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Take a Dip! Books About Swimming

Cool off and get your pool fix with these books about swimming — for all genres and ages!

Summer usually means time at the beach or in the pool. Usually. But though many of us aren’t able to swim right now, that doesn’t mean we can’t dive into a good book about the topic! What follows are our picks for nonfiction, novels, young adult and children’s titles that all share a connection to swimming. Essays about what draws us to water, the history of swimming, novels that feature the sea. Dip your toe into one of these great summer reads for now — and look forward to your next real swim!


One of our recommended books is Why We Swim by Bonnie TsuiWhy We Swim

by Bonnie Tsui

An immersive, unforgettable, and eye-opening perspective on swimming—and on human behavior itself. 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.


Swimming Studies by Leanne ShaptonSwimming Studies

by Leanne Shapton

Swimming Studies is a collection of autobiographical sketches that explore the worlds of competitive and recreational swimming. From her training for the Olympic trials as a teenager, to meditative swims in pools and oceans as an adult, Leanne Shapton contemplates the sport that has shaped her life.


I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice is one of our book group favorites for 2018I Found My Tribe

by Ruth Fitzmaurice

Ruth’s tribe are her lively children and her filmmaker and author husband who has ALS and can only communicate with his eyes. Ruth’s other “tribe” are the friends who gather at the cove in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and throw themselves into the freezing cold water. As she tells the story of her marriage, Ruth also charts her passion for swimming in the wild Irish Sea.


Splash by Howard MeansSplash!

by Howard Means

From humankind’s first recorded dip into what’s now the driest spot on earth to the splashing, sparkling pool party in your backyard, humans have been getting wet for 10,000 years. And for most of modern history, swimming has caused a ripple that touches us all–the heroes and the ordinary folk; the real and the mythic.



One of our recommended books is The Summer Book by Tove JanssonThe Summer Book

by Tove Jansson

The Summer Book distills the essence of the summer—its sunlight and storms—into twenty-two crystalline vignettes. This brief novel tells the story of Sophia, a six-year-old girl awakening to existence, and Sophia’s grandmother, nearing the end of hers, as they spend the summer on a tiny unspoiled island in the Gulf of Finland.


The Lido by Libby PageThe Lido

by Libby Page

Rosemary has lived in Brixton, London, all her life but everything is changing. The lido, an outdoor pool where she’s swum daily since its opening, is threatened with closure. Kate is a once promising writer now assigned to write about the lido, leading both women to be transformed in ways they never thought possible.


Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel BeanlandFlorence Adler Swims Forever

By Rachel Beanland

Over the course of one summer that begins with a shocking tragedy, three generations of the Adler family grapple with heartbreak, romance, and the weight of family secrets in this stunning debut novel set in Atlantic City, based on a true story.



The Stories of John CheeverThe Swimmer

by John Cheever

Here are sixty-one stories that chronicle the lives of what has been called “the greatest generation.” The collection includes “The Swimmer,” Cheever’s classic short story about a man who swims his way home from a party through his neighbors’ pools — and finds a surreal and startling revelation about his life.


Young Adult

Phantom Limbs by Paula GardnerPhantom Limbs

By Paula Gardner

Otis and Meg were inseparable until her family abruptly moved away after a terrible accident. Since then, Otis has become the unlikely protégé of eighteen-year-old Dara, who’s hell-bent on transforming him into the Olympic swimmer she can no longer be. This poignant debut captures all the confusion, heartbreak, and fragile hope of three teens.


Whale Talk by Chris CrutcherWhale Talk

By Chris Crutcher

There’s bad news and good news about the Cutter High School swim team. The bad news is that they don’t have a pool. The good news is that only one of them can swim anyway. Bestselling author Chris Crutcher’s controversial and acclaimed novel follows a group of outcasts as they take on inequality and injustice in their high school.


Picture Books

The Bathing Costume by Olivier Tallec and Charlotte MoundlicThe Bathing Costume

By Charlotte Moundlic and Olivier Tallec

We see an eight-year-old’s vacation with his grandparents and older cousins through his own eyes, with all of the little things that are important to a boy of eight—the dumb things that he’ll never tell his mom, the small triumphs, and the shame of having a bathing suit that slips off in the pool.


The Pool by Jihyeon Lee The Pool

By Jihyeon Lee

What happens when two shy children meet at a very crowded pool? Dive in to find out! Deceptively simple, this masterful book tells a story of quiet moments and surprising encounters, and reminds us that friendship and imagination have no bounds.


Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica LoveJulián Is a Mermaid

By Jessica Love

A glimpse of costumed mermaids leaves one boy flooded with wonder and ready to dazzle the world. Riding the train on their way home from the swimming pool, Julián and his abuela see women clad in elegant, mint-green dresses trailing tail fins: mermaids. Wide-eyed Julián drifts into a fantasy: submerged in water, being swept up in a stream of sea creatures.

Looking for more seasonal reading lists? Check out our back-to-school picks and books to read in one sitting!