Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Paperback)
  • Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Paperback)
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Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life (Paperback)

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£9.99
Paperback 512 Pages / Published: 10/05/2016
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Winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year 2016

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography 2016

Everything out there was disturbingly interlaced with everything else. Waves were the playing field. They were the goal. They were your deepest desire… At the same time, they were your adversary, your nemesis, even your mortal enemy… a dynamic indifferent world.

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 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. As the Chair of the William Hill Award, Grahame Sharpe commented; “as we follow William Finnegan’s story we see not just the maturing of a boy into a man, but of a rebellious soul coming to terms with society on his own terms.”

Already a recipient of 2016’s Pulitzer Prize for Biography and famously on President Barack Obama’s summer reading list, Barbarian Days is a soaring elegy to not just surfing but the very ideas of freedom, commitment and community.

For a number of us at Waterstones, this is not just the best sports book of 2016 but the finest biography we’ve read overall in a year of fierce competition.

‘Need is a strong word. Nobody needs to surf. But then, if we’re talking about mere survival, nobody needs to play the piano or climb a mountain or read books. Finnegan explains that his relationship with surfing has been about seeking a “broad-beamed understanding of what is what”; in the water he experiences “brief, sharp glimpses of eternity”.’ – The Guardian

‘Incandescent . . . I’d sooner press this book upon on a non-surfer, 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.’ – The Los Angeles Times

‘The compromises and corruption on shore fail to contaminate or alter the joy-drenched, adrenalated play in the ocean. Wave and surfer are ageless. For surfing is a pagan mystery cult after all. And “Barbarian Days” is its “Confessions.”’ – The New York Times

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN: 9781472151414
Number of pages: 512
Weight: 400 g
Dimensions: 195 x 130 x 34 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

'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

'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 

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