Here follows a list of books about swimming. If you are looking for inspiration, you’ll find plenty here. These are mainly memoirs of swimming to survive trauma, but there’s also more bucolic descriptive books plus a warm and entertaining novel. This is my bedside table book list, I’m reading through them all in between my own dips.
Swimming with Seals, by Victoria Whitworth
This is the book which blew my socks off with its poetic imagery and descriptions, and made me feel that I too could swim in cold, cold water.
Victoria hitworth details a year of daily swimming in the Orkneys, the islands north of Scotland. The writer is a novelist and historian, living through the breakup of her marriage. Her writing is vivid, her swims are intense, challenging. She leavens this with so many fascinating stories of life in Orkney, its history and people, and her own life changes.
Published in the UK by Head of Zeus in 2017
In Australia, find Swimming With Seals on Amazon here.
Turning, A Swimming Memoir, By Jessica J. Lee
Turning is a memoir of a year spent in Berlin, with a personal challenge to swim in 52 of Berlin’s lakes, throughout the year. Canadian author Jessica J. Lee is in Berlin to write a thesis, she finds herself exploring her complex family background,with its Welsh and Taiwanese roots, and the challenges of emigration and belonging.
A literary and exhilerating read, this book both shows the reader around many wonderful swimming places in Berlin, and illustrates the author’s passion for water and swimming as well as being something of a coming of age memoir.
Published in 2017 by Virago Press in the UK
Find Turning on Australian Amazon here.
The Lido, by Libby Page
This is a warm and entertaining novel by keen swimmer Libby Page. It’s set in London and brings together two swimmers, one 86, one 26 who unite to save their local lido. An immediate hit with critics, it’s a Sunday Times bestseller and a paean to passions and odd fellow friendships.
Published in 2018 by Orion Publishing
Find The Lido on Amazon Australia here.
Leap In, By Alexandra Heminsley
After learning to run, and writing a succesful book about that, the author sets her sights on sea swimming. This books stands are a cheery account of the trials and tribulations of going from landlubber to proficient swimmer. There’s a twist though, Alexandra commences IVF treatment, which fails and fails again. A winter of sea swimming helps ease the pain and trauma.
Published in 2017 by Thorpe, Ulverscoft and others
Buy Leap In on Amazon Australia here.
The Joy of Swimming by Lisa Congdon
Artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon brings together her passion for images and swimming in this delightful book. Whimsical at times, very beautiful and often uplifting, it’s a homage to the joys of immersion in water and to the creative work it has inspired.
Published by Chronicle Books in 2016
Swimming in Antarctica:Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer, by Lynne Cox
Lynne Cox has swum the most gruelling and demanding long distance swims in the world. The Channel crossings came early, then the Bering Strait, Straits of magellan, Cape of Good Hope and Cook Strait in New Zealand. Her life story and the stories of swims are gripping, culminating in her 24 minute Antarctic Swim.
Published in 2004 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming, by Tessa Wardley
Swimmers know the deeply calming effects of immersion in water. Here Tessa Wardley explores and explains why wild swimming can leads to such great awareness and calm. Tessa is an environmental consultant and has written previous books on rivers and woodlands.
Published in 2017 by The Ivy Press
I Found My Tribe, by Ruth Fitzmaurice
Firmly placed in the genre of swimming against adversity, this book tells how swimming off the coast of Ireland helped Ruth Fitzmaurice deal with the illness of her husband, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. Together with fellow “Tragic Wives,” she swims all year, using the waves and the cold to combat her trauma.
Published in 2017 by Chatto and Windus
The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot
This is a memoir of alcoholism and recover, Amy Liptrot left rehab in England and returned to Orkney where she was brought up to recover. She joined a swimming group and found in the chill waters of the North Sea as well as around the hills and island sof the Orkneys what she needed to fully recover.
Published in 2016 by Canongate
Swell, A Waterbiography by Jenny Landreth
Here is a literary account of the history and struggles of women who swim. Until the 1930s, very few women swam at all, however the ‘swimming suffragettes’ took to the water and forged a splash into pools and onto beaches. This book explores the author’s own love affair with water and swimming, along with the almost 100 history of woman’s freedom to swim.
Jenny is also the author of Swimming London, a guide to the city’s best 50 swimming spots.
Published in 2017 by Bloomsbury Sport
Waterlog, by Roger Deakin
An original in the watery journey genre, Waterlog is aan account of the author’s attempt in 2006 to swim his way up and down the brisih Isles. Rivers, sea, ponds, pools and lochs were his passion, and he brought his naturalist’s eye and his documentary maker’s eyes and ears to his project. In many ways, Roger Deakin founded the wild swimming movement. He died in 2006 aged only 63.
Published in 1999 by Chatto and Windus
Swim Wild, By Jack Hudson with Calum and Robbie Hudson
Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson are known as the wild swimming brothers. They’ve swum all their lives and have completed some amazingly long, and some chitteringly cold, extreme swims. In this book thir explotis and adventures are detailed, with a great deal of encouragement and expertise thrown in to encourage readers to enjoy the thrill of wild swimming in the great outdoors, at any level.
Published in 2018 by Hodder and Stoughton
Can you let me know about other swimming books to add to our reading lists?
PS In Australia you can find most of these titles at Booktopia, just search here.
(That’s an affiliate link, meaning if you buy a book using the link then I receive a miniscule percentage which helps keep this swimming blog afloat.)