23 January 2011

Review of Susan Casey, The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean

First of all, thank you to Luann at A Bookworm's World from whom I won this book and also to Doubleday.

I literally just finished reading this book about four minutes ago, and normally I would let it sink in a bit before reviewing, but it is the only finished book I have for review (besides Rebecca, which is for a readalong) and I have time to get something up tonight, so I'm going for it.

The Wave, like most popular nonfiction books, is a combination of things.  Susan Casey is fascinated by rapidly growing waves, but more than that she is fascinated by big wave surfers.  In particular, she follows and documents the exploits of media shy Laird Hamilton (except on his own terms) and his crew of giant wave surfers and documentarians as they cross the globe from Maui to Tahiti to Northern California and back again, to surf Pe'ahi, the grand mother of waves that sits in Hamilton's backyard.  Casey also traces the impact of big waves on other facets of society: shipping, for instance.  Ultimately she explores the impact of a changing climate on our changing oceans, and accesses the stories of the sea through those who know it best, whether they be surfers or researchers,  insurers or salvagers.

Susan Casey is the editor in chief of O magazine and she wrote an article last fall about John of God that really got me interested in her writing.  I already had been eying The Wave,  due to my own fascination with big wave surfing.  After reading her piece in O, I knew I had to read it, and I was lucky enough to win it.

This is certainly a niche topic, and the book gets at environmental politics through the back door.  The most lively chapters in the book are those about the surfers who come to life as vivid characters and offer a glimpse into a world that most of us will never experience.  Surfers are wave addicts and their lives are extraordinary and exciting: in other words, great material for a book.  Research on wave patterns and behavior, or the risk benefit analysis of insuring a ship are less gripping topics and those chapters move more slowly, although Casey does a wonderful job of threading together and pacing her material, throwing in unique and sometimes suspenseful anecdotes throughout each chapter.

Bottom Line:  If you are a nonfiction fan, this might be just the kind of book you like to read.  The prose is smooth and cohesive and the book has plenty of variety to hold a reader's interest without falling into the type of repetition that threatens to plague a book of its kind.

2 comments:

  1. Though I'm not interested in the subject matter, it's good to hear about a non-fiction book with a smooth writing style. I've found lots of times in the past that lots of books that have sounded interested have been quite dry and boring due to the writing style.

    ReplyDelete
  2. @Sam- Yeah. At first I found the style a little clunky, but I definitely got into it after about a chapter or so.

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