I'm passionate about swimming outdoors. It's a pastime that has carried me through some tough times, both emotionally and physically, helping to keep my mind and body in balance. So here's a round-up of some of the best books I've read lately on one of my top passions - wild and outdoor swimming.
Swim Wild by Jack Hudson, with Calum Hudson and Robbie Hudson
Brothers Jack, Calum and Robbie have been swimming together their whole lives, and have never lost the sense of wonder, excitement and relief that getting in open water brings. In this book, we learn about their swimming feats, from tackling the 145km River Eden to setting the world record for swimming in the Arctic. They take us through their preparation for these expeditions, including sourcing wild spots in the heart of sprawling cities in which to train. They document the challenges they encounter and the successes often achieved in the most unexpected ways. And with everything they've learned, they give tips for those wanting to take on their own aquatic foray, whether a beginner or a seasoned swimmer.This book will show people of all ages how they too can take part in open water swimming and reconnect with the natural world around them. Their experience will embolden readers to escape their status quo and build confidence and contentment by challenging themselves to try something new and reconsider their relationship with nature and the wild. At its core, this book will provide advice, reassurance and inspiration for anyone in search of something more joyful, peaceful and, ultimately, meaningful.
Wild Woman Swimming by Lynne Roper
Devon paramedic Lynne Roper began swimming outdoors in 2011 while recovering from a double mastectomy. Warm, funny and fearless, she was soon at the heart of The Outdoor Swimming Society, inspiring others to swim wild, ‘read water’ and take educated risks as she did.
For five years, until a brain tumour made swimming and writing impossibly hard, Lynne recorded her adventures in over sixty wild waters. Bel Pool, Mel Tor, Sharrah, Spitchwick, Horseshoe Falls, Fingle Bridge, Bugle Hole, Burgh Island: Like a swimmer’s version of the Shipping Forecast, Lynne tracks through the seasons places few know and less brave — freezing pools in hollowed-out Dartmor tors, sea caves stuck about with Dead Men’s Fingers, rivers in full spate where bouyancy is lost suddenly in froth and bubbles.
By turns lyrical and adrenalin-fuelled, solitary and communal, her diaries are a celebration of Dartmoor, the Devon coast and the close-knit communities that grow from shared endeavour. This is a book for outdoor swimmers, nature lovers and all who prize the wild and free.
Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves and the Will to Swim by Alexandra Heminsley
It may have been because she could run. It may have been because she wanted to swim; or perhaps because she only ever did ten minutes of breaststroke at a time. But, as she learned one day while flailing around in the sea, she really couldn’t.
Believing that a life lived fully isn’t one with the most money earned, the most stuff bought or the most races won, but one with the most experiences, experienced the most fully, she decided to conquer her fear of the water.
From the ignominy of getting into a wetsuit to the triumph of swimming from Kefalonia to Ithaca, in becoming a swimmer, Alexandra learns to appreciate her body and still her mind. As it turns out, the water is never as frightening once you're in, and really, everything is better when you remember to exhale.
Watermarks: Writing by Lido Lovers & Wild Swimmers
This book is written by fifty poets and prose-writers who invite you into the world’s lakes, lidos, rivers and oceans. The book is an anthology of exceptional new prose and poetry to celebrate the life aquatic, brought together by The Frogmore Press and Pells Pool in Lewes
Swell a Waterbiography The Sunday Times SP by Jenny Landreth Paperback Book
These days, swimming may seem like an egalitarian pastime, open to anyone with a swimsuit – but this wasn't always the case. In the 19th century, swimming was almost exclusively the domain of men. Women were (barely) allowed to swim in the sea, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested if they dared dive into a lake. It wasn't until the 1930s that women were reluctantly granted equal access. This is the story of the swimming suffragettes who made that possible; women who took on the status quo, and won.
Part social history, part memoir, Swell shines a light on these 'swimming suffragettes'. It celebrates some amazing achievements, some ridiculous outfits and some fantastic swimmers who challenge the stereotypes of what women are capable of. It's also the story of how Jenny eventually came to be a keen swimmer herself.
Swell is a joyful hymn to the sport and an exploration of why swimming attracts so many women. It is a book dedicated to our brilliant swimming foremothers who collectively made it possible for any woman to plunge in however and wherever we choose.