While it’d be nice to talk about books by surfers or about surfers, we’re not doing that today.
Why? Well, there are a lot more published writers who don’t surf than there are ones that do. Plus, we’ve already done that. So, here is a selection of books that are best read with a surfer’s mindset. Five books that are not about surfing but could totally be about surfing, and are great reads nonetheless.
The Swordfish and the Star: Life on Cornwall’s Most Treacherous Stretch of Coast by Gavin Knight
Mick and Parko have done a big, weird pivot from the whole surfing-around-the-world-retirement-gig thing and become fishermen. All big and surly. Heavy gilets and duck jackets and big boots with a permanent cig between their lips. Cable knit sweaters and kissing the wife goodbye before the sun rises to fight squalls and rough seas early in the morning to make a living. Never will happen, no. But if it did, the posthumous (yes, it was a giant squid that attacked the boat in the dead of night, I’m afraid) biography would look a little something like this.
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
It’s no secret that Bill Bryson is a gifted travel writer, and his book about Australia is a killer addition to his stellar canon. It’s filled with wit, irreverent observations, and insanely fun facts. For example, Sir Eugene Goossens, the English bloke who had the idea to build the Sydney Opera House, never saw his final creation. While passing customs in Sydney, border agents discovered he was carrying a large collection of porn and they kicked him out of the country. Talk about missing out on your finest erection. That’s tough. Anyway, if you’re looking for new reasons to appreciate Australia, this is your read. Also good if you enjoy bombarding everyone with useless trivia.
Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer by David Winner
A country that’s historically been shoved into the corner, dominates a global sport out of nowhere. A troubled past, shifting politics, renowned arts, and a unique landscape all contribute to its rise. And now they’re the best. No, not talking about Brazilian surfers here, rather the Netherlands’ path to soccer dominance. Which is what this book is all about. Fascinating similarities are drawn between the two, though, and the only way to see them is by nosing your way through these pages.
A Russian Journal by John Steinbeck
Russia’s a wild place. Their president looks like he could strangle a horse, beer costs $2 USD and it’s always cold, and they have an army of state-sponsored internet gremlins who live to corrupt America’s collective brain. I went to Russia once, when I was 18. All I really remember is I got menaced by a bunch of chain-smoking hard kids with buzz cuts and tracksuits in a game of soccer. Anyway, this number here is all about John Steinbeck’s trips through Cold War USSR in the 1940s—a time when a camera and notepad combo wasn’t too welcome amongst Russian citizens. ‘What is zis camera?’ the Soviets are saying, pointing at Capitalist America’s finest writer. ‘It is not even Moskva. It is not even Zenit. He must die.’ And you thought paying a few extra bucks to that border guard in Mexico was tough.
Among the Thugs by Bill Buford
An American journalist decides he wants to know more about soccer hooliganism, so he joins a Manchester United ultra-support club because, well, why do it any other way? Over the course of eight years, Buford attends football matches and befriends supporters in 1980’s Britain. There are riots, stabbings, and a guy who has a penchant for getting the absolute piss beaten out of him by overzealous cops. It’s a fascinating and honest analysis of group violence. Worth curling up next to the fire with.