If you’re not swimming outdoors and you’re not talking about swimming outdoors then the third best pastime is probably reading about swimming outdoors.
But what are the best books?
Please do add your own suggestions at the bottom.
(N.B. All books are linked to Amazon.co.uk, and Amazon.com separately. A small percentage of any sales goes towards paying for this website, at no cost to you, so please do use the links).
Outdoor Swimming Story Books
A beautifully written account of swimming in Britain’s wild places. The author was a notable environmentalist (he was a founding member of Friends of the Earth) and this is apparent throughout the book. Deakin is inspired by a short story called The Swimmer by John Cheever, and this in itself is worth a read (Amazon.com), or you can buy the film (Amazon.com).
The story of Captain Webb, the first person to swim across the Channel. A short but interesting read.
Inspirational, amazing account of the swims which Lynne Cox has undertaken throughout her life. It’s a fascinating insight into what it takes to be a committed, long distance open water swimmer. Probably my favourite book on this section of the list.
A look at the cultural aspects of what swimming means. A bit highbrow!
An account of the 1920s race between four Americans to be first woman to cross the English Channel. It focusses more on the battle between the women and the way the media portrayed the story than about the actual swimming, but it’s still a good read.
This book is about diving, rather than swimming. I’ve only done a bit of diving and perhaps that’s why this book was a bit lost on me, but others have raved about it.
This book is about the author’s daily swims in the Hampstead Ponds, London. It only came out a couple of months ago but I can’t wait to read it, having thoroughly enjoyed Feeding the Rat (Amazon.com; Tim wrote about Feeding the Rat here).
Swimming Technique Books
This section is a bit more subjective, as what works for one person might not work for another. In honesty, I’m not really one for spending hours on my technique: I prefer to just get in the water and go. However, these are a few titles I’ve come across and have been recommended by others.
- The Swimming Drill Book by Ruben Guzman (Amazon.com): If you’re the kind of person who likes reading about technique, and then put it into practice, then this would be a good choice.
- Swim Smooth by Paul Newsome and Adam Young (The Complete Coaching System For Swimmers and Triathletes by Paul Newsome and Adam Youngs, Amazon.com): The Swim Smooth website is very good (and free!), with an animated swimmer to demonstrate what your stroke is supposed to look like. Several people have recommended the book to me and based on the website I would probably buy it before any other book on swimming technique I’ve come across.
- Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin and John Delves (The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better, Faster and Easier, Amazon.com: This is another book that’s been recommended to me.
Wild Swimming Guide Books
Dan Start has a whole series of beautifully illustrated, practical guides suggesting places to swim outdoors in Britain and France:
- Wild Swimming: 300 hidden dips in the rivers, lakes and waterfalls of Britain: We keep this in the car, and I think it’s the original and best of the series.
- Wild Swimming Coast: The clue is in the title.
- Wild Swimming France: Wild swimming, in, well, France.
- Wild Guide: Devon, Cornwall and South West: This was co-written with Tania Pascoe and Joanna Keeling. It’s not just about swimming but if it’s like Start’s other books then it will be a winner.
This one is less practical than the Daniel Start books, but it has lovely photos and is a great coffee table book (unless, like me, you ruin the cover by leaving it in a bag with a wet swimming costume). It’s written by the lady who founded the Outdoor Swimming Society, and her journalist background means the prose is beautiful. The OSS also publishes an interactive Wild Swim Map, which is another great resource for finding outdoor swim spots.
by Rob Fryer (USA)
Rob Fryer is a bit of a legend in wild swimming circles. He campaigns on behalf of wild swimmers and founded the River & Lake Swimming Association. He is also the chair of the Farleigh & District Swimming Club, which claims to be the only river swimming club in the world. His website is http://www.wild-swimming.com/)
Recommended by @GoneSwimmingDan
[UPDATE: We got a lot of responses from readers suggesting good wild swimming books so have included them below. More recommendations welcome.]
Recommended by @GoneSwimmingDan…
by Chris Ayriss (Amazon.com)
This is an account of the history and culture of swimming in Britain. I haven’t read it myself, but there is a review here.
by Susie Parr (Amazon.com)
This illustrated book about the social history of swimming was given a great review here. I’m looking forward to getting hold of a copy.
Recommended by @NYCswim…
by Lynn Sherr (Amazon.com)
Another book about the social and cultural aspects of swimming, exploring our relationship with the water. Not one I’ve yet had chance to read but it could be worth a look.
by Leanne Shapton (Amazon.com)
A series of essays about swimming from a competitive swimmer-turned-artist.
by Lynne Cox (Amazon.com)
An unusual story about an encounter that Lynne Cox had with a baby grey whale when swimming off the California coast
by Conrad Wennerberg (Amazon.com)
This is a classic book about marathon swimming, written in the 1970s. The only copies I could find were very expensive – perhaps pressure is needed on the publishers to reprint it!
by Sheila Taormina (Amazon.com)
This book focusses on the development of good technique, with the aim of making you swim faster. It’s all about a high-elbow underwater pull, apparently. The same author has also published this book (USA) of swim workouts.
by Caitlin Davies and Ruth Corney (Amazon.com)
I’ve seen this for sale in Daunt Books, Hampstead. It’s that kind of book: a beautiful, glossy coffee table volume.
by Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce
Brand new book about swimming in Devon. More information is available on their website.
by Steve Munatones (Amazon.com)
Steve Munatones is a bit of a legend in open water swimming: he founded the Open Water Source and came up with the concept of the Oceans Seven – the swimming version of the Seven Summits. I suspect his book is well worth a look.
by Peter Hayes
Wonderful, eccentric book about ‘swim hiking’ – walking over hills and swimming across lakes. He talks about the swimming version of the Bob Graham Round.
by Ian Donald (Amazon.com)
This is a bit random but I love that someone has written it!
From Sian Melangell Dafydd…
by Sian Melangell Dafydd
A novel: George Owens swims the river Dee from source to sea. Currently only in Welsh but English translation may come soon.
From John Fenemore…
by Bastien Vives (Amazon.com)
A graphic novel about pool swimming.
Me, the Sex Maniac
by Nikolett Szepesi (does not appear to be available on Amazon)
And finally, for those that want something really niche: Described as a raw and very controversial autobiography by a backstroker in the Hungarian national squad – “wild swimming” certainly but more pool (and poolside) than open water.
As yet only available in Hungarian.
There must be many more. Add your suggestions and comments below…