MSF Book Club

Hi All - I was thinking yesterday on the way to work that I wanted join a book club and then I thought it might be fun to start a book club with this group. Books on swimming, adventure or any that might spur some fun conversations around our sport. Anybody interested. Any book suggestions? Happy swimming. Jamie



  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandAdmin

    Great idea. My real hobby? Not swimming, not photography, not blog writing. Reading. There are so many I'll start with some relevant highlights. @evmo might want to drop in some Amazon referral links. I'd been meaning to review more of these on the blog on this specific subject but never got around to it (yet).

    I'll skip some of the obvious swimming books.

    I like adventure books, specifically polar and mountain climbing, because I feel and see the obvious connection to marathon swimming and I'm interested in how people write about these subjects.

    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Haruki Murakami, that is really appropriate for distance swimmers.

    Staying With It by John Jerome, a great (non-fiction) book that will also resonate here, of an older swimmer returning to (pool) swimming. OOP but cheaply available on Abebooks etc.

    The White Spider by Heinrich Harrer famous book about the ascent of the North Face of the Eiger and one of the greatest adventure and climbing books ever.

    Into Thin Air, by Jon Krakhauer, a little obvious, but a great book nonetheless. Maybe the best Everest book.

    Touching The Void by Joe Simpson, kind of the modern White Spider. Every Channel swimmer should read this book. On long swims I think of books not songs. When things went wrong in the EC, this is one of the books that came to mind.

    The Worst Journey In the World, by Apsley Cherry Garrard. 100 years after it was written, it's still regularly described as the greatest adventure book ever written and it's certainly the best I've read. If you read just one adventure or polar expedition book, this is the one.

    I'm Irish so it's in my Birth Certificate that I cannot touch on this subject without mentioning the greatest Polar explorer ever, Ernest Shackleton. The problem here is which book, because you really want both Michael Smith's biography, and _South With Endurance _with the photos of Frank Hurley while it looks like there are plenty of other!s out there that do both.

    If you are interested in this subject, then you need to read Tom Crean, also by Michael Smith. Just so you can read about the most amazing adventurer that you probably never heard of if you are not Irish and the only man) who was with BOTH Shackleton AND Scott.= on their most famous journeys and on whom both relied.

    Go on with you now.

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member

    Dover Solo..Marcia Cleveland I wrote a review for H20 will try to find it Nothing great is easy Des Renford great read and very funny Mad Bad and Dangerous to Know.. Ran Fiennes as per What I think about when I think about Running (i have that too) Achieving the Impossible.. Lewis Pugh Its cold in the Channel ..Sam Rockett

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member

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  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    Second vote for Touching the Void. Also really enjoyed An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield.

  • DanSimonelliDanSimonelli San Diego CASenior Member

    South With The Sun - Lynne Cox

    Where I first learned about Shackelton.

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member
    edited October 2015

    A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby. A great book about stiff-uplip-ness,filled with British humour and one of the main reasons I am an unapologetic anglophile.

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    You know how sometimes you'll "hate-watch" a television series? I mean, because you've seen a couple episodes, thinking the show would be good, kinda got into it, then the show started to suck really badly, and you continued to watch it just to see how bad it could get? You know, "hate-watch" it?!

    Well, in that vein, I suggest Find a Way, by you-know-who. But please, oh dear God please, borrow it from a library.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member

    Marathon Woman was beyond-beyond amazing. It was written by Katherine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon (1967). She was body-checked off the course by the race organizer, and was told her uterus would fall out if she continued training. Awesome, tear-invoking book.

    Two Faces of the English Channel is a great channel read, distinguished because a serious chunk of the book is written by the swimmer's wife. It's really neat to get a crew's perspective on the swim!

  • The Lure of the Labrador Wild - by Dillon Wallace. The writing style is a bit cheesy but the tragic adventure of an American who wants to be the first to cross Labrador and all the mis-steps that doomed him is a great read, hard to put down.

  • Awesome thanks! Have already ordered a couple of these books.

    I could add The Last Dive by Bernie Chowdhury. Non-fiction about a father and son's fatal cave-dive.

  • I love this. Since I have never run a Book Club. Let me do a little research and I will get back to everyone. I think this will be fun. Thank you for everyone's comments and suggestions. Stay tuned.. Yay...

  • SpacemanspiffSpacemanspiff Dallas, TexasSenior Member

    I'm late to the game on this one. @loneswimmer already named my two favorite adventure books: Endurance and Touching the Void. I read Touching the Void when it first came out. Ten years later, I downloaded the movie and watched it on my iPad during a trans-Atlantic flight. Even though I knew the outcome, my palms started sweating as soon as I hit "play." Remarkable story of courage and clarity. If you haven't read this book or seen the movie, buy the book and don't Google the plot first. Let it play out for you as it occurred.

    [Spoiler??] One of my favorite parts of the book is not the most famous part; rather, it occurs after Joe Simpson is already alone, in the crevasse, preparing for his rappel into the dark unknown. He makes the conscious decision to leave the end of the rope un-knotted because he foresees the dilemma the knot would create if it became necessary. Then says, "You gotta make decisions. You gotta keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed."


    "Lights go out and I can't be saved Tides that I tried to swim against Have brought be down upon my knees Oh I beg, I beg and plead..."

  • bluemermaid9bluemermaid9 Boca Raton, FL, United StatesMember

    Love this thread! I'm a Shackleton fan, too, but all the books I have regarding his adventures have already been mentioned.

    I love an underdog. This story, though not related to swimming, is about an 8-man rowing team comprised of sons of blue-collar workers, who made it to the Olympics in Germany in 1936 and walked away with the gold. The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown.

  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero by Charles Sprawson looks at swimming as history in several cultures. It's great fun for the reader-swimmer. As a new swimmer (with zero aspirations for ice-swimming) I still really enjoyed Lynne Cox's Swimming to Antarctica.

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member

    see as we have a few comments off the subject of swimming yes I enjoyed Joe Simpsons Touching the Void but also the follow up 'beckoning silence' in addition to that Capt Scott by Ran Fiennes I also have a stack of cycling books (plenty of Armstrongs to be burnt on the next BBQ)

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member


  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited May 2016

    Timely thread! While I have some favorite swimming books, I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, the author's account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from Mojave in CA through Oregon. to the Bridge of the Gods bordering OR and WA. She was 26 when she set out and had lost her mother, split up w her husband, and even for a period of time done heroine (but she was off it by the time she began the trip).

    While she had some experience camping, she'd never backpacked and made a lot of beginner mistakes at first, growing into the trip, one might say.

    It's a very touching story but not in a sentimental way....also very gritty/honest. Hard to put down!

    Helped me understand what I've been searching for in undertaking the swims I want to do, none of which match the ambition of her quest.

  • flystormsflystorms Memphis, TNMember

    Love this thread and wow, it looks like I've read nearly all of them listed. Shackleton's adventure is one of my all time favorite stories and Touching the Void is harrowing. Both are in my top 10 books.

  • Love many of these books--especially the ones noted by @loneswimmer --how about Bone Games? Another running book but also relevant to long distance swimming--also OOP but I saw it remaindered somewhere recently

  • SoloSolo B.C. CanadaMember

    I just finished reading I Am Malala by Malala Yousufzai. The sheer determination shown by such a young girl is inspiring.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited May 2016

    There's always the upcoming Immersion: Marathon swimming, embodiment and identity by our own @KarenT . :D Congrats, Karen!

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member

    Thanks so much, @JenA . It's hard to believe it's actually becoming an actual book at last. Plus, I consider it a lifetime accomplishment to find myself at the age of 48 on the cover of a book in a swimming costume and plastered with 'Butt Paste'.

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    Will the book be available on Kindle, @KarenT?

  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member

    @IronMike - I don't think so at first. It will be out in the hardback version (plus an electronic version aimed at university libraries) for a year or so, then will come out in a much more affordable paperback after that. I don't know about Kindle availability for the paperback version yet.

  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember

    On Amazon, on the book's page, lower right hand corner, you can 'tell the publisher' that you would like to read it on Kindle. The more people ask, the more likely it will be available in that format.

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    KarenT said: @IronMike - I don't think so at first. It will be out in the hardback version (plus an electronic version aimed at university libraries) for a year or so, then will come out in a much more affordable paperback after that. I don't know about Kindle availability for the paperback version yet.

    swimrn62 said: On Amazon, on the book's page, lower right hand corner, you can 'tell the publisher' that you would like to read it on Kindle. The more people ask, the more likely it will be available in that format.

    Thanks to both of you!

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited June 2016

    I just finished reading Rowing the Atlantic, by Roz Savage. The book is about her unsupported solo row across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

    I had to smile at some of the paragraphs. A UK Navy vessel pulled up to her in the middle of the ocean to present her with a Valentine's Day card. Although the Navy had cleared giving her a card with the event organizers, she was hesitant to accept it, because she didn't want to lose her unassisted status. :-)

    In that same paragraph, she wrote: "I had heard a story about an ocean rower who, just as he was approaching his final destination, had been hailed by someone on a passing yacht who had thrown him a can of cola. Instinctively he had reached out to catch it. That can of cola had cost him his unsupported status."

    Sixty to a hundred days on the ocean, and a reflex grab near the finish changed his status to "supported". The philosophy sounds a bit familiar... :)

  • EllisEllis Baltimore, MarylandMember
    edited July 2016

    The Great Swim by Gavin Mortimer is a fascinating book about the race to be the first woman to swim the English Channel.

  • JaimieJaimie NYCMember
    edited July 2016

    Read a great book about competitive freediving recently and saw lots of parallels between this sport and open water swimming, in particular marathon and ice swimming

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Another book recommendation. ... this one, a paperback novel I bought from Powell's Books... Samantha Warwick's Sage Island. This is set in the 1920s, and the main character, Savanna Mason, is an Olympic hopeful but just misses making the 1924 team. However, she then moves into open water swimming and travels wast to Catalina Island to participate in a race to the mainland (no longer held, but was an actual event). We follow her adventures from NYC where she works in a bake shop but has bigger dreams, until she finds her way to CA for her race.

    Interesting look at women's swimming at the time, and the expectations of female athletes -- this being around the time Ederle made her historic English Channel swim (although E is more a background figure in this novel, her presence felt although she doesn't interact w the main character).

    Really wonderful the way it weaves together a poetic love for swimming w the gritty routine of training and the struggle w sexism. A love interest develops, but not in a cutesy romantic novel stereotyped way.

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    Reviving this as I'm just about finished with Modern Long Distance Swimming by Gerald Forsberg. Great along the lines of Wind, Waves and Sunburn (still my fav). The Forsberg is a blast to read as he's swum (and sometimes won) all the races he talks about (all in the UK). He's got interesting theories on nutrition and swimming, all fun to read.

    If you can find it for less than $50, count yourself lucky. I put a "want" in one of my online used book stores and it sat there for about two months before I suddenly got notified of a copy available for $25.

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    IronMike said: Well, in that vein, I suggest Find a Way, by you-know-who. But please, oh dear God please, borrow it from a library.

    I read "the book about the 'Swim'" recently- ok, it was a Christmas gift. I had missed a lot of the controversy until after I read it, so I would like to offer my impressions based on that. It was an odd narrative. In this day and age, anyone with kids in sports needs to be aware of any hint of reproach regarding coaches' behaviors, so her account of her swim coach, while awkwardly recounted, had some purpose, if only her personal catharsis.

    The fact that she spoke of being heavily into swimming, shifting into her professional life, then getting back into swimming when others might have felt too old had value. I work with seniors, and by some measures, I'm a late bloomer. Whatever else she may or may not have done, she did some swimming. She was in decent shape for any age, and while I feel better about Sister Madonna as a senior role model (the Iron Nun), Nyad is out there, and did something.

    As for her many failed attempts- Her account of attempts and thought processes and disappointments seemed valid. Her discussion of the many ways she tried to make the Cuba Swim a reality and vignettes from any of those particular swims were filled with things that had me thinking, "THAT is disqualifying. THAT isn't how you do it." Etc. Admitting to locking any potential documentation in a vault is just weird. After the detailed struggles of prior attempts, the detail of the final attempt was sketchy at best, for someone otherwise redundant.

    In her favor: Nyad is free with praise and credit for all who supported her in any way at any time.

    The vast amount of evidence against her swim (including so much which she herself recounts in the book, frankly) was sad. People work hard, some succeed, some come close, but it all counts. Given some of the quotes and quips found in one of the articles posted on this forum about her relationship with the facts, Nyad has misrepresented, been corrected, stated correction, gone back to other stories, and may well have no idea of what her own reality has been after all the variations. Her unsportsmanlike conduct at the time and subsequently regarding Walter Poenisch is totally unacceptable.

    I feel about Nyad much as I feel about Lance Armstrong. Both had ability, but neither valued the honest ability sufficiently.

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    I loved Swimming to Antarctica. I was delighted to meet Lynne Cox at a book signing. I bought several copies which she kindly signed for me and some family members. I was in San Antonio at the time, and delayed leaving for Tucson by hours to meet her, and it was well worth it. Her recent Swimming in the Sink is delightful.

    Dover Solo has been mentioned, and I have had it handy for years, along with Open Water Swimming by Penny Lee Dean.

    Much of my swimmer reading has been in the format of articles. Read about Florence Chadwick, Diane Storable (I'm trying her swim this summer!! Boat crew permitting.), Ederle, Streeter, and the star of the Baltimore Sun: Madam Butterfly- Doris Russell. ;-) Here is an older video of Doris:

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. by Angela Duckworth. I'm reading it now, and it is just what I needed at this point in training. Many swim references, in addition to other insights about success in likely or unlikely lives.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    Bridget said: of the Baltimore Sun: Madam Butterfly- Doris Russell. ;-) Here is an older video of Doris:

    I now LOVE this lady! I'm 66 and the slowest swimmer in my masters group. Sometimes this bothers me, but I know I can't sit on the sidelines wishing I were swimming. I love swimming. At the end of tonight's workout, for a few precious seconds, I stopped swimming just to look at the way the light shone through the water from below the surface. It reminded me that this was soul time.

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    @Bridget and @dpm50, I read a long time ago an article, I think in Outside or maybe Ultrasport, about a swimmer. Can't remember much about him, but the article was titled something along the lines of "Chlorine is my prozac." While nowadays I'd update that to "Swimming in open water is...", I get the idea. Swimming certainly is "soul time."

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    Bridget said: I was delighted to meet Lynne Cox at a book signing.

    I was lucky enough to meet Lynne at a book signing some years ago for her OW swim handbook. She was lovely and she continued contact with me. So much so that two of her doctors from her early 1980's US-USSR swims came to Kyrgyzstan for a doctor exchange and they met me to talk about my lake Issyk Kul swim! Lynne set the whole thing up!

    Much of my swimmer reading has been in the format of articles. Read about Florence Chadwick, Diane Storable (I'm trying her swim this summer!! Boat crew permitting.)...

    Good luck in Lake George! If I were in the states, I'd definitely come crew for you.

  • IronMikeIronMike Moscow, RussiaCharter Member

    So, not a book, but a short story...

    I'm an unapologetic lover of 20th c. American and British literature. Think Evelyn Waugh, PG Wodehouse, Graham Greene, Kingsley Amis, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Philip Roth.

    My love of these authors resulted in a link showing up on my FB page to a little article today about authors and their children. John Cheever was mentioned. Cheever is an author I've heard of, but have never read. However, under Cheever's name was the title of a short story called The Swimmer.

    Well, of course I had to read this story.

    I read it, from the Library of America's "story of the week" (link pdf). Right up my alley. What I found interesting was the protagonist's desire to stick to the rules he set up (basically, to "swim across the county"), much like we marathon swimmers demand of our fellow swimmers. Whoa if some famous open water swimmers would follow the rules as much as Cheever's character does.

    The story is, of course, dated. But if you like reading stories from this period (lots of drinking parties), then you just might like it. Short, maybe 10-11 pages, it's a quick read. Very fun. And apparently they made a movie based on the short story, featuring Burt Lancaster. You can beat your bottom dollar IronMike will be looking for a way to watch that movie this weekend. I'll report back.

  • swimrn62swimrn62 NY, NYMember
    edited June 19

    They made a film from the book, starring Burt Lancaster.......just saw that you knew is tough when you can't watch the tracker!!

  • JustSwimJustSwim Member

    To me "The Swimmer" is a very disturbing swim. Reflects John Cheever's inner demons I have heard.

  • WarmWaterWarmWater SingaporeMember

    Sounds intriguing actually......

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