Seal bites librarian: Open water swimming book recommendations | Mechanics' Institute

You are here

Seal bites librarian: Open water swimming book recommendations

Some members were surprised to find my name in the SFGate article ‘Friendly’ seal bites San Francisco man, sends him to the hospital, wondering why I swim in the Bay and not in a pool. As a librarian, I would like to answer that question with an assemblage of works explaining why some swim in open water.


Waterlog by the late Roger Deakin follows a man’s quest to understand his island nation of Britain by swimming its lakes, streams, and waterways. This influential book, that some consider a nature writing classic, inspired others to swim in the wild and advocate for open access to waterways. First published in 1999, Tin House republished it for the US market in 2021. 


Why We Swim by New York Times contributor, author of American Chinatown: A People's History of Five Neighborhoods, and Bay Area swimmer, Bonnie Tsui, was highlighted in a program in May of 2020 with Mechanics’ Institute. In Why We Swim, Tsui explores the deeper connection between humans and the water through a series of astonishing true stories and an exploration of her own relationship with swimming.


Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox. You may remember Lynne Cox as the first person to swim the Bering Strait between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In Swimming to Antarctica, Cox reflects on swimming accomplishments explaining why she went from breaking speed records to making waves as the first swimmer to complete feats like swimming to Antarctica. 

Kim Swims is an uplifting documentary streaming on our movie and video streaming service Kanopy. It follows a Bay Area swimmer determined to be the first woman to accomplish open water swimming’s most difficult swim, the 30 miles from the Farallon Islands to San Francisco Bay.

Posted on Apr. 7, 2023 by Myles Cooper