ESCAPE: Five Swim Books for your Christmas List
2017 has been a fantastic year for swimming-related literature, from how-to's, to histories of swim suffragettes to lido-lovers' poetry and personal tales of escapism through swimming: there've been lots of fantastic things to read.
Here we share five of our favourites from this year.
Heminsley's Leap In is the funny, self-deprecating and poignant story of Alex who learns to swim outdoors, starting with the pier to pier in Brighton before taking on the challenge of swimming from Kefalonia to Ithaca, in tribute to her Greek hero Odysseus. However Alex is not an inaccessible quasi-athlete swimmer (though her achievements might suggest otherwise) instead she presents herself as the everywoman: someone who fears getting into a cossie (her description of first trying to put on a wetsuit had us cringing and laughing out loud) and someone who doesn't like the feeling of mud between her toes (I mean who does?). Leap In is also a moving account of Alex's trials with IVF: to which outdoor swimming becomes an escape.
This is a brilliant book and a great present for an aspiring swimmer. Leap In also contains a brief history of swimming, a guide to front crawl and an FAQs about all the things a new swimmer might need to know.
A beautiful collection of poetry, short-stories and non-fiction by a selection of poets, artists and editors, who are all wild swimmers and lido lovers. Watermarks is a celebration of swimming in lidos, pools, lakes, rivers and the sea; it shares some of the stories and secrets of its many swimmers, its short pieces immediately transport you to the water and you'll find yourself feeling inspired to nip to your nearest pool. A perfect bedside table book, Watermarks is made for dipping in to (sorry, no pun intended).
We really loved this book. Funny, sarcastic, heartfelt and inspiring - Landreth takes us on a journey through time narrating the efforts and achievements of the "swim suffragettes": the many women who paved the way for us to swim today (often by achieving incredible and bizarre feats such as swimming impressively long distances covered in lard, or whilst dressed head to toe in a full frock, complete with hat and umbrella). The book is punctuated by Landreth's own waterbiography. A fab read - perfect for cosying up on the sofa over the Christmas break. Oh, and it won The Sunday Times Sport Book of the Year 2017. Not bad really.
I Found My Tribe is the knotty story of Ruth Fitzmaurice, a woman who swims in the Irish Sea with the 'Tragic Wives Swimming Club' to provide relief and escape from the challenges that real life presents to her. Ruth was 32 when her husband Simon was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and as a result their once home has become a busy house filled with nurses and carers and their five boisterous young children. We read this book hungrily, drawn in by Ruth's stubbornness and humour. Divided into short, easily digestible chapters this is a perfect bedtime read. (We also read it on the commute but there are some moving moments that aren't ideally read in an overcrowded tube - we warned you...)
Turning is a swim-memoir about author and narrator, Lee, who faces her depression through outdoor swimming, through the changing seasons and via 52 German lakes in 52 weeks (regardless of the weather or conditions... small, casual feat). Lee's writing is highly sensory, she is fascinated by language and the topic of identity, and Turning is as much a psychological exploration as it is a physical, environmental narrative. At times hard to read (Lee breaks ice with a hammer on a swim) this compelling book is a fascinating read. One for the Christmas list.
Read a brilliant swim book this year that we've missed? Let us know - we're always keenly adding to our book collection.