I don't read biographies often, and there's a reason why. When I find a good one, one that makes the person (or persons) come alive for me, I grow so attached that it makes me horribly sad to realize that they're no longer walking the face of the earth. I know. That sounds a bit weird, and yet...it happens. It's as if I'm mourning the passing of a person who I never got the chance to meet. (Maybe I need to get out more and meet more of the multitudes of wonderful people who are living right this moment).
At any rate, yes, I just finished reading a biographical story. It's not a new one. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, was published about six years ago. It tells the story of a group of working class (read mostly poor) young men from Washington state during the 1930's and their quest for gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Sons of loggers, farmers, and shipyard workers from the rugged west coast, no one would have expected greatness in the field of rowing. Yet, as we read the story following the life of Joe Rantz, a teenager who has grown up facing a life filled with obstacles, it's all but impossible not to become a part of this young man's world and to cheer him on.
I'm not a sports enthusiast and I knew almost nothing of the sport of rowing, but I was totally caught up in this wonderful retelling of these young underdogs who stole gold right from under Hitler's nose. I learned a lot about the sport, about the humanity of those involved, and the world stage that all of this took place on. Like other stories where we know the outcome but there's so much at stake (Apollo 13 comes to mind), this was a nail biter in the best possible way. I highly recommend it even though I'm sad that I never got to experience these people in real life.
If you'd like to know a bit more, here's the trailer for the book.