Tuesday, 1 May 2018

A selection of books exploring the relationship between swimming and thought. 

Pondlife: A swimmer's journal by Al Alvarez         $25
Throughout his long life as a poet, critic, editor, novelist and poker player, Alvarez (now 88) has swum almost daily in the ponds of Hamstead Heath. How does this irrepressible person confront his aging, how does he recover from a stroke, and how do these facts of his life affect his outlook (if at all)? Thoughtful, fierce and funny. 
Swell: A waterbiography by Jenny Landreth        $22
 In the 19th century, swimming was exclusively the domain of men, and access to pools was a luxury limited by class. Women were allowed to swim in the sea, as long as no men were around, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested and fined if they dared dive into a lake. It wasn't until the 1930s that women were finally granted equal access. Part social history, part memoir, Swell uncovers a world of secret swimming in the face of these exclusions and shines a light on the `swimming suffragettes' who made equal access possible. It is also the story of her own realisation of the importance and meaning of swimming for herself.
Turning: A swimming memoir by Jessica Lee        $28
"I long for the ice. The sharp cut of freezing water on my feet. The immeasurable black of the lake at its coldest. Swimming then means cold, and pain, and elation." Seeking to overcome depression, Lee undertakes to swim 52 German lakes in 52 weeks.
"A lovely, poetic, sensuous and melancholy book." - Irish Examiner
"Turning is many things: a snapshot of Berlin seen through the prism of its lakes; the story of a broken and healing heart; a contemplation of identity; a coming-of-age story." - Guardian

Swim: A year of swimming outdoors in New Zealand by Annette Lees      $40 
Lees began this book with the intention of swimming in natural outdoor water in New Zealand every day for a year. Around her account of this she has written what amounts to a history of wild swimming in New Zealand and the social history surrounding it. 

Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton         $34
A collection of thoughtful 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, and her practice as an artist and a writer. Illustrations include watercolours of her experience of pools, and a catalogue of her collection of swimming costumes. 
Haunts of the Black Masseur: The swimmer as hero by Charles Sprawson         $28
What meanings do we attach to water? What correlation is there between the physical act of inserting a body into a liquid medium and the depths of human psychology? What is the relationship between swimming and creativity? This interesting book surveys the swimmer as cultural hero.
"This splendid and wholly original book is as zestful as a plunge in champagne." - Iris Murdoch
Oxygen by William Trubridge          $40
Freediving tests the limits of psychology and physiology, and exposes the links between the two. What is it like to be so far from the surface? 

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