The Wager by David Grann

The Wager by David Grann Book Summary


#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Killers of the Flower Moon, a page-turning story of shipwreck, survival, and savagery, culminating in a court martial that reveals a shocking truth. The powerful narrative reveals the deeper meaning of the events on The Wager, showing that it was not only the captain and crew who ended up on trial, but the very idea of empire.

A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, TIME, Smithsonian, NPR, Vulture, Kirkus Reviews

“Riveting...Reads like a thriller, tackling a multilayered history—and imperialism—with gusto.” —Time

"A tour de force of narrative nonfiction.” —The Wall Street Journal

On January 28, 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty’s Ship the Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.

But then ... six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that while stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death—for whomever the court found guilty could hang.

The Wager is a grand tale of human behavior at the extremes told by one of our greatest nonfiction writers. Grann’s recreation of the hidden world on a British warship rivals the work of Patrick O’Brian, his portrayal of the castaways’ desperate straits stands up to the classics of survival writing such as The Endurance, and his account of the court martial has the savvy of a Scott Turow thriller. As always with Grann’s work, the incredible twists of the narrative hold the reader spellbound.

The Wager Book Details

Book Name The Wager
Genre True Crime
Author David Grann
Published 18 April 2023, Tuesday
Price $14.99
E-Book Size 64.02 MB

The Wager by David Grann Book Reviews

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Wonderful read and Adventure. This wonderful book once again amazes me as to human ingenuity and resilience, perseverance and yet human limitations as well. Thank you!


Fascinating. A masterfully told historic adventure of sailors’ endurance in a quest round the Horn.


The Wager. Well researched and documented, but still a depressing slog of uninterrupted human misery.


Wonderful True Story. This writing drew me deep into the story and was a book I could not put down. Having been a sailor it made me recall such horrific storms at sea and what must have been terrifying moments at sea. Well written!


Great read. Reverting story. Easy flowing writing style


Good story, soft ending. All in all a good read. It had a buildup to a grand showdown ending that was a bit of a dull misfire.


Gripping, like literally.. Gripping story. So whelk written I was literally tense and holding g my breath at times. Then Grann’s way of bringing it all around to the big issue of colonialism, greed and social inequity…it’s a must read.

Craig Ralph44

Compelling. The writing is clear, clean and smooth. Talk about a well told tale. Craig R Smith, PhD, emeritus professor.


Wager. Absolutely amazing! Loved the history- the story telling is magnificent and doesn’t drag. Great read!

Imna reader

Is it for kids?. Is this book okay with 8 yr olds reading it? I have not read it yet but I probably will.


A real page turner. Hard to put down.


great book. truly a fantastic read


Excellent Story. This book is truly a page turner. The depth and detail of life on a ship, during the mid 1700’s was incredible. I would highly recommend this book.


I was right there with them!. Great book that puts you in the middle of the storm on the quarterdeck and marooned as a castaway!


Great. Great read


An Extraordinary Story with an Incredible Historical Perspective. By far, one of the best books I’ve ever read. The writing is full of historical documentation that interestingly relates to the world today and how we “create history”. The story itself of “The Wager” brings you as close as possible to feeling like you are actually ship wrecked alongside these men. No food, nor shelter, no clothes, no nothing. How any of them survived is truly remarkable and the loss of so many lives so disheartening. Also riveting is their return to England and the story that unfolds from multiple perspectives. I can’t thank the Author enough for all the hours it took to bring this amazing story to light. This story goes way beyond a mere shipwreck. It explores the inner workings of humans when all is seeming lost.

Dave in San Juan Capistrano

This Guy can write.. He makes their stuggles so life like. i was often cold while reading about their battles with the weather.

Bobby Books

DNF. Looking forward to this one but stopped after 100 pages. It’s a chore to read unfortunately.


Best Book of 2023. This was the most enjoyable read of the year. I found myself re-reading passages throughout the course of the text. Grann is a master of spiriting away the reader to another reader place and time. This will be one of 2023’s best and will be nominated for book of the year.


Fantastic writing for a timeless story. This is one of the best books I’ve read in the historical non-fiction genre. From the first sentence of the book, the author draws the audience in with vivid language, intriguing characters, and remarkable clarity. As the story unfolds, you will get a good understanding of the way common people were pressed into service, the remarkable struggles they faced at sea, and the way these factors come together to lead to mutiny, rebellion, and the ultimate disintegration of societal norms. Given the ensuing mayhem which was meticulously documented by several crew members, the British Admiralty was left to make a decision on how to prosecute the case. I won’t divulge the outcome of the story but it’s worth reading and reflecting. Although the shipwrecked crew


Outstanding in all respects. Seldom, if ever, will you read such an authoritative and well documented history that is simultaneously a compelling “page turner “. A must for anyone interested in naval or British history and a great read even if you’re not.


golf if you want to waste your time. Stole my money total waste Paid and got nothing but a sample

Sanchi III

One of the best of those genre. A real page turner….and it is all REAL


Just read it.. Phenomenal historical accuracy and presentation, as well as a late night page turner!


Loved it.. Couldn’t put it down.


I'm not much of a reader and I couldn't put this book down. Seriously. This is probably the first book I've ever read cover to cover because I tend to get bored quickly. The Wager is a must read - it has an attention-grabbing plot and the detail of it all really made visualizing the story worthwhile. As a navy vet, I may be a bit biased, but this was an excellent read.


Best book I’ve read all year. In addition to providing historical insights on a little known war, at its core the book is about military discipline and the human personality during stressful times. I hope this book is mandatory reading for any of the service academies. Kudos to the author for objectively describing and researching a difficult subject. Job well done!


A Must read.. If you love history and human perseverance against all odds, this book will captivate you. Brilliantly written, the care and research taken to recreate this remarkable story is nothing short of phenomenal. Loved it, couldn’t put it down.

Fishing Preacher

Absorbing Reading. Interesting and informative account of the HMS Wager affair.


Superb. An incredible tale which reads like fiction. Just unbelievable!

Bill's Samsung

Not as advertised. Boring


Really interesting read. .


Fantastic. Great work

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Rookie musician

Page turner. Fast read, fascinating and well researched.


The incredible voyage of the Wager and her crew. A meticulously researched and written account of the near forgotten last voyage of HMS Wager. A fascinating history and read.


Solid adventure. Rushed conclusion. Interesting read with lots of history. I feel the end of the book was rushed in comparison to the drawn out drama of the sail, time on the island, and struggle to return to the UK. It would have been nice to know more about the tribunal, politics and key players that helped sweep it all under the rug.

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David Grann - The Wager Comments

5 Books like The Wager (David Grann)

About Author "David Grann"

David Elliot Grann (born March 10, 1967) is an American journalist, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and author. His first book, The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, was published by Doubleday in February 2009. After its first week of publication, it debuted on The New York Times bestseller list at #4 and later reached #1. Grann's articles have been collected in several anthologies, including What We Saw: The Events of September 11, 2001, The Best American Crime Writing of 2004 and 2005, and The Best American Sports Writing of 2003 and 2006. He has written for The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Weekly Standard.According to a profile in Slate, Grann has a reputation as a "workhorse reporter", which has made him a popular journalist who "inspires a devotion in readers that can border on the obsessive." Early life Grann was born on March 18, 1967, to Phyllis E. Grann and Victor Grann. His mother i....

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