Sports Book Of The Year By Graham Sharpe

Barbarian Days – “technicolour” surfer’s story wins 28th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award

“Compelling, elegiac and profound” memoir becomes surfing’s first Bookie Prize winner

Barbarian Days, the acclaimed memoir of New Yorker journalist William Finnegan’s surfing life has today (Thursday 24th November) been named the winner of the 28th William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award, the richest and most prestigious sports writing prize in the world. The book, only surfing’s second appearance on a Bookie Prize shortlist and the first since 1991, has already won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography this year, and was on President Obama’s summer reading list.

Winner of the WHSBOTY 2016

 

 
Described by the judges as “compelling, elegiac and profound”, Barbarian Days tells of how young Bill Finnegan caught the surfing bug in 1960s California and Hawaii, before travelling the world looking for beaches that offered undiscovered waves to master. It is also the story of an outsider realising his place in the world, of the ties of friendship and family that bind even the most wayward spirit to a notion of home, and of how while globalisation may have taken surfing mainstream, the code and language of the surfer remain a near impenetrable mystery to the uninitiated.

Broadcaster and journalist Mark Lawson, joining the judging panel for the first time this year, said:
“Although the author himself acknowledges the scepticism of some about whether surfing is a sport, the judges felt that Finnegan's account of the physical and psychological drive to achieve athletic perfection make Barbarian Days a worthy winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award. The autobiographical detail and precision of the writing also make it rewarding to those who might think they would struggle to get on board with surfing as a subject.”

Finnegan was announced as the winner of the 2016 Award by judge and broadcaster John Inverdale at an afternoon ceremony at BAFTA in central London. An award-winning journalist who has travelled extensively for both work and the pursuit of his sport, Finnegan has been a staff writer at the New Yorker magazine for nearly 30 years. Now in his 60s, Finnegan is still active in the sport and has no plans to stop surfing.

William Hill spokesman and co-founder and Chair of the Award, Graham Sharpe, said:
“Compelling, elegiac and profound throughout, Barbarian Days offers a revelatory and often dramatic study of the elegant art of surfing. As we follow William Finnegan’s story we see not just the maturing of a boy into a man, but of a rebellious soul coming to terms with society on his own terms. We also see, as we so often do, how sport reflects politics, economics and an ever-shrinking world, as surfers fight to protect their hidden beaches and continue their search for new waves to master. It’s a widescreen, technicolour winner: with a Pulitzer Prize and now the Bookie Prize to its name, surely Hollywood cannot be far behind.”

As well as a £28,000 cheque, Finnegan was awarded a William Hill bet worth £2,500 and an exclusive day at the races. He now joins an illustrious list of past winners including Nick Hornby, Duncan Hamilton, Donald McRae, Anna Krien and David Goldblatt.

In taking the prize, Finnegan triumphed in a shortlist referred to by Sharpe as “a ‘Magnificent Seven’ of sporting books”. His competition included fellow American Diana Nyad for her memoir of a record-breaking long-distance swimming career, Find a Way, Rick Broadbent’s biography of Czech Olympic legend Emil Zátopek, Endurance, and Australian broadcaster Tim Lane and editor and author Elliot Cartledge’s investigation into the life and death of controversial cricketer and commentator Peter Roebuck, Chasing Shadows. Football was the subject of two entries, Oliver Kay’s biography of “football’s lost genius” Adrian Doherty, Forever Young, and Rory Smith’s study of how English football managers helped export the game around the world, Mister. Rounding off the shortlist was Christopher McGrath’s history of horse racing through the lives of 25 horses and those that owned them, Mr Darley’s Arabian.

The judging panel for this year’s Award consisted of: journalist and broadcaster Mark Lawson; retired professional footballer and former chairman of the Professional Footballer’s Association, Clarke Carlisle; broadcaster and writer John Inverdale; broadcaster Danny Kelly; award-winning journalist Hugh McIlvanney; and The Times columnist and author, Alyson Rudd. Chair of Judges was Graham Sharpe, co-creator of the Award alongside John Gaustad, founder of the Sportspages bookshop, who retired following the 2015 Award and passed away earlier this year.

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan is published by Corsair.

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Enquiries

Jon Howells at Riot Communications on
jon@riotcommunications.com / 020 3174 0118 or 07766 396844

Notes to Editors

  1. This year’s prize was open to any full-length book, providing the subject was predominantly sporting, published for the first time in the UK between 16th October 2015 and 14th October 2016.
     
  2. Shortlisted authors will receive £3,000 cash, a leather-bound copy of their book, and a free £1,000 bet. Longlisted authors receive a free £500 bet and a certificate.
     
  3. About the winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2016:
    Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Corsair)
     
    William Finnegan first started surfing as a young boy in California and Hawaii. Barbarian Days is a memoir of a life spent travelling the world chasing waves through the South Pacific, Australia, Asia, Africa and beyond. Finnegan describes the edgy yet enduring brotherhood forged among the swell of the surf; and recalling his own apprenticeship to the world's most famous and challenging waves, he considers the intense relationship formed between man, board and water.

    William Finnegan is the author of Cold New World, A Complicated War, Dateline Soweto, and Crossing the Line. He has twice been a National Magazine Award finalist and has won numerous journalism awards, including two Overseas Press Club awards since 2009. A staff writer at The New Yorker since 1987, he lives in Manhattan.

  4. The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2016 SHORTLIST:
    - Endurance: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Emil Zátopek by Rick Broadbent (Wisden)
    - Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Corsair)
    - Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football’s Lost Genius by Oliver Kay (Quercus)
    - Chasing Shadows: The Life and Death of Peter Roebuck by Tim Lane and Elliot Cartledge (Hardie Grant Books)
    - Mr Darley’s Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life – A History of Racing in 25 Horses by Christopher McGrath (John Murray)
    - Find a Way: One Untamed and Courageous Life by Diana Nyad (Macmillan)
    - Mister: The Men Who Taught the World How to Beat England at Their Own Game by Rory Smith (Simeon & Schuster)
  5. The William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2016 LONGLIST:
    - Today We Die a Little: The Rise & Fall of Emil Zátopek, Olympic Legend by Richard Askwith (Yellow Jersey Press)
    - No Nonsense: The Autobiography by Joey Barton, with Michael Calvin (Simon & Schuster)
    - Endurance: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Emil Zátopek by Rick Broadbent (Wisden)
    - Football’s Coming Out: Life as a Gay Fan and Player by Neil Beasley with Seth Burkett (Floodlit Dreams)
    - ‘How’s Your Dad?’: Embracing Failure in the Shadow of Success by Mick Channon Jr (Racing Post Books)
    - Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life by William Finnegan (Corsair)
    - For the Glory: The Life of Eric Liddell by Duncan Hamilton (Doubleday)
    - Watching the Wheels: My Autobiography by Damon Hill, with Maurice Hamilton (Macmillan)
    - Forever Young: The Story of Adrian Doherty, Football’s Lost Genius by Oliver Kay (Quercus)
    - Eat Sweat Play: How Sport Can Change Our Lives by Anna Kessel (Macmillan)
    - Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight (Simon & Schuster)
    - Chasing Shadows: The Life & Death of Peter Roebuck by Tim Lane and Elliot Cartledge (Hardie Grant Books)
    - The Belt Boy by Kevin Lueshing and Mike Dunn (Austin Macauley Publishers)
    - Mr Darley’s Arabian: High Life, Low Life, Sporting Life – A History of Racing in 25 Horses by Christopher McGrath (John Murray)
    - Find a Way: One Untamed and Courageous Life by Diana Nyad (Macmillan)
    - Mister: The Men Who Taught the World How to Beat England at Their Own Game by Rory Smith (Simon & Schuster)
    - We Had Some Laughs: My Dad, The Darts and Me by Dan Waddell (Bantam Press)
  6. PREVIOUS WINNERS of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award:
    2015 – The Game of Our Lives by David Goldblatt
    2014 – Night Games: Sex, Power and a Journey into the Dark Heart of Sport by Anna Krien
    2013 – Doped: The Real Life Story of the 1960s Racehorse Doping Gang by Jamie Reid
    2012 – The Secret Race: Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
    2011 – A Life Too Short: The Tragedy of Robert Enke by Ronald Reng
    2010 – Beware of the Dog: Rugby’s Hardman Reveals All by Brian Moore
    2009 – Harold Larwood: The Authorized Biography of the World’s Fastest Bowler by Duncan Hamilton
    2008 – Coming Back to Me: The Autobiography by Marcus Trescothick
    2007 – Provided You Don't Kiss Me: 20 Years with Brian Clough by Duncan Hamilton
    2006 – Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson by Geoffrey Ward
    2005 – My Father and Other Working-Class Football Heroes by Gary Imlach
    2004 – Basil D'Oliveira: Cricket and Controversy by Peter Oborne
    2003 – Broken Dreams: Vanity, Greed and the Souring of British Football by Tom Bower
    2002 – In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens by Donald McRae
    2001 – Seabiscuit: The True Story of Three Men and a Racehorse by Laura Hillenbrand
    2000 – It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life by Lance Armstrong
    1999 – A Social History of English Cricket by Derek Birley
    1998 – Angry White Pyjamas: An Oxford Poet Trains with the Tokyo Riot Police by Robert Twigger
    1997 – A Lot of Hard Yakka: Triumph and Torment - A County Cricketer's Life by Simon Hughes
    1996 – Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing by Donald McRae
    1995 – A Good Walk Spoiled: Days and Nights on the PGA Tour by John Feinstein
    1994 – Football Against the Enemy by Simon Kuper
    1993 – Endless Winter: The Inside Story of the Rugby Revolution by Stephen Jones
    1992 – Fever Pitch; A Fan’s Life by Nick Hornby
    1991 – Muhammad Ali: His Life and Times by Thomas Hauser
    1990 – Rough Ride: An Insight into Pro Cycling by Paul Kimmage
    1989 – True Blue: The Oxford Boat Race Mutiny by Daniel Topolski and Patrick Robinson