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Summary

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 21st century, we swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. Swimming is an introspective and silent sport in a chaotic and noisy age; it’s therapeutic for both the mind and body; and it's an adventurous way to get from point A to point B. It's also one route to that elusive, ecstatic state of flow. These reasons, among many others, make swimming one of the most popular activities in the world. 

Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein's palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. 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 it is about water - despite its dangers - that seduces us, tempting us to come back to it again and again.

©2020 Bonnie Tsui (P)2020 Dreamscape Media, LLC

What listeners say about Why We Swim

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Fantastic book for the swimmer

I'm a frequent outdoor swimmer, and love the head space and fitness that comes with the activity. This book captures and explores that. The writing is engaging, and the narrator's performance captures the style well.

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderful

This was a glorious read & essential reading for water babies X X X X

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Sublime evocation of what it means to swim

I listened over the course of three runs, which is what I like to do when I'm not swimming. It's an easy listen with a lovely balance of fact, personal experiences and poetic insight into the state of flow that swimming can sometimes induce. Having just signed up for the Polar Bear Challenge, I expect I will be returning to this book over the coming winter.

1 person found this helpful

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  • ka
  • 17-04-20

great book for all who love to swim

I finished the audiobook in two days.
beautifully performed and easy to listen to.
had been looking forward to this book/audiobook since I first heard of it



would have loved to hear more about the sport science of swimming


thanks to the author for making this book



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Beautiful

love this book. I know I will listen to it again. wonderful! I highly recommend.

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breathtaking

this book is full of serenity and joy . it has given me the courage to go back and want to swim again . it is like meditation ♥️♥️

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Recommended

Loved the listen from beginning to end. I wish I had read this before I visited Iceland. Iceland is more to me now than great aurorae borealis. A nation of hardy swimmers.I love the various aspects covered in cultural and mental health among other benefits of swimming.

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Wonderful!

This is one of the best books I have read/ listened to in a while. So beautifully written & fascinating.

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  • Eugene Gallagher
  • 27-06-20

A very enjoyable book for swimmers

I am an active swimmer, both pool and open water, and I greatly enjoyed Bonnie Tsui's "Why We Swim.". She mixes stories and interviews with open water swimmers such as Lynne Cox with Olympians such as Dara Torres and Katie Ledecky. She briefly describes the history of swimming including interviews with anthropologists, the neurologist and author Oliver Sacks, and a Samurai swimming master. Throughout, she describes her personal feelings of swimming open water, including the the ice mile, the Alcatraz swim, and Masters competitions. She includes sections on the spirituality of swimming that reminded me somewhat of Danny Dreyer’s descriptions in Chi Running. The book will be of greatest interest to swimmers and will be spur them to ask “Why do I swim?” I swim to feel good and to experience the joy after competing in New England open water and master swims. It feels great to swim across Portland Harbor in the Peaks to Portland swim, to swim through the gut in the 2.5-mile Nubble Light Challenge in Maine or to finish the Salem MA 5 km swim in 52 degree water.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Jason
  • 22-05-20

Sublime Swimming

This is a great Book For anyone who likes to swim or is interested in swimming or know somebody who loves to swim.
The authors language and choice of words is beautiful and the narrator‘s presentation does it justice. The content describes the physical and mental benefits of swimming. But, it does more than that. It is a history of humans relationship to water and swimming to the millennium to modern history and a description of stories of Individuals and their relationship to water. She describes the glories and challenges of open water swimming as well as indoor swimming, both for pleasure and competition.

10 people found this helpful

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  • lisa decker
  • 12-06-21

Maybe it’s because I’m not an avid swimmer…

Some sections of this book were very interesting, but others just didn’t hold my attention. The parts where the author discussed her personal experiences were less captivating than when she explored what swimming means to other people and cultures, currently and historically. I felt like her parallel story was interwoven in a choppy way. I’m not an avid swimmer, so maybe it was the overall subject matter…

8 people found this helpful

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  • Manifesta
  • 06-07-20

I was skeptical, but I'm glad I read it.

This book is the July selection for the Los Angeles Times Book Club. I wouldn't run it on my own, because I really have no interest in swimming. That said, it's very well-written and the narration is excellent. I'm glad I read it, if for no other reason that I didn't know samurai swimming existed, and now I do, and it's amazing.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Eleanor H. Watts
  • 06-05-21

Even if you're not a swimmer

Even if you're not a swimmer you will be caught up in the drama which begins in the icy waters off Iceland and concludes in swim competitions in California. If you ARE a swimmer you may wonder why anyone would take on the swim from Alcatraz to the Park in San Francisco! Either way, it's a great read.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Phil M
  • 03-07-20

solid

it's a solid book. nothing extraordinary but also nothing terrible. it captures the essence of swimming so overall does what it says.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Eucalyptusleaf
  • 26-06-20

Entertaining listen for all watermen / waterwomen!

Why We Swim is Bonnie Tsui's love letter to the the ocean, lake, pool and swimming itself and in it her passion shines through! The book is one-part memoir, one part examination into man's relationship with the water and one part exploration into experiences surrounding water. The book is well-researched and well-written as you would expect from a frequent contributor to the New York Times. I was captivated from the initial story in the book of how Guðlaugur Friðþórsson survived a grueling six hour swim in icy waters to safety and its effect on Icelandic culture through to hearing about samurai swimmers and finally learning about the importance of the water in the author's own life. As someone who loves the ocean and riding its waves, this was a very enjoyable listen.

4 people found this helpful

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  • jemm
  • 08-02-21

Excellent Swimming Book

wonderful book. nice balance on various swimming topics from writers perspective. i enjoyed listening to it. the book carries you in waves, feel good read :) highly recommend it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Anne branagh
  • 06-06-21

Inspirational for all swimmers

This book was well written with facts and fun about humans and our swimming life and careers. Narrator was lovely and great to listen too. I was enlightened and encouraged to keep swimming!

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ross A.
  • 24-01-21

Great book

A wonderfully written book. She captures all the beauty of swimming. Will look for another of Bonnie’s books.

2 people found this helpful