The Boys in the Boat Author Drops Anchor on Whidbey Island

Triskaidekaphobics might expect that this 13th year of the Sno-Isle Library-sponsored Whidbey Reads might bring bad luck for readers. They’d be wrong. Past titles have included historical fiction (West of Here, Little Century); science fiction (Bellewether); non-fiction (Crow Planet, Undaunted Courage, my favorite of the half dozen I’ve read) and fiction (most of the rest). Checking out their statistics at, the average rating (from one to five stars, five being “loved it”) is 4.2 stars, pretty iimpressive.

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Not only do persons who fear the number 13 have nothing to fear, they (and the rest of us) are in luck.

This year’s Whidbey Reads selection, published on June 4, 2013, currently ranked third (that is not a typo) on the New York Times bestseller list in the Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction category,
with an average rating of 5 (out of 5) stars,
one of my favorite all-time reads is
(something avid Whidbey readers already know)…
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown.

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When I first heard about it in the summer of 2013, the book sounded so great (and the wait for a library copy so long), that bought the book, raced through it, posted a review and began foisting it on my bookworm friends.

Earlier this year, when I noticed signs announcing the title of a book I loved so much as this year’s selection, I was surprised that Whidbey Reads had snagged such a popular, high profile story..

Securing an author to spend a day on Whidbey in order to discuss something they’ve written, both on the south end of the island at South Whidbey High School, a venue that can accommodate 300-400 persons; and the north at Best West Harbor Plaza, which holds about 200, isn’t easy. In fact, it requires the alignment of a significant number of stars.

I checked in with Kathy Bullene, Assistant Managing Librarian of the Oak Harbor Library and Whidbey Reads coordinator to find out how it came about. She said that they’ve been working on the project “for over a year” and shared (via email), “Early in 2014, while we were in the midst of Whidbey Reads 2014 (Little Century by Anna Keesey) I finally checked out the audio version of “The Boys in the Boat.” I had resisted the book because I don’t know anything about the sport of crew, don’t have any particular ties to the University of Washington, and generally don’t read books about sports. It completely enthralled me. Brown immediately drew me into the story and the characters, particularly Joe Rantz and his struggles. By the time I was listening to the story of the Olympic races I was on the edge of my seat, even though I knew the results of the competition. I started talking about the book to other Sno-Isle staff members, customers, and my family. Other Whidbey Reads committee members had read the book and agreed that it would make a great Whidbey Reads title, so we contacted Mr. Brown’s agent and started negotiating to bring him to Whidbey Island in the spring of 2015.”

As for the funding, she said, “Thanks to our timing (earlier than had been typical) and the support of the Whidbey Island Friends of the Library groups and the Sno-Isle Foundation we are able to bring Mr. Brown to the Island. We also received financial support from both Walmart and Island Thrift.  It’s really been a team effort between Sno-Isle staff, community members and organizations that support culture in the community.” A news release states, “Whidbey Reads is a collaborative effort of Sno-Isle Libraries, Whidbey Island Friends of the Library groups and volunteers from each community. Other partners include Skagit Valley College, Best Western Harbor Plaza, Wind & Tide Books, Island Thrift and Moonraker Books. Funding is provided by the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation.”

Her final words about The Boys in the Boat, “The book continues to amaze me. It’s been out for over two years and it still flies off the shelf. Customers and staff recommend it to each other and family and friends.  It’s about so much more than the sport of crew—teamwork, perseverance, life in Washington during the Depression, and placing team success over individual goals.”

I can’t agree with her more. The Boys in the Boat is an excellent book (one that I include on my Listmania List entitled An eclectic selection of five-star finds). Learn all about it at author Daniel James Brown’s Official Author Website.

There is no time like the present to participate in Whidbey Reads. I hope that you’ll join me (and hopefully enough persons to pack the place) next week during one of the author’s two discussions on Whidbey Island.

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