Barbarian Days – William Finnegan

For someone who thought she was not a fan of memoirs, here we are with yet again another memoir. Barbarian Days is definitely one I would likely not have picked up without recommendation from two very trusted sources (Project Lectito and The Unlikely Bookworm). A memoir about surfing when I know nothing about surfing? Sure. Except it really worked. William Finnegan started surfing as a boy living first in California, then in Hawaii. This memoir tells of his surfing life. Traveling the world, chasing waves, living in an era now gone. This memoir is immersive and unique and unsurprisingly a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for biography.


If you are a surfer, you will likely love this book. If you know nothing of this global sporting obsession, have no fear, you will also likely love this book. The descriptions of the waves, the water, the imminent danger are almost lyrical at times and suck you right in. I cannot describe just how much I loved it. As a reader you will also discover there is much more to Finnegan that just surfing. He has travelled the world searching for elusive waves island hopping in Indo, working illegally in Australia but also worked as a teacher in a black school during apartheid and has walked a dangerous path in pursuit of journalism. Seriously, Finnegan is one fascinating guy.


I particularly loved the chapter of Finnegan growing up in Hawaii. The era was carefree and bohemian, a completely different world than today. Growing up in the 60’s, then travelling in the 70’s and 80’s. Some of the stories are difficult to believe, the time seemed more pure, more freeing and I was enchanted. Teaching during apartheid was another highlight for me. What a unique time in history to have lived during. Of course, I also enjoyed the time spent in Australia with Finnegan perfectly summing up our culture. Barbarian Days is a great, unique read that I would not hesitate to recommend. I give Barbarian Days four surfers, living it up.


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