The Wager - David Grann

The Wager

By David Grann

  • Release Date: 2023-04-18
  • Genre: True Crime
Score: 4
From 1,287 Ratings


#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.

“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.


  • Fantastic writing for a timeless story

    By Aerotrekker
    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
  • golf if you want to waste your time

    By FlyTheW93
    Stole my money total waste Paid and got nothing but a sample
  • Not as advertised

    By Bill's Samsung
  • great book

    By RedTree832
    truly a fantastic read
  • Is it for kids?

    By imna reader
    Is this book okay with 8 yr olds reading it? I have not read it yet but I probably will.
  • Best book I’ve read all year

    By WynnIII
    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.

    By DonnieboyT
    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.
  • One of the best of those genre

    By Sanchi III
    A real page turner….and it is all REAL
  • Wager

    By 74redvet
    Absolutely amazing! Loved the history- the story telling is magnificent and doesn’t drag. Great read!
  • Unexpected Twists and Turns

    By A Verfied Reviewer
    Like a plot from the hit tv series ‘Air Disasters’ except it was on land and water. It also had more twists and nuances to the plot that made it worthwhile since I thought the blurb gave too much detail into what the plot was.