10 Books About Wild Swimming

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. The poetic imagery and descriptions made me feel that I too could swim in cold, cold water.

Victoria Whitworth 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

Buy Swimming With Seals from Book Depository here with free worldwide shipping.

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 in that time. 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.

An exhilarating read, this book both shows the reader many wonderful swimming places in Berlin, illustrates the author’s passion for swimming as well as being something of a coming of age memoir.

Published in 2017 by Virago Press in the UK

Buy Turning from Book Depository here, with free worldwide shipping.

Find Turning on Australian Amazon here.

The Lido, by Libby Page

This is a warm and entertaining novel by keen swimmer Libby Page. Set in London, it 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 Best Seller and a paean to passions and odd fellow friendships.

Published in 2018 by Orion Publishing

Buy The Lido from Book Depository here, with free worldwide shipping.

Find The Lido on Amazon Australia here.


Leap In, By Alexandra Heminsley

After learning to run and writing a successful book about it, Heminsley sets her sights on sea swimming. This books stands as 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 from Book Depository here, with free worldwide shipping.

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 joy of immersion in water and to the creative work it has inspired.

Published by Chronicle Books in 2016

Buy The Joy of Swimming from Book Depository here with free worldwide shipping.

Buy The Joy of Swimming on Amazon Australia here.


Swimming to 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 those of her swims are gripping, culminating in her 24 minute Antarctic Swim.

Published in 2004 by Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Buy Swimming to Antarctica here.

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

You can find The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming at Book Depository here.



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 

Buy I Found My Tribe at Book Depository with free worldwide shipping.



The Outrun, by Amy Liptrot

This is a memoir of alcoholism and recovery, Amy Liptrot left rehab in England and returned to recover in Orkney, where she was brought up. She joined a swimming group and found in the chilled waters of the North Sea as well as around the hills and islands of the Orkneys what she needed to truly recover.

Published in 2016 by Canongate

Find The Outrun at The Book Depository here.


Swell, A Waterbiography by Jenny Landreth

Here is a literary account of the history and struggles of women who swim.  Before the 1930s, very few women swam at all, until 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 year 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

Buy Swell from Book Depository, click here.



Waterlog, by Roger Deakin

An original in the watery journey genre, Waterlog is an account of the author’s 1996 attempt to swim his way through the British Isles. With the helpful eyes and ears of his naturist and documentary maker, his passion for rivers, sea, ponds, pools and lochs is brought to life. In many ways, Roger Deakin founded the wild swimming movement himself. He died in 2006, aged only 63.

Published in 1999 by Chatto and Windus

Find Waterlog on Book Depository here.



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 incredibly long, teeth-chattering-cold, extreme swims. In this book their exploits and adventures are detailed with a great deal of encouragement and expertise, encouraging readers to enjoy the thrill of wild swimming in the great outdoors at any level.

Published in 2018 by Hodder and Stoughton

You can buy Swim Wild from Book Depository here with free worldwide shipping.


Can you let me know about other swimming books to add to our reading lists?


5 Great Australian Swimming Books

Click here or on the image to read about my current top 5 books about swimming in Australia. There are some crackers here!


3 thoughts on “10 Books About Wild Swimming”

  1. Hi Seana,

    So interesting that so many people turn to swimming after trauma or during times of stress.

    I’ve gone from a nonswimmer who hated putting my face in the water to a pretty confident swimmer after 14 months of just swimming three times a week. I actually enjoy it now although I still can’t work out why I’m so slow compared to many.

    There are so many amazing swimmers in Australia but it’s fun to be able to join them and get out there in the ocean. I’m definitely not swimming anywhere cold though!

    • Haha Annabel, we’ll have you in the North Sea yet. But first, I really must get up to Noosa for a dip with you. I’m pretty slow too… but steady.


Leave a comment