'Glorious' The New York Times
'A jewel of a book, a paean to the wonders of water and our place within it' James Nestor, bestselling author of Breath
Take a dive into the deep with writer and swimmer Bonnie Tsui and discover what it is about water that seduces us, heals us and brings us together.
Our evolutionary ancestors swam for survival. Now we swim in freezing Arctic waters, wide channels, and piranha-infested rivers just because they are there. Swimming is an introspective and quiet sport in a chaotic age. It is therapeutic for those who are injured and it is one route to that elusive, ecstatic state of Flow.
Propelled by stories of polar swim champions, a Baghdad swim club, Olympian athletes, modern-day samurai swimmers and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survived a six-hour swim in the wintry Atlantic, Why We Swim takes us around the globe in a remarkable, all-encompassing account of the world of swimming.
'A truly great story. I love this book' Christopher McDougall, bestselling author of Born to Run
'A balm for the soul' The Irish Times
Journalist Tsui (American Chinatown) opens her eclectic, well-crafted survey with a fascinating story about an Icelandic fisherman who swam six kilometers in 41 degree water after his boat capsized. He survived thanks to a "biological quirk" an unusually thick layer of body fat, more comparable to a seal's than to the average human's. From this starting point, Tsui looks at five different reasons swimming is important to humans, dedicating a section to each: survival, well-being, community, competition, and "flow" (the pursuit of the sublime). Characters like the opening chapter's "real-life selkie" a folkloric creature halfway between a human and a seal and marathon swimmer Kim Chambers, who took up the sport after almost losing a leg to injury, appear throughout, along with scientific facts, personal stories, and social history. Tsui shares her own history as a swimmer, and swimming's place in her family history her parents' Hollywood-worthy first meeting was at a Hong Kong swimming pool in 1968, she a "bikini-clad beauty," he a "bronzed lifeguard." In a chapter about the mindset of champion swimmers, she writes, "The view from within is what I'm after." Her overarching question is about "our human relationship to water" and "how immersion can open our imaginations." Readers will enjoy getting to know the people and the facts presented in this fascinating book.