4 Great Books About Swimming

Claire Handscombe

It's finally summer. Time for joyfully jumping in pools -- and with double the joy if, like me, you really missed your pool time last year. In the meantime, here are some books to inspire you.

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Swell, by Jenny Landreth

Part social history, part memoir, Swell is a love letter to swimming and to the achievements of the “swimming sufragettes” who fought for equal access to beaches, lakes, and pools. It also “celebrates some amazing achievements, some ridiculous outfits and some fantastic swimmers who challenge the stereotypes of what women are capable of”.

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Mornings with Rosemary, by Libby Page

This novel about a young journalist and an older lady who team up to save their local outdoor pool made a big splash (pun very much intended) in the UK. I was lucky to interview Libby Page on my podcast and get hold of an ARC, and it kept me going and made me smile through a tricky time in my life. It’s a love letter to outdoor swimming, to a particular part of London, and to the importance of community and friendship, particularly friendship across the generations. Highly recommended.

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Dryland, by Sara Jaffe

It’s the ’90s, and Julie is finding herself drawn to the swimming world, which swallowed up her brother years ago. This short novel captures the raw emotions of adolescence so well – figuring out your relationship with your parents, friendship, your sexuality. Set in Portland, where it is constantly raining, it was so evocative, and the writing is lovely.

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All About Mia, by Lisa Williamson

If the online UK reviews are anything to go by, people love this book across the pond. Mia is the middle one of three sisters, a hot mess caught between a straight-A student and a future Olympic swimming champion. But things unravel when her perfect older sister turns out not to be so perfect after all.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

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