Barbarian Days

By William Finnegan,

Book cover of Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Book description

**Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography**

Included in President Obama's 2016 Summer Reading List

"Without a doubt, the finest surf book I've ever read . . . " -The New York Times Magazine

Barbarian Days is William Finnegan's memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks…

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Why read it?

6 authors picked Barbarian Days as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Surfing has been at the center of my life since I was twelve, and no book has ever captured it quite like William Finnegan’s masterpiece. I was gripped by—and related to—his obsession. I felt like I was right there with him, riding that nearly transparent wave off a remote island of Fiji.

And the grappling with how surfing fits into adult life—yes, that too, really hit home.

As a lifelong surfer myself, I couldn’t wait to read William Finnegan’s Pulitzer-prize-winning memoir of his multi-decade pursuit of this lifestyle.

His successful career as an investigative journalist for the New Yorker and other publications further piqued my interest. Maybe he could help me explain to others my similar obsession, having spent over a year abroad during my younger days with a backpack and two surfboards in tow while hunting for perfect surf around the globe.

Well, he certainly delivered the goods. He shatters the “surfer dude” stereotype with this nuanced portrayal of his time studying meteorological and geographic possibilities…

I loved this book because it was a well-written coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in Los Angeles and Hawaii in the 60s and 70s.

William Finnegan falls in love with surfing because his father encouraged him not to give up by going out to catch just a few more waves after a rough day. It takes him all over the world – to Portugal, the South Pacific, Australia, South Africa. He grapples with himself and his shortcomings and the book is introspective and emotional. 

Adventure takes many forms, and for many of us, it pulls like the moon.

I am not a surfer, but I am a sailor and a skydiver. I know how elements can shape your life both subtly and profoundly. We yearn to be fish, to be birds, to be one with elements we have evolved away from. Adventures call: we do the thing we must.

William Finnegan is a writer, an acclaimed journalist, a son, a brother, a lover, a father, a husband, a friend, and a man. But through it all, he is a surfer. His memoir is the…

I’m not alone in calling this one of the greatest climbing books ever written. Even though it’s about surfing. But that’s what makes Finnegan a master of the craft: He captures the essence of the pursuit, well beyond the pursuit itself. He writes as a lifer, as if he were born for this, a devoted participant who was in on discovering some of the greatest surf breaks on earth, at a time when the world seemed different. Except I know, by extrapolating from my love of climbing, that once you’re out there, the rest of the world falls away and…

Another piece of biography, this time by a man who has taken on most of the world’s best waves. A man who has consistently surfed at breaks whose size and nature require complete commitment. Very few of the people that can do this can also write as well as Finnegan (the book won a Pulitzer), and the descriptions he brings back from the wave face ring with a sonorous truth. He captures the moment and the people beautifully, growing up in the 60s in LA and Hawaii, travelling cheap and light looking for waves in the 70s and 80s. If…

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