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Publisher 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 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.

Biographies & Memoirs
July 21
Penguin Publishing Group

Customer Reviews

Economan1 ,

Great ride, great read

I've body surfed a lot and wished I'd learned to surf. Now I know what it's like. Terrific book.

Skodonnell ,


I really enjoyed this book. I liked the stories of discovering surf spots like Tavarua, Maderia, and OB before they got crowded or transformed. I also believe Bill tried to stay honest in his experiences both in and out of the water and it was refreshing in a world where surf stories can be a bit like fish stories. But here is the part where I felt conflicted by this story. Towards the end, as he is living in New York he airs his frustration of how surf culture has become incorporated into our society but isn't that what he is partaking the by writing this book?

Rodonisle ,

Literary Tuberide

The words, story, places and times all hit me like the personal backwash of my own life. But even youngsters who never sat in the lineup can marvel at the quality of the prose and vivid palette of images that immerse the lucky reader in the life of a world girdling surfer, a surfer that is also a a world class writer.

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