I can’t remember the last time I felt sad to be finishing a non-fiction book. Usually I feel an enormous sense of accomplishment and a bit of relief that I perserved and made it through. Not this time. The Wave is so well written and so riveting, I actually had to restrain myself from devouring the whole thing in one sitting, like I used to do when each new Harry Potter book was released. I had to set rules for myself in order to slow down and not read the whole thing so furiously that I was almost not enjoying myself. I had expected to like The Wave but it far surpassed my expectations. I had no idea waves were so fascinating! The book gave me a glimpse into the world of big-wave surfing (we’re talking 40ft and up) and takes you into the minds of those whose passion in life is riding the biggest waves. People who will drop everything at a moment’s notice to fly to Tahiti, Hawaii, Mexico….wherever the next big wave was predicted. Casey goes along with them for several of these journeys, getting up before dawn, forgoing sleep, staying in grimy hotel rooms. Surfing is a fascinating subject matter to be sure, but what puts The Wave above the rest is how Casey weaves seamlessly between the physics of waves, to the business of shipping, to historical descriptions of big wave events, to the impact of climate change on the ocean. While I’d say about half the book is about surfing, the title is ‘the wave’ after all (her overall goal is to seek out the elusive 100-foot wave), and by inter-mingling the truly exciting surfing stories with the slightly drier physics and theories of waves, Casey gives the book has a really nice pace. Casey’s descriptions of the water and the waves are at times quite poetic and I really enjoyed her overall writing style. The only thing that I found mildly annoying in the book (and this is pretty petty) is that Casey always refers to her characters by their last name. This lends a degree of formality – a more arm’s length journalistic style – which I found inappropriate given we’re talking about surfers here and these are people she would consider to be her friends. Obviously not a big deal but it still nagged at me as I read. One more thing – if you are tempted to buy this book on an e-reader I would encourage you to get your hands on a physical copy instead. I constantly referred to the stunning full-colour photos in the middle of the book, as I tried to wrap my head around the immensity of a 100-foot wave. By far my favourite book of the year so far!
The Wave, by Susan Casey