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

The Wave
The Wave
Susan Casey
Doubleday, 352 pages
September, 2010
Read the first chapter for free >> OR Buy the book from >>

Description (from Publisher’s Weekly):
Casey, O magazine editor-in-chief, travels across the world and into the past to confront the largest waves the oceans have to offer. This dangerous water includes rogue waves south of Africa, storm-born giants near Hawaii, and the biggest wave ever recorded, a 1,740 foot-high wall of wave (taller than one and a third Empire State Buildings) that blasted the Alaska coastline in 1958. Casey follows big-wave surfers in their often suicidal attempts to tackle monsters made of H2O, and also interviews scientists exploring the danger that global warning will bring us more and larger waves. Casey writes compellingly of the threat and beauty of the ocean at its most dangerous. We get vivid historical reconstructions and her firsthand account of being on a jet-ski watching surfers risk their lives. Casey also smoothly translates the science of her subject into engaging prose. This book will fascinate anyone who has even the slightest interest in the oceans that surround us.

I was browsing books on the Kindle when I came across the latest from Susan Casey, who wrote one of my favorite books, The Devil’s Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America’s Great White Sharks about the white sharks near the Farallon Islands, and the scientists who observed them. I love ocean stories, have been reading a lot of memoirs lately, and knew the author’s work, so I tried the sample chapters and was instantly hooked.

What I love about Casey’s work is that she blends science with interviews and personal observation, and The Wave combined all three to perfection. While the chapters didn’t always alternate between scientists and surfers, most of them did, and looking at waves from these two, radically different perspectives really worked. As I was reading, I could almost feel a surfboard beneath my feet (and I don’t even surf!) and taste the salty tang of ocean air.

If you love the ocean, are fascinated by climate change, or are just seeking a glimpse into the life of big-wave surfers, this book is for you.

Goes well with clam chowder and a cup of brisk, black tea.