Why We Swim (Hardcover)
A Best Book of the Season: BuzzFeed
“A fascinating and beautifully written love letter to water. I was enchanted by this book." —Rebecca Skloot, bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
An immersive, unforgettable, and eye-opening perspective on swimming—and on human behavior itself.
We swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural-born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned for survival; now, in the twenty-first century, swimming is one of the most popular activities in the world.
Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what about water—despite its dangers—seduces us and why we come back to it again and again.
About the Author
“This fascinating look at the positive impact swimming has had on our lives throughout history might leave most readers eager to get back in the water as soon as possible.”
—Booklist, starred review
“Drawing on personal experience, history, biology, and social science, the author conveys the appeal of ‘an unflinching giving-over to an element’ and makes a convincing case for broader access to swimming education (372,000 people still drown annually). An absorbing, wide-ranging story of humans’ relationship with the water.”
“Tsui 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 . . . Readers will enjoy getting to know the people and the facts presented in this fascinating book.”
“Why We Swim is a celebration of the many varieties of joy that swimming brings to our oxygen-breathing species.”
“A beautifully written love letter to water and a fascinating story. I was enchanted.”
—Rebecca Skloot, bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
“The only thing better than reading Bonnie Tsui’s writing about swimming is swimming itself—and both are sublime. Why We Swim is an aquatic tour de force, a captivating story filled with adventure, meditation, and celebration.”
—Susan Casey, New York Times bestselling author of The Wave and Voices in the Ocean
“This is a jewel of a book, a paean to the wonders of water and our place within it.”
—James Nestor, author of Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us about Ourselves
“Magnificent. Only a truly great story can hold my attention and Why We Swim had me nailed to the chair . . . I love this book."
—Christopher McDougall, bestselling author of Born to Run and Natural Born Heroes
“Why We Swim is a gorgeous hybrid of a book. Bonnie Tsui combines fascinating reporting about some of the world's most remarkable swimmers with delightful meditations about what it means for us naked apes to leap in the water for no apparent reason. You won't regret diving in.”
—Carl Zimmer, author of She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity