Swim: Why We Love the Water by Lynn Sherr (Public Affairs, 2012; hardcover, 224 pages) literally dives in to the world of swimming, surfacing with a rich array of photos, illustrations, interviews, and excerpts from ancient times to the present. While presented as a narrative that flows nicely from start to finish, the book also has great utility as a reference thanks to its index, particularly for brushing up on people in the sport past and present, since they are all in here–from the swim-movie megastar Esther Williams to swimming presidents, famous coaches, and Brighton Beach buddies Capri and Alan!
The book reminded me that I still have plenty to learn about swimming, including more about legends of Greek mythology and bizarro horse-drawn huts or “bathing machines” that dropped the bather directly into the water and were popular 100 years ago in Europe. Alas, it also confirmed as myth something that I wish were true, namely, that pee in a specially protected pool turns a bright color and identifies the perpetrator.
The rich photos and illustrations help show how people have viewed swimming and swimmers through the ages and would make a great exhibit unto themselves. In a funny use of page-footer space, a breaststroker slowly makes her way from one side of the book to another, tempting the reader to crank through the pages as a flipbook.
A list of swim movies (p. 178) and a rich bibliography serve as to-do lists for further exploration.
The author, a New Yorker, has some upcoming local speaking/signing events, including the Great Hudson River Swim on May 26 and a talk at the Mid-Manhattan Library on July 25. I look forward to being part of the crowds of swim aficionados these events will attract.