• The Wager

  • A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder
  • By: David Grann
  • Narrated by: Dion Graham, David Grann
  • Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (4,231 ratings)

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The Wager  By  cover art

The Wager

By: David Grann
Narrated by: Dion Graham, David Grann
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Mic Check with Dion Graham

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Publisher's summary

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Killers of the Flower Moon, a thrilling 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 listener spellbound.

©2023 David Grann (P)2023 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, TIME, NPR, Esquire, BookPage

“The most gripping sea-yarn I’ve read in years….A tour de force of narrative nonfiction. Mr. Grann’s account show how storytelling, whether to judges or readers, can shape individual and national fortunes–as well as our collective memories.”—Wall Street Journal

“Glorious, steely…a tightly written, relentless, blow-by-blow account that is hard to put down”—The Washington Post

“As much a rousing adventure as an exploration of the power of narratives to shape our perception of reality.”—The New York Times

Editorial Review

Another smash hit for David Grann
Nothing grabs my attention quite like a disaster story set at sea. Offer me a cannibalistic saga of shipwreck, sabotage, and buried gold written by bestselling author David Grann of Killers of the Flower Moon and believe me, I’m all ears. Now, add in the fact that powerhouse narrator Dion Graham brings this tempestuous tale to life, and I just have to say: Could I even ask for a more sublime audiobook? The Wager props open a fascinating portal into hidden maritime history, examining everything from 18th century amputation procedures to the oceanic origins of common English expressions including “three sheets to the wind.” It is truly narrative nonfiction at its finest. —Haley H., Audible Editor