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Saratoga Reads Announces Book of Choice for Community Reading

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown has been selected by public vote as this year’s book of choice for Saratoga Reads, a community-wide reading program.

The Boys in the Boat, reached the number 1 slot on the New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction paperbacks in 2014. The book’s subtitle, “Nine Americans and their epic quest for gold at the 1936 Olympics,” gives an instant overview, but the real story lies in the personal struggles and travails behind the scenes.

Set during the Great Depression, the book tells the improbable story of how nine working-class young men from the American West competed for the Gold Medal in rowing at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. With rowers who were the sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the University of Washington’s eight-oar crew was never expected to defeat the elite teams of the East Coat and Great Britain, yet they did, going on to shock the world by challenging the German boat rowing for Adolf Hitler.

At the core of the story is Joe Rantz, a teenager abandoned by his family, who manages to defy the odds. Through sheer perseverance, he finishes high school, attends the University of Washington in Seattle, and makes it through the fierce competition to the university’s top rowing team.

“The individual stories of these young men are almost as compelling as the rise of the team itself. Brown excels at weaving the stories with the larger narrative, all culminating in the 1936 Olympic Games,” said the Seattle Times. “The narrative rises inexorably, with the final 50 pages blurring by with white-knuckled suspense as these all-American underdogs pull off the unimaginable.”

An adaptation of The Boys in the Boat for young readers will serve as this year’s junior companion book. Saratoga Reads invites young readers to participate in discussions on the book Feb. 4 and 11 at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, 6:30–8 p.m.

“I’m really inspired by this year’s winning book. The Boys in the Boat speaks to men and women, youth and adults, athletes and non-athletes,” said Tabitha Orthwein, chair of the Saratoga Reads board. “It’s at once a captivating story and history lesson providing insights about life in the Depression, Nazi Germany, and the galvanizing power of sport.”

Added Orthwein, “This book provides us with a lens to look at the fascinating history of rowing in the Saratoga Springs area and the strong presence of rowing in our community today.”

Lineup of events includes Dec. 9 kickoff

From December through April, Saratoga Reads will offer a range of events centered on The Boys in the Boat. All the programs are open to the public free of charge.

The events will kickoff with the formal announcement of the book selection and a celebration of the 12th year Saratoga Reads on Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs, starting at 7 p.m. The evening will feature door prizes, a 10 percent discount on Saratoga Reads books, and refreshments generously provided by Healthy Living Market.

Capstone event to feature Olympic rower

The year’s programming will wrap up on Tuesday, April 12, 2016, with a capstone event featuring Ginny Gilder, an Olympic silver medal rower and author of Course Correction: A Story of Rowing and Resilience in the Wake of Title IX. The conversation with Gilder will be moderated by Skidmore Professor Jeffrey Segrave, a noted expert on the Olympic Games. The event will take place at 7 p.m. in Gannett Auditorium, Palamountain Hall, on the Skidmore College campus.