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Why We Swim

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  3,134 ratings  ·  557 reviews
“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

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 we swim in freezing Arc
Kindle Edition, 277 pages
Published April 14th 2020 by Algonquin Books
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,134 ratings  ·  557 reviews

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Elyse  Walters
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
No spoilers....
I shared my own relationship with water....
Thankful to Bonnie Tsui for writing this perfectly beautiful book....
A tribute to water, and swimming.

Audiobook...narrated by Angie Kane.....
I was in heaven for six hours and 35 minutes.

Author Bonnie Tsui is an author I’d like to meet...'in the water'.

I’m a water baby. My kids are water babies. ( one of them was on the TV news with me at 2 weeks old as I demonstrated how she was 'water safe'), from swim teams, master swim classes, lots
Anna Avian
The book started off well. There were several real-life stories that were interesting to me and I enjoyed learning about the achievements of several people I hadn't heard of before. I wish topics like the science of how swimming impacts our mind and our body were discussed more than the personal life of the author, her family etc. I lost interest for the last 30% of the book because it started to feel repetitive and like a dreamy memoir. ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
An exploration of a swimmer's relationship with water. The zone. The psychological effects. The health benefits. Water as a rehabilitation medium bordering on miraculous. Water as a source of inspiration, profound insight and unity with the world. That's quite a lot of discourse to shoulder but Bonnie Tsui pulled it off gracefully.
I swam through the divorce. I swam through college. I swam from Alcatraz, on a dare. I swam as rehab from knee surgery. I swam across a lake at my wedding. I swam t
This was an interesting read. Probably more philosophical than scientific but it had some scientific elements. A meditation. There is definitely a peace or calming effect to water. The act of swimming has a unique effect on me, more than other forms of vigorous exercise. I can spend time with myself, the water lifts the burdens both physical and emotional for those moments in time. This is really a good expression of the writers love for water and swimming. I wasn't in the right mindset to recei ...more
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't much what I thought it would be from the trailer. It's all about effusive feelings and almost romantic notions of our Earth's water. Of course there is some science and reality but it's minority of the whole.

This is memoir, happenstance story heard, memory type of celebration for a survivor of shipwreck, and numerous other cultural brand directions going on with the seas/ swimming being the focus. And the human affinities for sea close living and swimming within seas or various
Lisa  (not getting friends updates) Vegan
This book is beautifully. written. It’s lyrical.. It’s meaningful to me as someone who loved to swim (though I had a rocky road learning) and who has always loved the water. Water and trees, in my case. Even if swimming was not something that appeals to me I would have enjoyed this book.

It's a book to savor.

The structure of the book works well: the chapters, sections, text within chapters, literary and other references, people’s stories.

As a vegan I could have done without the present day aba
Woman Reading
3.5 ☆
Swimming is the second most popular recreational activity in America, outranked only by walking.

Why We Swim is a broad survey of both the why and how humans swim. It is also a memoir of Tsui's personal and family experiences in the water and as such becomes her paean to swimming.
The body is engaged in full physical movement, but the mind itself floats, untethered.

We skip from thought to thought, and then there's a momentary nothingness. In that brief interlude, we are entirely li
Kathryn Speckels (Metaphors and Miscellanea)
Beautiful, insightful, if occasionally a bit slow and redundant. Really resonated with me, as a former competitive swimmer.

Full review coming soon :)
3.5 stars rounded up.

The pandemic has stopped me and many others to swim in our usual spots. The loss is felt until now. I swim not only for fitness but also the feel of water surrounding me, the way it buoys you, the sense of freedom and weightlessness, untethered from technology (!) I could go on.

This book is a love letter to swimmers. Either you are one of those athlete-like swimmer swimming in lanes and could go lap after lap, or like me, a lazy swimmer who just enjoy the immersion and play
Apr 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 rounding up because I loved every wet moment! I used to swim daily, I adore being in water, albeit not the same wild waterways she pursues. I was lost in every drop of time.
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A personal and historical tour of swimming. This book really touches on why we swim, and surprise, the reasons are many. From survival to competition to therapy to health... even for creativity, Bonnie Tsui really reminded me why I wish I was swimming right now instead of being quarantined in my room.

But I've always been a terrible swimmer. It started with swimming lessons as a kid, but it never came intuitively to me as it did so many others. I saw them zip through the water with barely a motio
Lisa Cobb Sabatini
I won an Advance Reading Copy of Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui from Goodreads.

Pardon the pun, but the writing in Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui is so fluid that the reader feels as if he is slipping into the prose as a swimmer slips into water. Tsui takes readers to waters around the world, including oceans, lakes, pools, and more. She ushers the reader through time, stopping at a desert to visit an ancient sea and reliving the final seconds at Olympic meets. She speaks with amateurs, professionals, sc
There are books about baseball and cricket and football and golf, but books about swimming are not many. Here, Bonnie Tsui tells us of her lifelong love of the sport while also providing a history of our fascination with water, along with some of swimming’s oddities.

Swimming is, by our human definition, a constant state of not drowning.

Life came from the water and perhaps this is why humans are always drawn to blue seas. Even in a time of flooded coastlines and climate change, we still want to b
Aug 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: _audio, swimming
These are swim stories from around the globe and even through history. Most involve the personal involvement of author Bonnie Tsui. She is a life-long swimmer that understands how swimmers think and feel.

The first major story about an Icelandic survivor of a fishing boat that went under was inspiring. His couple other crewmates drowned, but this humble guy with literally thick skin made it through very cold water back to shore. (6 hours, 3+ miles, 28 deg water) He became a hero in Iceland, and m
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an avid swimmer, I’m always in search of books that will capture the feeling of being in the water. Tsui beautifully touches on all of the elements that water evokes for humans, in a style that is prose, memoir, and biography of some of her swimming heroes. What I liked is that it highlights both the collective and individual experience of swimming and how we simultaneously both belong in and are foreign to the water. Especially poignant are the scenes of open water swimming, with all of its ...more
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a beautiful book! An original idea, and the writing style is fluid and sparkling - like water. She explores the significance of swimming across many cultures and times (samurais, Icelandic fishermen, prisoners escaping from Alcatraz) as well as the physiology and psychology of it. My one complaint is that the chapter on who gets to swim felt like an afterthought, although it was in the middle of the book. I would've liked a bit more on segregation and the reasons Black Americans have lower ...more
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! Being in "Shelter-in-Place" and my pool closed - plus having a broken arm so I couldn't go in the pool anyway - loved remembering what I love so much about swimming.
I was on a swim team from age 5 to high school, then Masters swimming in my 30's, now old lady water aerobics with some lap swimming. She really captures so much about the experience. Also loved reading all the information about various big name swimmers. Bonnie Tsui lives in San Francisco - my turf - I
Rick Wilson
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I expected more “Born to Run” and less “Beethoven to his Immortal Beloved” but found myself pleasantly surprised by the latter. This is not about why we swim. This book is a love letter to swimming. A swooning note to a hobby, a sport, a state of mind.
Kerri Anne
One of my favorite books of 2020.

This book was a birthday gift from a friend who knows me well enough to know how much I love to swim, and as it turns out, it was the perfect literary companion to an initially impromptu (and then very intentional) 100-day swim streak this past summer-into-fall.

Why We Swim is a wonderful book, for swimmers and non-swimmers and would-be swimmers alike, with chapters I expected (How do you write a book about swimming and not talk about Kim Chambers? If you haven't
May 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a captivating, beautiful book. I want to love something as much as Bonnie Tsui loves swimming, as much as she adores and yearns to be in the water and contemplates her place—and our collective human place—in relation to it. There are many interesting facts woven through the tapestry of the author’s lifelong love affair with being in the water to make this lovely, specific, meditative book. I learned a lot and feel moved by her passion for swimming.

If you think you don’t care about swimming,
Ethel Rohan
Apr 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This a wonderfully researched and beautifully written tribute to water, swimming, and the human spirit. I read riveted, full of admiration for its author, Bonnie Tsui, and the many survivors, adventurers, and heroes the book salutes. I finished feeling inspired, and aching to swim, and wondering how I could live a bigger, bolder life.
Wonderfully interesting exploration of many aspects of our attraction to water and swimming. Stories of survival, competition, teaching, therapy, flow, even Samurai trained to swim in armor. Well-written and engaging, this book draws on history, literature, psychology, and other areas to give you a tour of the human population’s love of being in, and moving through, water.

I also loved the elegant cover!
Nov 30, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
uh this was obviously a self-indulgent book lol. i thought it would be science-y and, go into, you know, why we swim but there was only surface level stuff and nothing new. the book was just personal stories which got super repetitive in the second half and the writing was, like, super flowery
R.K. Cowles
A Goodreads giveaway. Do you really need to know why? As long as we know how to. Although you may not care why we swim, this is a fascinating read of stories, history and theories on why.
Wow, I learn a lot! And I did enjoy how the statements about swimming and the attraction we have for water are presented throuth the life of the people she met.
Angela Mitchell
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
Makes me want to get back in the water!
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A love letter to swimmers, especially open water swimmers.

I found it very inspirational - I don't swim enough! I need to do more open water swimming! And go for as long as I can without a wetsuit in the SF Bay, maybe all winter.

Why We Swim mixes memoir with the science of the benefits of swimming, especially cold water swimming, and the psychology & physiology that swimming promotes.

Her book isn't too kind to competitive swimmers - she gives it a mixed review. It's beneficial as a physical disci
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: swimming, aadisc
Collection of various inspirational stories about swimmers that overcame obstacles. Seemed a little disjointed in the collection/selection, but each story stood well on its own.
Sibel  Rac
It was just all right.
Well-researched but nothing new. It was like she collected what everyone ever said/wrote about swimming and put it neatly in a book. From greek gods, through Aristotle and Neruda, all the way to Clintons and Michael Phelps. Touched some society views on swimming and added a few contemporary stories of friends and her family, but again - well known. Lacked creativity and personality.
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am a clunky, poor-at-best swimmer. I've always been afraid of being too far into water. I don't float that well. Over the past couple of years I've made an effort to learn to swim better and it's been a great challenge. I enjoy going to the pool now and even swim a bit in the lake. But I'm always a little anxious. Bonnie Tsui writes a great history of swimming combined with some memoir that reflects the ever-present tension involved in swimming and examines how swimming and swimmers have evolv ...more
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Bonnie Tsui is a journalist and longtime contributor to The New York Times. She's the author of AMERICAN CHINATOWN, winner of the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. Her new book, WHY WE SWIM, was published by Algonquin Books in April 2020; it was a TIME 100 Must-Read Book of 2020, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a Boston Globe bestse ...more

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“Tanaka’s lab has pioneered new research on swimming’s effects on two of the biggest hallmarks of aging: high blood pressure and arthritis. “Over the last four or five years, a funky thing happened—we realized that the effects of swimming actually surpassed the magnitude of the effects of walking or cycling,” he tells me. “None of us knew that before.” Average reduction in blood pressure after land-based exercise training is five to seven points. Swimming, he found, reduces blood pressure by an average of nine points—in the blood-pressure world, that’s significant. It also decreases arterial stiffness, a condition in which the walls of your arteries become less elastic and add strain to the heart muscle.” 4 likes
“You don’t have to be a great swimmer to appreciate the benefits of sensory solitude and the equilibrium the water can bring.” 4 likes
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