A few of my favorite books have come from recommendations I’ve received from my mom’s sisters.
They love reaching out to one another when a book chosen for book club ends up being an enjoyable read, and they’ll each go out and either buy a copy or check one out from the library. Slowly the recommendation will trickle down the ranks, and, pretty soon, a large portion of the extended family will read the same book.
The Boys in the Boat was one of these books quite a few years ago. I heard my mom discussing the book with extended family members, and I knew that I’d read it eventually, but the fact that it was biographical made me a little nervous. I was scared it would be boring.
The events mentioned in the book take place during the Great Depression, pre-World War II. At the time, rowing was one of the country’s most popular and prestigious sports, and the University of Washington had a habit of churning out competitive 8-oar crews full of working class boys.
The Boys in the Boat covers the story of the 1936 Olympic crew from the University of Washington, many having never rowed at all prior to arriving at the University.
One of the aspects of the book that I enjoyed, that didn’t have to do with the Washington crew, was reading about life during the Great Depression. For whatever reason, what I had often heard about the Great Depression made it sound as if life stopped – as if nobody had money and nobody had a job.
But that’s not really the case.
There were still wealthy people. Those with little money continued to live life to the best of their abilities. Even sports continued. I imagine people, at the time, didn’t realize they were living through such a historic time, and they probably wanted to enjoy the things they’d always enjoyed.
I appreciated reading about the size of the crowds who attended the rowing events, specifically. We don’t often hear about a majority of sports these days, as we focus most of our time on basketball, football, baseball, and maybe golf. But there are so many sports out there, and each of them takes effort and skill.
The more I learned about rowing, while reading The Boys in the Boat, the more invested in the sport I became.
I have similar feelings about cross country running. Having run cross country in high school, I love watching quality cross country teams. I know what goes into being good at the sport, so I appreciate quality when I see it.
While I’ve never competed in a rowing event, what I learned in The Boys in the Boat helped me appreciate all that goes into building a quality crew – and quality boys.