Wild Swimming Books

I was recently asked to recommend books on wild swimming to someone who was keen to get started. It’s not easy to do this, as there are so many books that it’s difficult to know where to start, and it all depends what you want from a book (though Roger Deakin’s Waterlog is my first choice!). Some ideas here.

I’ve included some links to specific books or lists of books. It’s a bit random and not comprehensive. And also some films, videos, websites and other material.

Extract from Waterlog

Some books describe swims and journeys, such as the classic Roger Deakin, Waterlog. I would personally recommend this as the number one book to read as it covers so many different aspects, including history, access, environmental concerns, and it is a delight. Though it doesn’t give advice specifically, or act as a pointer to places, it was how I found many lovely swim spots. Many regard this as a seminal book, and it certainly got me started, https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/about/      

Many recent books describe individual personal journeys, relationships with water, with authors focusing very much on their own lives, usually on a variety of traumas, and how the water has helped them. These are very popular, and it shows that wild swimming has a strong place in many people’s lives. Personally I liked Andrew Dusek, Dip, best out of this sort of book, along with the next two books that take a wider view.

A wonderful book that is less about trauma though does mention it, describes a journey learning to swim front crawl in the sea. It is very enjoyable and has a short section on history. Alexandra Heminsley, Leap In.

Another very enjoyable book that looks at the history of swimming, particularly focusing on women swimming, which does include some personal info but with a light touch, is Jenny Landreth, Swell.

A different type of book is the sort that describe swim places and give details of how to get to them. There are lots of these, too, with one of the earliest by Rob Fryer from 20 years ago, with latest edition recently published. Increasingly, authors of these books are very careful about what places they include, and cover issues of being responsible when you swim. The best and most recent one is The Art of Wild Swimming in England and Wales (there is a Scotland one as well), and this has pieces and listing details from local swimmers, including me for East Anglia and some of the most admired and influential swimmers around in the community at the moment. It takes responsibility very seriously but is a lovely book as well. It includes advice on safety and on getting started.

Swim Walks gives directions for walks and swims in places reachable by public transport from London. You can buy it, but marvellously it is available in full for free online.

Another London centred one is At the Pond, currently available from Norfolk libraries.

A lovely little book, which makes a lovely gift, is Wild Swimming by Flora Jamieson.

Wild Swimming by Flora Jamieson

Learning about water is a good idea, and How to Read Water is very useful and quite readable.

I’m a member of a small book club that focuses on swimming and water related books, where we share information about books and meet monthly for a swim and discussion. Why not set something up in your own swim group?

Wild swim books: some lists and reviews


Rob Fryer, 2000 Wild Swims, latest edition, 475pp A4, based on 20 years research) .

clouds reflected in the river
River Waveney, Geldeston Locks. One of the locations in The Art of Wild Swimming




Outdoor Swimming Society post on wild swimmers library

Outdoor Swimming Society review of wild woman swimming by the wonderful and sadly lost Lynn Roper

A discussion on the Outdoor Swimming Society Facebook page about swim books, https://m.facebook.com/groups/outdoorswimmingsociety/permalink/10153564736662830/

How to Read Water, reviewed on the Outdoor Swimming Society website

Swim Walks, available to read online.

page from online book
Extract from Swim Walks online

At the Pond, currently available as an e-book from Norfolk libraries, https://norfolk.overdrive.com/media/4744017

It’s worth checking your local library’s digital service for e-books and audiobooks.

If you want advice about getting started and websites with safety and other info, I’ve put together some info for those new to outdoor swimming (focusing on the Brecks but applicable elsewhere)

https://www.imogensriverswims.co.uk/blog/issues/z-more-info-on-outdoor-swimming-september-2020/, and loads of safety advice on all topics from the Outdoor Swimming Society,


One popular swimmer, who calls herself ‘everyday athlete’, Rachel Andrews, publishes and promotes on social media useful weekly swimming videos on her YouTube channel, for example this one on winter swimming and safety, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CibBAo4x21Q

A new trend that appeared during lockdown and seems to have lasting popularity (many sign up and some sell-out) is online free or very cheap webinars or discussions, some of which are then put on YouTube or otherwise available afterwards, including Blue Tonic, Immerse Hebrides, ShAFF eg past , https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdc5IffOL8-yAyKLk1Zu-Ew, next on 10 January would be particularly helpful for those starting out – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/shaff-online-starting-out-wild-swimming-suzanna-cruickshank-tickets-219198858687, Swim England https://swimming.app.box.com/s/risq7wouuc7gmfqhj7v8wuk2ld22d64a , mostly about safety aspects but also – for example the next Blue Tonic one 21 Dec 2021 (https://www.facebook.com/BlueTonic-100452505236917/) is about poetry and swimming.

There are also a few films, including The Ponds, currently on Netflix. And lots listed on the Outdoor Swimming Society website, https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/category/features/films/, and in this article, https://www.swimireland.ie/news/16-swimming-films-for-swimspiration    

There are several books and other media about nature and its benefits, including immersing in water, a topic I’ve covered in a post on this website.

And nature writing (or the new nature writing) is a very popular genre, and quite a few include wild swimming. A couple of examples where you can read about this: https://www.nanshepherdprize.com/resources/what-is-nature-writing, and https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/dec/28/new-nature-writing-gender-race-climate.