Why We Swim

Why We Swim

One of our previous DRBC picks, and a must-read for any curious minds! Why We Swim is a non-fiction essay collection that explores the human connection with water. Told partly as a memoir of Tsui’s own experiences, the book also tells the stories of different swimmers across both the world and time. Through these stories, Tsui attempts to discover why humans are drawn to water, despite our evolutionary fitness towards land.

We swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But 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, swimming is 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 about water—despite its dangers—seduces us and why we come back to it again and again.