It’s not focused on Southeast Asia — Indonesia gets the briefest of mentions — but if you’re a surfer (as so many travellers to this region are), you love a surfer (ditto), or you’re just intrigued by the culture (double ditto), Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life is for you.
William Finnegan’s book is a quiet, meditative autobiography of, well, his surfing life. He covers his childhood in California and Hawaii, where he was introduced to surfing and all the intricacies of its nascent culture, then his emergence into adulthood and his travels around the United States and various waves around the world. While it’s not strictly a history of surfing, it’s an accessible, enjoyable way to get to know something of the surfer ethos through Finnegan’s own journey.
Finnegan gets to the nitty-gritty of what it’s like to be drawn to the ocean with some beautiful language; it’s also intriguing to read about how young professional surfing really is, and what its roots are.
We thought the book could have been someone shorter, and we’re surprised Nihiwatu didn’t get a mention (the Mentawais do), but we couldn’t think of a more appropriate book to read on a surfing holiday.
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