Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

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

*Included in President Obama’s 2016 Summer Reading List*

A deeply rendered self-portrait of a lifelong surfer by the acclaimed New Yorker writer

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 entirely: 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 annealed in challenging waves.

Finnegan shares stories of life in a whitesonly gang in a tough school in Honolulu even while his closest friend was a Hawaiian surfer. 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. He and a buddy, their knapsacks crammed with reef charts, bushwhack through Polynesia. They discover, while camping on an uninhabited island in Fiji, one of the world’s greatest waves. As Finnegan’s travels take him ever farther afield, he becomes an improbable anthropologist: unpicking the picturesque simplicity of a Samoan fishing village, dissecting the sexual politics of Tongan interactions with Americans and Japanese, navigating 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. Today, Finnegan’s surfing life is undiminished. Frantically juggling work and family, he chases his enchantment through Long Island ice storms and obscure corners of Madagascar.

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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.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Jul 21, 2015
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Pages
384
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ISBN
9780698163744
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Personal Memoirs
Sports & Recreation / Surfing
Travel / Special Interest / Adventure
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Barbarian Days, this narrative nonfiction classic documents the rising inequality and cultural alienation that presaged the crises of today.
 
“A status report on the American Dream [that] gets its power [from] the unpredictable, rich specifics of people’s lives.”—Time
 
“[William] Finnegan’s real achievement is to attach identities to the steady stream of faceless statistics that tell us America’s social problems are more serious than we want to believe.”—The Washington Post
 
A fifteen-year-old drug dealer in blighted New Haven, Connecticut; a sleepy Texas town transformed by crack; Mexican American teenagers in Washington State, unable to relate to their immigrant parents and trying to find an identity in gangs; jobless young white supremacists in a downwardly mobile L.A. suburb. William Finnegan spent years embedded with families in four communities across the country to become an intimate observer of the lives he reveals in Cold New World. What emerges from these beautifully rendered portraits is a prescient and compassionate book that never loses sight of its subjects’ humanity.
 
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK • A LOS ANGELES TIMES BEST NONFICTION SELECTION

Praise for Cold New World
 
“Unlike most journalists who drop in for a quick interview and fly back out again, Finnegan spent many weeks with families in each community over a period of several years, enough time to distinguish between the kind of short-term problems that can beset anyone and the longer-term systemic poverty and social disintegration that can pound an entire generation into a groove of despair.”—Los Angeles Times Book Review
 
“The most remarkable of William Finnegan’s many literary gifts is his compassion. Not the fact of it, which we have a right to expect from any personal reporting about the oppressed, but its coolness, its clarity, its ductile strength. . . . Finnegan writes like a dream. His prose is unfailingly lucid, graceful, and specific, his characterization effortless, and the pull of his narrative pure seduction.”—The Village Voice

“Four astonishingly intimate and evocative portraits. . . . All of these stories are vividly, honestly and compassionately told. . . . While Cold New World may make us look in new ways at our young people, perhaps its real goal is to make us look at ourselves.”—The Philadelphia Inquirer
Laird Hamilton has been hailed as the world's greatest big-wave surfer. His first book, Force of Nature, allows readers a rare glimpse inside the unique philosophy that has created his circumstances, and not the other way around. After all, this is a man whose biological father abandoned him shortly after he was born; whose first job was working on a pig far; who dropped out of school in eleventh grade. And then the career decision: surfer. Though earning enough to pay the rent as any kind of surfer is next to impossible, Hamilton has ended up in the place we all desire to be: doing exactly what he loves, becoming the world's best in the process, making a great living, being surrounded by nature and family, radiating peak health and fitness, and succeeding by any definition of the word.

How did he get there? And more importantly, how can the rest of us join him?

Force of Nature is a detailed map to that destination, with Laird Hamilton as the reader's guide. It's not about chasing trophies or accolades or cash. It's about quality over quantity, soul and being true to your physical, mental, and spiritual roots. Not only is it possible to thrive in the modern world without adopting its harmful habits, it's essential. And not only has Hamilton mastered this balance, he makes a compelling and articulate case that anyone who wants to can do the same.

This book is a deeply authoritative and cutting-edge guide to peak fitness in mind, body, sould, and surfing. It comes directly from the source and his inner circle, which includes those at the vanguard of sports, training, nutrition, and more. Former pro volleyball player Gabrielle Reece; surf legend Dave Kalama; fitness gurus Paul Chek, T.R. Goodman, and Don Wildman; and Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis all contribute their knowledge. Readers will get an all-access pass into an elite world filled with definitive and provocative ideas.
I want to go Home! I want to go back to India! I am miserable. The steamship Nawab at this time of the year ought to have been empty, instead of which we have one hundred first-class passengers and sixty-six second. All the pretty girls are in the latter class.-from No. VIThough he achieved lasting fame with his children's tale The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling left us with a vast array of writing that has fallen into sad-and unwarranted-obscurity. This collection of notes and essays on his world travels reveals a man bursting with self-deprecating wit, keen observational powers, and an intelligent awareness of his own cultural biases and prejudices.First published in 1899, this volume serves as a delightful reminder of Kipling's genius, and includes: . an account of attending the theater in Japan and visiting Shinto shrines. an exploration of India's "city of elephants" and a meeting with "the naughty children of Iquique." notes on a journey to San Francisco and the taking of tea with the "natives" there. an explanation of how to "manufacture ethnological theories at railroad speed." and much more.OF INTEREST TO: Kipling fans, readers of classic English literature, armchair travelersAlso available from Cosimo Classics: Kipling's short-story collection The Courting of Dinah ShaddBritish author and poet RUDYARD KIPLING (1865-1936) was born in colonial India, a locale that inspired his best-known works, The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and Gunga Din (1892). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.
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