Friday, October 15, 2010

One of My Favs of the Year So Far

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey, is one of my favorite kinds of books and one of the best nonfiction books I've read this year. Although Casey uses Laird Hamilton and the other extreme surfers to frame the story, she talks about a whole lot more than just surfing -- and when I say "just surfing," I'm talking about "just surfing" on HUGE waves.

But she also spends time talking with wave scientists, and with the people at Lloyd's of London who insure most of the global shipping fleet and thus are obviously very interested in waves, and with marine salvage experts, who work to save foundering ships from disaster. One of the most interesting stories she tells is about the large denuded areas in Lituya Bay, in Alaska, which geologists puzzled over for years: "But as the story of its past came into focus and Nature gave some forthright demonstrations of what it was up to, the culprit became clear: giant waves, the largest ever witnessed on earth." Over the years, huge waves drove through the bay, but in 1958, as Casey says, the ocean "went postal," and a 1740-foot wave ripped through the Lituya Bay.

The prose in the book is excellent, well-research and wrapped in personal stories -- her style reminds me of a mash-up of Bill Bryson (Think A Short History of Nearly Everything) and Mary Roach and Jon Krakauer. And the photographs are truly stunning.

Here is a brief clip of the author and Laird Hamilton talking about the book and about the lure of the giant waves. If you let me I'll just go on and on and on about this book, so I'd best stop now. Suffice it to say, I highly recommend it!

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