I know, I’m a rower, and you’re thinking “Really, you’re first book review for your blog is going to be about rowing!” No, actually, I’m going to review an amazing book that’s been on the NY Times bestseller list for over 25 weeks, most of the time in the top 5 in differing categories. It came out in hard cover in the Spring of 2013 and I downloaded it on my Kindle that summer after seeing a write up in Parade magazine. The book got all of this acclaim primarily through word of mouth. No big media blitz, just rowers and others sharing it with friends and family.
As the subtitle conveys, it’s the story of “Nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.” I knew I’d probably like it due to the subject matter, but I had no idea how much I would LOVE it and learn from it. I’m not a huge history buff, but I learned so much from this book about what went on in Nazi Germany leading up to the 1936 Olympics…fascinating. One of the great things about the book is that it not only touches on the inhumanity of the Nazi’s, but it also teaches about perseverance and getting through life struggles in a positive way…with a little bit of physics thrown in too. Brown has such an incredible way of writing that his book keeps you captivated throughout. When I was done reading it, I went to my rowing team practice and told everyone, “We’re having a one-book, book club and everyone should read this book.” I was so excited for all of them to read what I had read. I’ve always been drawn to non-fiction, pull yourself up by the bootstraps, kind of books, but this is one of my all time favorites.
There’s one part of the book where they are going to go to the Poughkeepsie regatta and as soon as I read it I was so excited!! My daughter went to college at the beautiful campus of Marist College on the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, NY. For parents weekend her sophomore year (2009) they decided to do a re-enactment of the Poughkeepsie Regatta. Well, at the time I was just looking forward to seeing rowing on the Hudson and their newly renovated Cornell boathouse (it’s gorgeous, by the way!). Little did I know at the time that I’d be reading about the importance of the original regatta four years later in this book. So cool!
Here are a couple of quotes from the book that I really liked…
“Physiologists, in fact, have calculated that rowing a two-thousand-meter race – the Olympic standard – takes the same physiological toll as playing two basketball games back-to-back. And it exacts that toll in about six minutes.” Now, we masters rowers take a little longer to get down a 2K course, but isn’t that an amazing statistic. I mean, my team totally ROCKS!!
The main character, Joe, says, “It takes energy to get angry. It eats you up inside. I can’t waste my energy like that and expect to get ahead.” …to that I say “AMEN!!” You have no idea how much I love that quote!!
I’m not exaggerating that I have over 10 excerpts highlighted on my Kindle from this book…and that’s probably because I exercised some restraint in my highlighting and didn’t want to totally bore my book group. My book club read it this past July and, although skeptical at first, everyone thoroughly enjoyed it and agreed that it’s not just about rowing. It’s been called the nautical “Chariots of Fire” by Publisher’s Weekly and the Weinstein brothers are working on a script, directed by Kenneth Branagh, for an upcoming movie.
If you’ve read it…let me know your thoughts….and, if not, read it before the movie comes out (…and then let me know what you think!)
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!