Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

by William Finnegan

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Overview

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

“Reading this guy on the subject of waves and water is like reading Hemingway on bullfighting; William Burroughs on controlled substances; Updike on adultery. . . . a coming-of-age story, seen through the gloss resin coat of a surfboard.”—Sports Illustrated

Included in President Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List 

 
Barbarian Days is William Finnegan’s memoir of an obsession, a complex enchantment. Surfing only looks like a sport. To initiates, it is something else: a beautiful addiction, a demanding course of study, a morally dangerous pastime, a way of life. 
 
Raised in California and Hawaii, Finnegan started surfing as a child. He has chased waves all over the world, wandering for years through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa. A bookish boy, and then an excessively adventurous young man, he went on to become a distinguished writer and war reporter. Barbarian Days takes us deep into unfamiliar worlds, some of them right under our noses—off the coasts of New York and San Francisco. It immerses the reader in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships forged in challenging waves.
 
Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites-only gang in a tough school in Honolulu. He shows us a world turned upside down for kids and adults alike by the social upheavals of the 1960s. He details the intricacies of famous waves and his own apprenticeships to them. Youthful folly—he drops LSD while riding huge Honolua Bay, on Maui—is served up with rueful humor. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he discovers the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissects the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, and navigates the Indonesian black market while nearly succumbing to malaria. Throughout, he surfs, carrying readers with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.
 
Barbarian Days is an old-school adventure story, an intellectual autobiography, a social history, a literary road movie, and an extraordinary exploration of the gradual mastering of an exacting, little-understood art.
 
Praise for Barbarian Days:
 
“Without a doubt, the finest surf book I’ve ever read . . . But on a more fundamental level, Barbarian Days offers a clear-eyed vision of American boyhood. Like Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, it is a sympathetic examination of what happens when literary ideas of freedom and purity take hold of a young mind and fling his body out into the far reaches of the world.”—The New York Times Magazine
 
“Incandescent . . . I’d sooner press this book upon on a nonsurfer, in part because nothing I’ve read so accurately describes the feeling of being stoked or the despair of being held under. . . . [But] 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.”—Los Angeles Times

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143109396
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/26/2016
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 31,960
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

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. Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Autobiography. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, he lives in Manhattan.

Read an Excerpt

From Barbarian Days by William Finnegan. Reprinted by arrangement with Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © William Finnegan, 2015.
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Excerpted from "Barbarian Days"
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Copyright © 2015 William Finnegan.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1 Off Diamond Head: Honolulu, 1966-67 1

2 Smell the Ocean: California, ca. 1956-65 59

3 The Shock of the New: California, 1968 85

4 'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky: Maui, 1971 105

5 The Search: The South Pacific, 1978 147

6 The Lucky Country: Australia, 1978-79 209

7 Choosing Ethiopia: Asia, Africa, 1979-81 237

8 Against Dereliction: San Francisco, 1983-86 277

9 Basso Profundo: Madeira, 1994-2003 351

10 The Mountains Fall into the Heart of the Sea: New York City, 2002-15 409

Customer Reviews

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Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a must read for surfers and those who want insight into the mind of a surfer. More so, this is a great book about life in general. We see the intimacies of the author's life poured out across the pages. Sometimes seeing what makes other's "tick" teaches us a lot about ourselves, for better or worse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As a surfer, I totally enjoyed this book. The author has surfed many great breaks and eloquently describes them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the travel through life - living the adventure and the emotional growth. Beautifully retrospective while embracing life lived well.
Drewano More than 1 year ago
This book started off great and really takes the reader through a bit of surfing history, the author’s life and his thought process on surfing and life in general. For about 80% of the book I found it engaging, interesting and really enjoyed being along for that wave. By the time his travels brought him east though I found the story less interesting and more mundane, focusing on his aging and physical abilities rather than his travels. Overall it’s a great read if you like to surf or love to travel. It’s eye opening and illuminating to see the world through the author’s point of view.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An engaging and well written story of a guy's attempt to balance his life ambition (dicovering cultural and societal intricacies in the US and around the world and writing about it) with the passion and adventure of a surfer's quest to find the perfect wave and explain the magic that drives a surfer's life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you are a soul surfer you can really identify w this book. Finnegan weaves a travelog and lifestyle well. Not a typical surf book at all. I wish it was longer.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A fabulous book in every way. Brilliantly and sensitively written. A must read for both surfers and non- surfers. The best memoir I've read in decades.