The Top 8 Swimming Themed Books Of All Time

swimming reading image

Have you ever noticed that swimming and reading have a lot in common?

Think about it; they’re both solitary pursuits, they both allow you to escape into a different world and they both offer a wonderful dose of freedom.

I always mention to my clients that receive private swimming lessons , reading about the sport can help take your swimming abilities and interest even further.

So, to encourage you to take the plunge into reading a little bit more here are our top 8 swimming books from a variety of perspectives and genres that’ll intrigue, empower and inspire you both in and out of the water.



1. Swimming to Antarctica – Lynne Cox

Swimming to Antarctica

Kicking off our list is the wonderful memoir ‘Swimming to Antarctica’ which recounts the incredible story of Lynn Cox – a long-distance swimmer who ambitiously dared to venture where no person had ever gone before.

Following Lynne’s story from being the slowest kid in the pool at 9 years of age to smashing the men’s record for crossing the English channel and conquering some of the world’s most dangerous crossings, this is a tale of courage, dedication, and triumph.

It’s a truly inspiring read, packed with detail and insight, you’ll finish this page-turner with a fresh perspective on the power of human strength and what can be achieved with heart and perseverance.

2. Man vs Ocean – Adam Walker

Man vs Ocean

Adam Walker’s on a quest to complete the formidable Ocean’s Seven – a challenge in which a swimmer must cross the Channel (England to France), the North Channel (Ireland to Scotland), The Strait of Gibraltar, The Catalina Channel, the Molokai Strait, and the Tsugaru Strait.

This incredible book chronicles the hardship, obstacles and unrelenting determination of Adam as he aims to complete his ultimate goal. Only a handful of people have ever successfully completed the challenge which makes it all the more impressive. 

Prepare for the retelling of an adventure that’s so extreme it’s hard to comprehend. By the end, you’ll be left feeling, inspired, motivated and ready to crush your own goals.

3. The Joy of Swimming – Lisa Congdon

The Joy of Swimming

This beautiful and informative paperback deserves a spot on every keen swimmer’s coffee table. Congdon’s cheery watercolors flood across the illustrated pages, accompanied by hand-detailed quotes and tidbits about water and all the joys that come with being in it. 

Jam-packed with cultural anecdotes, inspiring true stores, historical timelines and much more, The Joy of Swimming is an immersive and revitalising easy read that’ll restore your faith in humanity no matter what swimming means to you.

4. Swim: Why We Love the Water – Lynn Sherr

Swim: Why We Love the Water

‘Swim’ takes a historical perspective on swimming and how it’s changed over millennia. Recounting tales from the water-loving ancient Egyptians to skinny dipping Romans, this is a joyous celebration of humankind’s long relationship with the art of swimming.

Author Lynn Sherr, is a master at stoking curiosity – you’ll find this book hard to put down as she effortlessly glides across topics from bathing beauties to beach bums and from psychology to swimmers grease.

If you find yourself fantasising about jumping into the pool during your workday, then keep a copy of swim on your desk to stave off those cravings until five o’clock hits.

5. East London Swimmers by Madeleine Waller 

East London Swimmers

If you’re a fan of the Human’s of New York photojournalism series, then East London Swimmers will be sure to tickle your fancy.

This beautiful hardcover features artistic portraits of fully-clothed individuals with four lines of minimalist information below the image. 

Upon turning the page, the same subject appears in a swim-suit along with a personal quote about their love of swimming. The layout is unmistakably powerful and thought-provoking.

As readers, we’re left to draw their own conclusions and invited to reflect on our own relationship to the water. You’ll be left with a new awareness about the grace and value of the collective journey to become swimmers.


6. Waterlog  – Roger Deakin


A beautifully written account of the Author’s journey to swim through Britain, Waterlog gifts reader’s a swimmer’s eye view of the UK’s seas, rivers, locks, ponds, streams and everything else in between. 

Packed with alluring descriptions of some of Britain’s wildest and most beautiful swimming spots, the author’s humility and grace shines through

We think you’ll agree, there’s something undeniably endearing about the act of swimming in the wild, without ‘health and safety’, unobserved, pure and alone.

The perfect pick for readers seeking a little adventure.


7. Swimming Studies – Leanne Shapton

Swimming Studies

An elegantly written and insightful account of a former Olympic hopeful who decided to give it all up when her family moved to a new city. 

Shapton’s spine-tinglingly descriptive writing adorns each page, which may seem overwhelming at first glance. However, the author pieces together the pain-staking details to form beautiful overarching metaphors for her philosophical reflections about life and swimming.

Sharpton recounts her childhood experiences with swimming, her break from swimming and her rediscovery of the sport she loved as an adult among many other themes. 

Readers will no doubt finish the book with a new desire to explore swimming as an artistic way of life.


8. The Three-Year Swim Club – Julie Checkoway

The Three-Year Swim Club

A heartwarming true-life tale about overcoming obstacles and defying the odds. Julie Checkoway plunges us into the hearts and minds of a group of poor sugar plantation kids on their quest to fulfil a seemingly impossible dream.

Their coach, a regular school teacher, with no swimming experience, recasts himself in the role of coach, running training sessions in dirty, muddy, sugar can plantation ditches. 

He challenged his destitute swimmers to reach for the stars – aiming to compete for the USA at the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Filled with tragedies and triumphs, this inspirational story is one that changed the swimming world forever.


In Summary

So there you have it – our 8 top picks for swimming themed books. From epic tales about overcoming the impossible to artistic photography that makes you pause and reflect, there’s more than enough reading material here to keep even the biggest aquatic fanatics busy for a few months.

And if you’d like to improve your swimming, you should definitely take a look at what we do.

What’s your favourite book from the list?

Perhaps we left out a great recommendation that you can share with us?

Let us know in the comments below.

Alistair Mills
by Alistair Mills

In 2016 I saw an opportunity for a new swimming company that did things a little bit differently and here we are almost 4 years later, having built a family of teachers and clients that we are all really proud of.

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