Recommended Reading About the Adventures of Surfing

Here are seven titles that pair well with William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days.

recommended surfing books
Alta

William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days is considered one of the best pieces of writing about surfing. Nonetheless, it is not the first book to use surfing as a lens to explore what it means to be a person in a vast world, charting the challenges, joys, and mysteries of the sport. Below are seven titles that pair well with Finnegan’s memoir. Be sure to sign up for Alta Journal’s California Book Club, which will discuss Barbarian Days with Finnegan at its July 15 gathering (at 5:30 p.m.). To join the California Book Club, click here.

1 THE WAVE: IN PURSUIT OF THE ROGUES, FREAKS, AND GIANTS OF THE OCEAN, BY SUSAN CASEY
the wave, susan casey
Anchor Books

Casey traveled the world to narrate the awe-inspiring thrill and terror of surfing some of the world’s most ferocious waves. Keen to include the scientists who dedicate their lives to researching the physics of hundred-foot waves, Casey attempts to unravel what it means to face nature’s beauty and wrath.

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2 CAUGHT INSIDE: A SURFER’S YEAR ON THE CALIFORNIA COAST, BY DANIEL DUANE
caught inside, daniel duane
North Point Press

In this book, Duane chronicles a year spent catching waves in Santa Cruz, mixing in cultural history, nature, and the science of breaks, swells, and currents.

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3 GIRL IN THE CURL: A CENTURY OF WOMEN’S SURFING, BY ANDREA GABBARD
girl in the curl, andrea gabbard
Seal Press

If you’re curious about the lives and work of women surfers, look no further: Gabbard’s Girl in the Curl presents a glowing, illustrated history of several women surfers, including Layne Beachley and world champion Lisa Anderson. Tracing about 100 years of women’s surf history, Gabbard fills the gap of the role of women in (what has been long considered) a male-dominated sport.

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4 SOUL SURFER: A TRUE STORY OF FAITH, FAMILY, AND FIGHTING TO GET BACK ON THE BOARD, BY BETHANY HAMILTON, RICK BUNDSCHUH, AND SHERYL BERK
soul surfer, bethany hamilton
MTV Books

When Hamilton was 13, she survived a shark attack while surfing but lost her left arm. Her memoir, Soul Surfer, recounts the process of her recovery, along with her faith, grit, and determination to get back out on the water.

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5 TAPPING THE SOURCE, BY KEM NUNN
tapping the source
Scribner Book

Considered a great noir classic, Nunn’s novel follows Ike Tucker, who arrives at a beach town in Southern California to find either his missing sister or the men who might have murdered her. Traversing the dark worlds of surfers, drug dealers, and Vietnam veterans, Tucker finds himself on a perilous journey from which he might not return.

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6 COCAINE + SURFING: A SORDID HISTORY OF SURFING'S GREATEST LOVE AFFAIR, BY CHAS SMITH
cocaine and surfing, chas smith
Rare Bird Books

Smith rips away the veil of the little-known history of cocaine use among surfers and within surf culture during the late 20th century. Mapping the turn of drug use from the ’60s to the ’80s, Smith also describes the transformation of surf economies and businesses.

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7 THE HISTORY OF SURFING, BY MATT WARSHAW
the history of surfing, matt warshaw
Chronicle Books

Warshaw, an avid surfer himself, spent five years conducting research to offer an extraordinary written and visual history of surfing, replete with humor and zeal.

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