 

Blurb:

 
“Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times–the improbable, intimate account of nine working-class boys from the American West who at the 1936 Olympics showed the world what true grit really meant. Daniel James Brown’s stirring book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans.
 
It was an unlikely quest from the start–a team composed of the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, who first had to master the harsh physical and psychological demands of collegiate rowing and then defeat the East Coast’s elite teams that had long dominated the sport. The emotional heart of the story lies with Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not only to regain his shattered self-regard but to find a real place for himself in the world. Plagued by personal demons, a devastating family history, and crushing poverty, Joe knows that a seat in the Washington freshman shell is his only option to remain in college.
 
The crew is slowly assembled by an enigmatic and determined coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat designer, but it is the boys’ commitment to one another that makes them a winning team. Finally gaining the Olympic berth they long sought, they face their biggest challenge–rowing against the German and Italian crews under Adolf Hitler’s gaze and before Leni Riefenstahl’s cameras at the “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin, 1936. Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals and their vivid memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, Daniel James Brown has created a portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest, all in this immensely satisfying book.”
 

My Book Review:

 
Wow! The 1936 Olympics have produced some of the best stories I have ever read! First was “Unbroken” about Louis Zampirini. He ran in the 1936 Olympics. That book was so good! Then there’s the story of Jessie Owens. I haven’t read a book about him, but I recently saw the movie “Race,” and Jessie’s story is fantastic too! And then there’s this book. Amazing. Seriously amazing. I loved it! The writing is very well done. It may be nonfiction, but it definitely reads like fiction. The descriptions are beautifully done, and the writing captivates you from the get-go.
 
Joe Rantz’ story is unbelievable! The circumstances he overcame in his life put him right up there with Louis Zampirini as one of the most inspirational people I’ve read about. Most people would give up and die rather than go through what he did. His so-called parents made me so angry. They are not fit to be called parents. The things they did to him were unconscionable. And yet he survived, and not only survived, but thrived. What an inspiration he is!!
 
The stories of the other men are also well told and captivating. I loved learning about George Pocock. He has such an interesting story. I never thought I’d enjoy learning about how to make a rowing boat, but he makes it seem so important and interesting. I enjoyed reading all the quotes by Pocock at the beginning of each chapter. This quote by Pocock really speaks to the difficulty of the sport:
 
“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body.”
I also enjoyed looking at the pictures in the book. I liked that they weren’t all bunched together in the middle, but they were spread here and there throughout the book. One thing I loved was how all these stories showed how trials make people stronger. Usually we just want our lives to be easy, right? Well, look at how strong these men became because their lives were not easy. I think attitudes are a little different now, and that’s unsettling. There seems to be a trend of if it’s not easy I won’t do it. We need more determination and hard work like these men had. I loved this book! I loved the writing, the characters, the story; I loved all of it. Five star ratings are unusual for me, but this one deserves it; I highly recommend this book!
 

Content Rating PG-13+Rating: PG 13+ (There is some profanity, but not a lot. There isn’t any “intimacy.” There are, however, a few situations that border on domestic violence. They are difficult to read, and not appropriate for young readers.)

 

Recommendation: 14 years-old and up.

Rated 5/5 (I don’t give many of those!!)

5 Star Book Review Rating

Similar Titles You May Be Interested In:

the nightingale by kristin hannah The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom  Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

This review was originally published on 3/21/16; updated on 3/8/18.

Settle For More

Settle For More
by
Megyn Kelly


Blurb:
“In the three years since her show The Kelly File premiered on the Fox News Channel, Megyn Kelly has cemented her reputation as one of the most respected, hardest-hitting journalists in America. Tackling issues from both sides of the aisle, live on prime time five nights a week, Megyn has embraced difficult questions and pressed for real answers, redefining the face of news for her more than two million regular viewers. Now, in her debut book, Megyn goes behind the scenes of the stories and the storms that landed her in the anchor chair of the most successful news broadcast in cable news. Having grown up in a family whose values rejected the ‘trophies for everyone’ mentality, Megyn traces the experiences that shaped her professional ascent–from her father’s sudden, tragic death while she was still in high school to the events that propelled her rise in journalism. Speaking candidly about her decision to ‘settle for more’–a motto she credits as having dramatically transformed her life at home and at work–Megyn discusses how she abandoned a thriving legal career to follow her dream in the news business. Through her unique blend of hard work, humor, and authenticity, she has won fans across the political divide. Megyn also opens up about the controversy that made her, unwillingly, one of America’s most-talked-about public figures, giving her side of Donald Trump’s feud with her while sharing never-before-heard details about the first Republican debate and how she was able to persevere through the difficult aftermath. In addition, Megyn sheds light on the challenges she has faced as a professional woman and working mother, revealing her approach to issues of gender in the workplace, as well as how her success is rooted in the adage ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.'”
My Review:
No matter what your political viewpoints are, no matter where you stand on the issues, and no matter your opinion about Fox News, you have to admit that Megyn Kelly is a strong woman. Her hard work ethic, determination, and attitude have worked to put her at the top of broadcast news. I saw her at the Republican debate when she asked Donald Trump the infamous question that resulted in their feud, and I was curious to know more about that whole situation. I hoped her book would shed some light on the subject. I had also heard about Roger Ailes and the women reporting that he had sexually harassed them, and I hoped to learn more about that situation as well. So I picked this book up at the library. It was slow going at first. Learning about her childhood and youth years was interesting, and it always helps you learn more about the person, but it was definitely slow. I really don’t know much about practicing law, so maybe that’s why, but I though those years in her book were also a bit slow. However, I was very impressed with her courage. Making the decision to leave a high powered and high pay job to go do something completely different with a lot less money would be a difficult decision. If the job is killing you though, maybe it’s an easy decision? I thought the book got much more compelling once she got to the last few years. The “Year of Trump,” as she calls it, sounds awful. It kind of scared me, actually, that someone running for president of the United States could use his resources (and supporters-real people) to wage such a bitter vendetta against a reporter. Yes, she asked a difficult question, but really?? That much?? The section about Aires was also crazy. Seriously, I had no idea that situations like that still went on in this country. Thankfully, I’ve never encountered anything like that. Megyn’s writing style is easy to read (unless she’s discussing the specifics of law, which seem like a foreign language…), it flows well, and is well written. I like the message of her book; it’s empowering. The title message comes from a Dr. Phil quote: “The only difference between you and someone you envy is, you settled for less.” So go out there and don’t settle, work until you get what you want! Her message also includes taking responsibility for your own product, actions, results, etc. The blame game is not productive. Another part of the message that I liked was that instead of worrying about things you can’t control (finding a boyfriend, getting a raise, the way other people think about you, etc.), “Put all of [that] energy back into yourself.” In other words, don’t worry about it or stress about it-just do the best you can do. Be the best you, and things will work out. Overall, I liked the book. She does highlight a lot of her successes, making it seem like she’s bragging a bit, but she also does talk about her failures. And, if you’ve gotten to where she’s gotten in life, and you’ve worked that hard to get there, then I think you deserve a small right to brag. 🙂
Rating: R (There’s quite a bit of profanity, including several “f” words. She doesn’t say them, but she’s quoting others who do. There isn’t any “intimacy,” and there isn’t any real violence, besides discussing stalkers and such. There are many adult themes as well.)
Recommendation: Adult

Unbroken

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War. The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenageer, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.”

Wow. What a story! And I complain when I have a headache. This story helps you see perspective in your life. I had no idea what our troops went through as Japanese POW’s. I had no idea that many POW’s were even taken during the war. What they went through sickened me. The brutality of the captors was unimaginable. I compare this with a book I read a little while ago called “A Woman’s Place.” In that book there are a few POW’s that work in a ship-building factory with the women in the book, and they are treated so kindly compared to what our men went through.

This book is nonfiction, but is very well written. It does take a little longer to read than a good fiction book, but it is worth it. Mr. Zamperini is definitely a hero and an example of bravery, courage, and patriotism that we should all learn from. The things he and the other POW’s went through were horrible. It is a privelege to be able to hear his story and learn from it. I am so thankful to all our service men and women for serving our country.

This book, although a really good book, is filled with many things that are extremely difficult to read.  There is language, torture, rape, fights, beatings, war atrocities, deaths, and a lot of physical and mental anguish. I know, it sounds depressing. And a lot of it is. However, there is also so much to take away from this book. There is so much to learn from these men and their bravery, determination, and courage, that it is definitely worth reading. I’m not one to search out books with the above characteristics, but I came away from this book with so much.

Rating: R (Language, torture, rape, fights, beatings, war atrocities, deaths, physical and mental anguish, and “physical intimacy.”)

Recommendation: College and up. This is way too much for younger readers. It’s a great teaching tool for WWII, but more for a college history course.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “Her name is Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer who worked the same land as her slave ancestors, yet her cells–taken without her knowledge–became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first “immortal” human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. If you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons–as much as a hundred Empire State Buildings. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the atom bomb’s effects; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the “colored” ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers full of HeLa cells, from Henrietta’s small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia–a land of wooden slave quarters, faith healings, and voodoo–to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Henrietta’s family did not learn of her “immortality” until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists investigating HeLa began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. And though the cells had launched a multimillion-dollar industry that sells human biological materials, her family never saw any of the profits. As Rebecca Skloot so brilliantly shows, the story of the Lacks family–past and present–is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. Over the decade it took to uncover the story, Rebecca became enmeshed in the lives of the Lacks family–especially Henrietta’s daughter Deborah, who was devastated to learn about her mother’s cells. Deborah was consumed with questions: Had scientists cloned her mother? Had they killed her to harvest her cells? And if her mother was so important to medicine, why couldn’t her children afford health insurance?”

This book had me at the intro.! The introduction alone just fascinates me. To know that one person’s cells weigh that much, and that her family didn’t even know is incredible. It definitely has the feeling of a fictional movie. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s nonfiction! This is the best nonfiction book I have read in a long time! Ms. Skloot’s writing style is easy to read and understand, even when she is discussing very technical and confusing topics. It reads as a fascinating story, with a hint of technicality to it. The book is very informative and yet is also very emotional. I cried and cried, and then I’d laugh, and then I’d feel angry, frustrated, relieved, embarrassed for our past, and everything in between. It is hard to believe that the story could have taken place sixty years ago, because it seems more like something that would happen 160 years ago. To know that sixty years ago African American people were being mistreated like this is horrible. Unfortunately, it seems like all the issues regarding tissue study and culture still haven’t been resolved. I highly recommend this book, it is (I know I said this before, but it’s true) fascinating and intriguing.

There are some parts in this book that are difficult to read, and not appropriate for younger readers. There are some of the heavier curse words and there are some domestic violence stories. Henrietta’s life was difficult, and it was also difficult for her children and grandchildren. The stories are true, which makes it harder to read. I’ve learned that our country’s past is not always happy or nice, and in some instances is flat-out terrible. Hopefully with the truth of some of these issues coming to the forefront, we can learn from these mistakes and make sure they do not happen again. I highly recommend this book, because from it we can learn, and the more we learn, the more we can change for the better. Thank you, Ms. Skloot, for bringing this important woman in our history into the light, and for honoring her legacy.

Rating: PG-13+ (Language, domestic violence, harsh circumstances of the characters and their loved ones.)

Recommendation: Senior in high school and up. Maybe even college, but it is definitely worth reading!