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Off the Deep End

3.35  ·  Rating Details ·  93 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
Hodding Carter dreamed of being an Olympian as a kid. He worshipped Mark Spitz, swam his heart out, and just missed qualifying for the Olympic trials in swimming as a college senior. Although he didn't qualify for the 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, or 2004 Olympics, he never stopped believing he could make it. And despite past failures and the passage of time, C ...more
Hardcover, 209 pages
Published June 10th 2008 by Algonquin Books
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(showing 1-30)
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Sue K
Jul 17, 2008 Sue K rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who swam as a kid
Recommended to Sue by: Dad
My dad summed this one up pretty accurately: "The author doesn't sound like a real nice guy, but it's a pretty good read." The author really does come across as a pretty self-centered jerk, but it was worth it just to hear the language of my childhood spent at swim meets. Short course, long course, dry land workouts, intervals, streamline... It's a light read, and a fun one if you can ignore the fact that this married guy is making crude passes at his friends' wives and calling it humor, and por ...more
May 25, 2016 Stephanie rated it liked it
It was funny and interesting, but I think you'd have to be interested in reading about some middle-aged guy writing about his schemes and plans, and in this instance, how he came to be training to qualify for swimming in the Olympics, at the age of 40+. I decided to read this book b/c a read an interesting review of another book he wrote, about recreating a viking voyage and thought, hey, this guy is kind of interesting. At times Carter is funny, at times pompous and spoiled, but I kept reading ...more
Iowa City Public Library
If you were caught up watching the triumphs in the Olympic pool by 15 to 41 year-olds, you’ll appreciate W. Hodding Carter’s chronicle of ‘the probably insane idea that I could swim my way through a midlife crisis– and qualify for the Olympics." In his forties, he decided to pick up the habit again and attempt to make the 2008 Olympic Team as a freestyle sprinter. Like Dara Torres, Carter realized that it is not inevitable that we lose our strength and ability as we age. However, Carter’s path i ...more
David Cain
Jul 09, 2013 David Cain rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2013
I have participated in masters swimming for about three years now and I was hoping this book would be a fun exploration of Carter's experiences as a top masters swimmer. Instead, this read more like a catalogue of his immature, selfish obsessions. He is not a sympathetic character, to say the least. He clearly loves his children but doesn't seem to respect his wife very much. Perhaps everyone who has a midlife crisis acts like this, I don't know. The book is too short to really paint a complete ...more
Wendy Hall
Aug 18, 2012 Wendy Hall rated it it was ok
The author is selfish, arrogant, and delusional. And I am quite stupid for reading the entire book when it was obvious at page 30 it wasn't getting any better. Although I a swimming nerd myself and am all for "swimming your way through a mid-life crisis," I am not in favor of doing so at the expense of your family. His family is struggling financially and his marriage was admittedly shaky, yet he is traveling all over the country supposedly training to qualify for the Olympic Trials. However, it ...more
Jul 25, 2008 CJ rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2008-books
I hoped this book would be inspiring. A middle aged guy looking to make the Olympic swimming team and do what he hadn't done when he was younger. The problem is, I didn't like Hodding Carter. It annoyed me that he pursued swimming to the detriment of everything else in his life - including his wife, his children, and his "job" as a freelance writer.

He got 2 stars because he really does write well. I kept wondering, "Why does he relentlessly reach for the swimming dreams of his youth instead of p
Bill Glose
Aug 15, 2013 Bill Glose rated it really liked it
In 1984, W. Hodding Carter was an NCAA All-American swimmer at Ohio’s Kenyon College. In this memoir, the 45-year-old Carter attemps to achieve what his younger self was unable to do: qualify for the Olympic Swimming Trials. With wit and candor, Carter describes juggling responsibilities as a father and YMCA instructor with an arduous training regimen, with the accompanying aches and pains, accomplishments and setbacks portrayed in delicious detail. The book was released a month before the trial ...more
Aug 01, 2010 David rated it liked it
Fairly entertaining account of author's quest to qualify for olympic trials in swimming (2008) in his mid-40's. Somewhat jarring that the book ends before it's clear whether he's going to achieve the goal or not, but even though he hasn't hit the goal time yet he had improved a great deal, surpassed his times from when he was on the team at Kenyon College 20+ years earlier, and become the top-ranked guy in his age group in the country.

He's oddly disdainful of masters competition, even at the out
Heather Fineisen
Jun 16, 2012 Heather Fineisen rated it it was ok
This book is about Carter making a quest for the Olympic trials while in his forties. Carter is not likable at all, and at times, I hoped he'd drown or dive into the shallow end and hit his head. He is rude and self-centered. He reminds me of someone who tries too hard to be funny. He doesn't have the sincere self deprecation to pull off most of his disparaging comments. I did like the straight swimming and related facts and I kept reading. This could have been a good story about a man making a ...more
Christina Dudley
Oct 26, 2015 Christina Dudley rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Rounding up from 3.5 stars. A fast, largely enjoyable read about a middle-aged fellow who (off and on) thinks he wants to qualify for the 2008 Olympic Trials in swimming. Qualifying for the Trials isn't the same thing as being selected for the team, of course, so I'm not sure if he reached his goal, but the lead-up is amusing. I learned about Masters swimming and some open water swims and some technique tips. Don't know if my 14YO son will enjoy the book (since he's not middle-aged), but I'll su ...more
Laura Gardner
Jul 28, 2008 Laura Gardner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, adult, funny
I laughed throughout this entire book. Carter bravely and honestly recounts his humbling experiences training for the Olympics at age 45. This is a great book about failure and dreaming big. I think this book will stick with me for awhile.

on a side note, he's from Greenville, MS in the delta where we lived for 5 years (one town over). We saw him speak at the YMCA in 2005 when he was beginning to train for the Olympics. (I'm pretty sure I remember him mentioning it at the time, but I think he ma
Jul 29, 2008 Robin rated it liked it
Recommends it for: those who like swimming
An ad or a review brought this book to my attention and since I've been swimming for exercise for about 13 years because of my sons' involvement with swimming, I thought this would be a good read. And it was even though I was astonished at how arrogant this man is! He was so clueless about what it took to be a successful swimmer in so many ways even though he competed during his college years. But I was satisfied with how his tale concluded and I would definitely suggest it to anyone who has eve ...more
Mar 10, 2009 Tanya rated it really liked it
I found this autobiographical story to be so inspirational. At 42 Carter attempts to qualify for the Olympic trials for swimming. I don't swim but reading this made me want to learn. He made me laugh out loud! I found myself constantly reading bits and pieces to Chris because parts of his book were just too good not to share. Very well written. He can write about anything and I would read it because he makes everything so entertaining. Amazing!
Sep 28, 2008 Msbmom rated it it was ok
The author decides in mid-life to revisit his college swimming career and try to qualify for the Olympics. His writing is very funny, but this was not the inspirational read I expected. A short read but one that rambles a bit. I am not a swimmer and lost track of how many times he participated in trials.
Feb 07, 2009 Kari rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2009
Perhaps this book has most appeal for swimmers, such as myself. At age 43, Hodding decides that he's going to qualify for the Olympics. His training is sometimes haphazard, but his heart is always in the right place. Parts of the book made me laugh out loud.
Jan 06, 2009 Andrea rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: swimmers, nobody else
This book was not very good. The author is obsessed with footnotes - it felt like one on each page almost. Some of the footnotes were half a page long and didn't really add to the story. The story has no real ending either.

There are some good parts. I'm glad it was a short book.
Jul 14, 2008 Josh rated it it was amazing
This was a very entertaining and enjoyable read that has inspired me to improve my own swimming and reinforced the idea that nothing is impossible if you work hard for it. The book caused me to both laugh and think.
Aug 14, 2008 beth rated it it was amazing
We happen to know the author and his kids go to school with ours and he coached one of our sons on swim team. With that said, it was a fun read - he's quite self-depracating. It's also inspiring for a wanna be swimmer/athlete of any sort.
Jun 12, 2008 Turi rated it really liked it
W. Hodding Carter decides, in mid-life, to revisit his college swimming career and try to qualify for the Beijing Olympics. This is the story of his training, adventures, successes and failures. Funny and inspiring in a misguided, quixotic way...
Oct 27, 2015 Julie rated it it was ok
This wasn't quite the triumph-over-adversity tale I was hoping for. In fact, it was very anticlimactic.
Jan 02, 2009 SJF rated it it was amazing
Heidi Hester
Jul 27, 2011 Heidi Hester rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing! Absolutely loved the brutal honesty!
Jeremy Peppas
Quick, breezy read.
I wish I knew how it came out, the Olympics Trial quest, teh googles have failed me when I looked
Aug 12, 2010 Eileenzombro rated it liked it
I am a sucker for a swimmer book. Very different from Dara Torres. Fun, but not
Entirely about swimming more about midlife crisis.
Aug 10, 2014 Joanna rated it really liked it
Fun, fun writing and a great tale.
Sep 21, 2008 Sharon rated it it was ok
I read this because I knew the author and he lives in Maine. I was interested in his life. Can't say I found the book overly inspiring. Wouldn't have read it otherwise.
Jul 28, 2008 Scott rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: athletes old and young who like to dream big
Recommended to Scott by: saw it at the library
Shelves: light-reading
A nice easy read about a guy trying to maintain passion and discipline to attain a larger goal in the midst of some chaos. The coolest part was 'swim-trekking' in the British Virgin Islands.
Wils Cain
Aug 01, 2008 Wils Cain rated it really liked it
In his mid forties the author decides to experience his mid-life crisis by re-entering the world of swimming and training for the Olympics. A very funny story of things he learns along the way.
Bev rated it really liked it
May 11, 2012
Tom rated it liked it
Feb 26, 2014
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A native of Greenville, Mississippi, W. Hodding Carter attended Kenyon College and spent two years in Kenya with the Peace Corps. He has written for several national magazines, including Esquire, Smithsonian, Newsweek, and Outside. He lives with his family in Rockport, Maine.
More about W. Hodding Carter IV...

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