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Barbarian Days Audiobook

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life

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Publisher's Summary

Pulitzer Prize, Biography, 2016

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 listener in the edgy camaraderie of close male friendships annealed in challenging waves. Finnegan shares stories of life in a whites-only 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 listeners with him on rides of harrowing, unprecedented lucidity.

©2015 William Finnegan (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.7 (50 )
5 star
 (37)
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4.7 (48 )
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4.5 (48 )
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 (31)
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Performance
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  •  
    Edward 03/08/2017
    Edward 03/08/2017 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    2
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "like surfing but staying dry"

    amazing. loved it. I feel like I've finally got barreled! so beautifully written. will be listening again for sure. enjoy

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 28/06/2017 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
    1
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    23
    5
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    0
    Overall
    Performance
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    "Almost great...."

    A fascinating insight into an interesting life and surf culture. But also frustrating, because often the surfing gets monotonous, while the broader life of the author feels just out of reach.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gareth Jones Cardiff, South Glam United Kingdom 23/05/2017
    Gareth Jones Cardiff, South Glam United Kingdom 23/05/2017
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    10
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "excellent"

    Told in the author's own voice it captures the surfers desire for "one more wave". Sports and non-sports fans alike will enjoy.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gary 02/04/2017
    Gary 02/04/2017 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
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    Performance
    Story
    "a surfing story for surfers"

    Finnegan manages to capture the essence of the surfer world with clear, concise description that all those afflicted with the disease will appreciate. to write about surfing without even a hint of cliché is a rare talent. i recommend to all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ellen P 31/01/2017
    Ellen P 31/01/2017
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    2
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    Story
    "Beautifully written"

    I have just finished this book and have so enjoyed it. I found it beautiful written, engaging and compelling. The autobiography was very interesting despite having no knowledge of surfing at all I found the subject fascinating. I have been watching surfing videos on YouTube. I recommend it to everyone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alex 17/01/2017
    Alex 17/01/2017 Member Since 2016
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
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    Story
    "Beautifully written, narration only ok."

    Didn't have to be a surfing fan to enjoy some of the travel anecdotes. An interesting cultural insight that makes you wonder why/how they keep going back into the water!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. R. Ashken 24/11/2016
    S. R. Ashken 24/11/2016 Member Since 2017

    Reading addict

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    3
    2
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Lifetime of surfing"

    Has a bit of The Savage Detectives, a little of Andy Martin's Walking on Water, and when theyre in the south seas, even a little Coleridge.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mr 15/09/2016
    mr 15/09/2016 Member Since 2015
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    6
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wow"

    This book hooks you from the off and if it's surfing excitement entwined with deep insight your after this is for you! Couldn't stop listening and loved every minute. Read by the author in a calm voice. Just amazing

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Smith London, United Kingdom 31/08/2016
    James Smith London, United Kingdom 31/08/2016 Listener Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
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    Story
    "Stunning"

    I'm no surfer but this is a truly stunning book, beautifully written and read by the author.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
Sort by:
  • Laura - Audible
    New York, NY
    01/02/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An Amazing Performance by the Author"
    Any additional comments?

    An important caveat about this book - it’s not just for those who surf. As someone who has never attempted this sport in her life, I thoroughly enjoyed William Finnegan’s lengthy memoir. A detailed, and nicely-paced story, Barbarian Days begins in 1960s’ Hawaii, and from there takes us on an adventure around the word. Finnegan’s memoir is more than just an ode to a past time – it’s a story of balancing an obsession with the inevitable responsibilities of adulthood. He reflects on his past with humor, panache, and of course, a reverence for the sport which profoundly shaped his life.

    41 of 42 people found this review helpful
  • sunstan
    Los Angeles, CA USA
    03/09/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wishing for a never-end of this book"
    If you could sum up Barbarian Days in three words, what would they be?

    perfect reminice, haunting


    What other book might you compare Barbarian Days to and why?

    Most of Russell Chatham's books on fishing. especially Dark Waters


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Loved every last page


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    A time and a place gone forever


    Any additional comments?

    I deeply loved this book. The Hawaii chapter took me back to my Kahala childhood of the 60's. It's all true, exactly as Finnegan wrote. I physically flinched at some of the really awful passages about local brutality to outsiders in those days. The surfing life of the 60's and 70's are perfectly captured in Finnegan's memories. I usually dislike author read audiobooks, but Finnegan's voice added so much to this book, making every sentence and remembrance come alive for me, the listener. This is a beautiful book. I found myself repeating paragraphs and sentences so that I could pull even more out of my first listen. I went on the buy the hard copy to be able to read and reread passages. In all of the surfing articles and books I have ever read, this book describes the ocean, the surfer and that surfing set of mind better than anyone. The reader does not even have to have ever touched the ocean to appreciate Finnegan's lucid descriptions of oceans and the world he traveled and surfed in. Amazing book. So glad he wrote it.<br/>Hauolikaimana

    44 of 46 people found this review helpful
  • Peter
    Randburg, South Africa
    10/02/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Surfing Attitude"

    Was hoping more for something in the line of Boys in the Boat but rather got an egocentric ramble. Surfers may enjoy the jargon and the arrogance but its not for me. The early travels were entertaining but got to a stage where I was almost tempted to quit.

    37 of 39 people found this review helpful
  • Jennifer
    St Louis
    21/02/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Promising but Way too Long"
    What did you like best about Barbarian Days? What did you like least?

    I enjoyed the first half of the book. The way the author described the waves, his young life and his family were all very interesting and well done.


    What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

    The challenge with the story was that it was way too long. The more I listened the more I was amazed by William Finnegan's narcissism. The book goes on and on about his trips to surf through his adult life. It becomes very repetitious and boring. I had to stop listening about 3 hrs before it was over.


    Did Barbarian Days inspire you to do anything?

    no


    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Erika Shaffer
    Seattle, WA
    09/06/16
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An interesting personal story in waves"
    What did you like best about Barbarian Days? What did you like least?

    I really liked how specific William Finnegan was in his memories of riding waves and how he described the water. And how baldly he recounted how awful he was as a boyfriend frankly. I found myself very happy that his first girlfriend did not stay with him and wondered what happened to her. I hoped she had found someone who actually knew how to care for her vs being so self centered. I am not a surfer but I am a lover of being in the water and swimming and it was so interesting to hear about how this sport remained a consistent presence in his life. What i didn't like was his snobbery - anyone other than him and his close friends finding a wave was bad. Reminded me of people who hide meaningful wilderness trails because somehow they are better if they are exclusive. And his constant need to be perceived as cool seemed so below the person he became. It was so elitist and annoying. And made me a little sad for him that he felt like he had to be cool all the time.


    Would you be willing to try another book from William Finnegan? Why or why not?

    This book made me interested in reading his war and other reporting for the New Yorker. And I was curious about the other parts of his life that weren't surfing.


    Any additional comments?

    I am not entirely sure why this received the pulitzer prize. While he is indeed a person who has had many incredible life experiences and has sacrificed much to tell very hard to report stories AND is very courageous, it is in its essence a story about surfing and doesn't show much personal growth since he ends the book without really overcoming what feels to be his real failing, which is judgement of other people and desire to keep things they way they were vs face what is the reality. Possibly it got the pulitzer because his body of work is so incredible. This is why I want to read more.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • L. Sadler
    Bahama, NC
    06/03/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "What a Jerk."
    Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

    No. Finnegan spent 16 1/2 hours rambling about his surfing obsession and his self-absorbed life. In the last hour of the book, he bemoans how surfing is being ruined by the number of people who want to learn to surf and hog his waves. He complains of a private resort that blocks outsiders from the beach in front of the property. How DARE they? Wait. He just complained about people who are not devoted to surfing as he is ruining his favorite surfing spots then he gripes about a private surfing spot that keeps people from overrunning a favorite surfing spot. Well, of course he becomes a regular customer of the resort so he can surf there even though he despises the resort's concept.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    While I enjoy learning about alternative lifestyles and the experiences people had that are far different from mine, the ending made me sorry I wasted 17+ hours of my life listening to this audio book. Finnegan, you can have the surfing experience all to yourself. You made me hate it.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by William Finnegan?

    No


    Do you think Barbarian Days needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    Absolutely not.


    Any additional comments?

    So sorry I fell for the reviews and purchased this book.

    48 of 52 people found this review helpful
  • Kris Cox
    Basalt, CO USA
    28/04/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "How about some serious editing?"

    The detail became monotonous after awhile.,
    especially with the travels with Brian, and the redundant Ocean Beach episodes(to name a couple areas of many).
    I would give this memoir surf story a much higher rating if it was reduced in length
    by about 25%.
    I think Finnegan's editor failed , not Finnegan.

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • Karen W. Lam
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    25/02/17
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "You Have to Love Surfing..."

    ...which apparently, I don't. The book starts off with a bang, great writing but then becomes fairly repetitive unless you really love chasing waves with a self-absorbed chowder head.

    30 of 33 people found this review helpful
  • Kaui
    Bay Area, CA
    17/09/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Read this book. You will enjoy it."
    Any additional comments?

    I thought this book was a masterpiece. I enjoy the genre of "adventure memoirs," of which this is definitely a lead member. Though it is not as thrilling as Lansing's Endurance, or as compelling as Krakauer's Into Thin Air, this book is an intense meditation about surfing and how it shaped William Finnegan's life. Reviews talk about how Finnegan explores themes like family. I did not think so. I think Finnegan explores surfing. In Hawaii. In Southern California. In Portugal. In Australia. In Northern California. In New York. <br/><br/>As he learns to appreciate the breaks, currents and tides of each locale, he invariably meets friends, lovers and forms a relationship to his world. In his case, Finnegan's world is at once very large (he travels around the world for several years) and small (he is driven by surfing. That is IT.) The narrative meanders, but compellingly so. I could FEEL the waves with him. Finnegan's writing is excellent, and he is a well-read fellow, sprinkling many literary references throughout. These, in my opinion, added a depth of deliciousness to an already very enjoyable book.<br/><br/>If you are from Hawaii, you have to read the first chapter; it is hysterical. If you are from Santa Cruz, or surf Ocean Beach, you must read about his SF days - they are... interesting. If you are from New York, you must read about his discovery of awesome surfing on Long Island and the Sound. <br/><br/>That I read this book during the summer months, that I am from Hawaii, live in the Bay Area and have a deep connection to Manhattan only served to expand this book's dimensional delightfulness further for me. Even without these personal connections, this book deserves the attention it is getting. My only thought is I wonder how Finnegan feels about the popularity of this book and how it compares to the popularity and reach of his political publications.<br/><br/>Either way, read this book. It is excellent.

    30 of 33 people found this review helpful
  • LA Reader
    Winston Salem NC
    16/11/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Much more here than surfing"

    There is so much more in this book than just surfing and description of waves. I am not a surfer, but learned there are as many descriptions of waves as Alaska natives have of snow. Beautifully narrated by the author, it is about life as a youth in the 60s, friendship, travel, taking risks, failures, serendipity and the love of family. One of my all time favorites.

    13 of 15 people found this review helpful

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