It was on my favourite reading guide, the FT books of the year list and it also won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography. I read it back in February and loved it, and so for me it seemed high time to foist William Finnegan's memoir 'Barbarian Days' on the rest of What Katy Read. It's a longish read and unsurprisingly in a book club filled with busy working people not everyone managed to find the time to get through it, but of those who did at least one other was captivated as I was – to my great delight.
Reviews and scores over on the main site but if you don't want to leave I can tell you it scored a respectable 75, level pegging with Hilary Mantel's Bring Up The Bodies. For anyone who enjoys good non-fiction writing (and if you're generally a fiction hound this might be the book to convert you) Barbarian Days is a treat in store. Finnegan's main career has been as a journalist specialising in conflict areas. Surfing was something essential to his life, but also something he kept separate, quietly fitting it in around his writing assignments. When he finally opened up on the subject it was for New Yorker, a piece on his friend and fellow surfer Dr Mark Renneker that took him seven years to finish. (It is available to read online courtesy of the New Yorker here, for free.) The positive success of the New Yorker piece led Finnegan on to this memoir of his life as a surfer, his travels around the globe in search of the perfect wave (he found it, off the coast of Fiji) and his relationships with fellow surfers. It is a record of a lifelong journey, both internal and external, in search of moments of infinity and perfection. It's a book about someone who follows their passion even as they question what it is that makes them do it. The reflective, thoughtful, humorous and self-aware qualities Finnegan brings to his recollections is part of the magic of this book, and I for one never ever tired of reading his descriptions of the waves.