WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR BIOGRAPHY 2016 Surfing only looks like a sport. To devotees, it is something else entirely: a beautiful addiction, a mental and physical study, a passionate way of life. William Finnegan first started surfing as a young boy in California and Hawaii. Barbarian Days is his immersive memoir of a life spent travelling the world chasing waves through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa, Peru and beyond. Finnegan describes the edgy yet enduring brotherhood forged among the swell of the surf; and recalling his own apprenticeship to the world's most famous and challenging waves, he considers the intense relationship formed between man, board and water. Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, a social history, an extraordinary exploration of one man's gradual mastering of an exacting and little-understood art. It is a memoir of dangerous obsession and enchantment.
There are too many breathtaking, original things in Barbarian Days to do more than mention here - observations about surfing that have simply never been made before, or certainly never so well. But a particularly remarkable feature of Barbarian Days is the generous yet unsparing portraits of competitive surf friendships that make up a major share of the narrative. New York Times Nothing I've read so accurately describes the feeling of being stoked or the despair of being held under. But also because while it is a book about "A Surfing Life" - as the subtitle states - it's also about a writer's life and, even more generally, a quester's life, more carefully observed and precisely rendered than any I've read in a long time. LA Times Surfing is Topic A here, but it inevitably connects with politics (when Mr. Finnegan taught in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1981, students boycotted his classes to protest apartheid), environmental issues (he sees great surf spots both created and destroyed by human enterprise) and much more. New York Times, Cool Beach Books for Hot Summer Days For pure sensation, pick up New Yorker writer William Finnegan's memories of the beach, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life. Just try and keep the sand out of your book ...and out of your sandwich. Publishers Weekly, Best Summer Books 2015 A surfer's tale of his quest for self-transcendence is a masterpiece that recalls early James Salter Geoff Dyer, the Observer I don't know anything about surfing, but I was gripped by the intensity of his language, never mind the thrilling recklessness of his behaviour in the waves Olivia Laing, Guardian Best Holiday Reads 2015 Luscious Ed Caesar, Guardian A far-ranging, unique and betwitching memoir ... You don't need to have surfed to enjoy this book. Literary Review Panoramic and fascinating ... a revealing and magisterial account of a beautiful addiction Publishers Weekly, Top 10 books of 2015
WILLIAM FINNEGAN is the author of Cold New World, A Complicated War, Dateline Soweto, and Crossing the Line. He has twice been a National Magazine Award finalist and has won numerous journalism awards, including two Overseas Press Club awards since 2009. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, he lives in Manhattan.