For New Yorker staff writer William Finnegan, surfing has always been more than a matter of recreation; rather, it is an existential act. In his Pulitzer Prize–winning memoir, Barbarian Days, he describes the ocean as a capricious deity and explores not just its beauty but also its vast indifference, the dangers that exist beneath the surface of its swells. Tracing a line from boyhood—he learned to surf when he was 10 and honed the art as a teenager in Hawaii—to the present, Finnegan writes of his experiences with a journalist’s nuanced eye. At the center of the book, however, is his own growth and development, in which surfing functions less as metaphor or mirror than as a sort of crucible.
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