Barbarian Days : A Surfing Life by William Finnegan


 Before reading "Barbarian Days" (William Finnegan's Pulitzer prize-winning surfing memoir), I thought surfers were a bit of a strange bunch. It didn't help that many of the depictions of surfers that have permeated pop culture over the years (whether in films, on television or in fiction) have tended to portray surfers as lovable clowns -  as either harmless stoners or long-haired zen monks. This is what makes Finnegan's book such a welcome arrival. Simply put, "Barbarian Days" is the best written portrayal of the sport of surfing and its practitioners since Tim Winton's "Breath". Combining an anthropologist's eye for detail, a novelist's insight into human psychology and plenty of exotic locations, all within a thrilling narrative, Finnegan's memoir is more than simply a celebration of its subject. It is a refreshingly clear-eyed, and yet deeply nuanced account of what seems from a distance like such a simple activity. It turns out surfers are a bit of a strange bunch. Reading this book might just leave you wanting a little more strangeness in your life.

- Dan