View Full Version : What are your favorite swimming books?

October 14th, 2005, 05:59 PM
I have Diana Nyad's books and Swiimming to Antarctica, Penny Deans Open Water Swimming, Marcia Cleveland's Dover Solo and a few more basic training books. I like Diana's best but for planning/training information I haven't found anything I liked yet but maybe you have?

Which are your favorite training books and which are your favorite inspriational stories?

October 14th, 2005, 09:16 PM
This isn't a training book but I did find it inspirational, in a way.

It's called Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero by Charles Sprawson. It's kind of a history of swimming, featuring historical figures and exotic locals. I enjoyed it, it sparked my imagination, and renewed my love of swimming.

October 15th, 2005, 01:31 AM
This one is pretty cool as well. Wind, Waves and Sunburn: A Brief History of Marathon Swimming...


October 15th, 2005, 03:26 PM
Neat idea for a thread. I've been reading swimming books since I was a kid and got a copy of Don Schollander's biography(Deep Water--I still have it but haven't looked at it in 30 years).

Haunts of a Black Massuer is the most literary swimming book I know of and is worth reading. Very different from most other books about swimming but enjoyable for the perspective it brings, and the quality of the writing.

The best swimming book for learning about high level competing from the inside, or at least right alongside is, in my opinion, PH Mullen's book, Gold in the Water. Very well done. There are a couple other similar books that aren't as well done, about multiple swimmers aiming for an olympic team.

There are actually quite a few enjoyable books around, which generally fall into the single swimmer biography school. For example, Breaking the Surface--about Greg Louganis. I know he was a diver, but he swam in SD CIF champs when he was in high school so I'm going to count it. The Crossing about Matthew Webb--by Kathy Watson--is very interesting. He was the first to swim the English Channel, and led an interesting, and ultimately tragic life seeking fame and fortune.

You can order from Australia several interesting books about Australian open water icons, Des Renford and Shelly Taylor-Smith. The former is Nothing Great is Easy, which I enjoyed. As he neared 40, after being a pretty mediocre swimmer as an age grouper, he discovered his aptitude for swimming the English Channel, and did so 19 times. For those of us who are masters swimmers with a pretty mediocre pool career, his story resonates. The latter, Dangerous When Wet, is an interesting story about Shelly Taylor-Smith's swim career. She was a grown-up for most of the book, and an open water champion, so its a more interesting read than the usual sports biography about teenagers.

If you haunt used book stores, or search on line, you might be able to find Long Distance Swimming by Gerald Forsberg. Forsberg was an English open water swimming great and reading his book, which was published in the 1950s, gives you a great perspective on open water swimming. It will make you want to try to find Morecambe Bay and swim there.

A recently published book about the history of open water swimming, which I prefer to some others, is History of Open Water Swimming, by Tim Johnson. It has a nice history of open water swimming, and talks quite a bit about the history of Manhattan swimming as well as many other swims. He also includes a list of successful crossers of Catalina so you can see people you know in a book. If you know anyone who has done the crossing. Nicely done.

Except for the Renford book and the Shelly Taylor Smith book, a very good place to get swimming books is the Swimming World website, http://www.swimmingworldmagazine.com/swimshop/shop.asp?iCatId=4. Those two books were available through Paul Ellercamp's website, Oceanswims.com, but he seems to have gotten out of the book business. Both of them are available at
http://www.biblioz.com/main.php, which is an Aussie used book website. I have never used it so can't vouch for anything about it other than its apparent existence.

October 15th, 2005, 04:50 PM
"Awaken The Olympian Within" was a total inspiring and motivating book to me.

October 15th, 2005, 07:53 PM
Beirland -"Deep Water" was one of the first swimming, or sports books for that matter that I read as a kid.....your mention of it really brought back some great memories - thanks! Now I'll have to go find a copy somewhere. Also reminds me of one of the most inspirational books of all time "Six Days to Swim” A Biography of Jeff Farrell by Jean M. Henning. Someone should update this book to show all the great things Jeff has done since -and not only in the field of swimming.

Swimming books on my bookshelf:

Six Days to Swim -Jeff Farrell
Wind Waves and Sunburn - Conrad Wennerberg
The Crossing - Kathy Watson
Tumble Turns - Shane Gould
Dangerous When Wet - Shelley Taylor Smith
Dover Solo - Marcia Cleveland
Gold in the Water -PH Mullen
History of Open Water Swimming - Tim Johnson
Haunts of the Black Masseur -Charles Sprawson
The Magnificent Bastards - Joint Army-Marine Defense of Dong Ha, 1968 (Ok not a swimming book but includes info on one of USMS's great swimmers (Marine) C. W. (Bill) Muter)

October 15th, 2005, 08:02 PM
Diana Nyad I was in one race that she entered it happened to be my last Marathon race

October 15th, 2005, 08:05 PM
Originally posted by F'ueco
This one is pretty cool as well. Wind, Waves and Sunburn: A Brief History of Marathon Swimming...

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1558216154/002-8424915-9250424?v=glance&n=283155&v=glance Don't believe anything in that book about me. Conrad Wennerberg a very good friend of mine, I was just reading about Abou Heif is a garbage can, and my name happens to be in that chapter. It is a good read. The only thing I can tell you is he asked me to stick out my stomach for my picture and Dennis Matuck was actually a handsome policeman and he sure looks nutty in that picture.

George Park

October 15th, 2005, 09:29 PM
That's a great picture!

October 15th, 2005, 10:20 PM
Originally posted by F'ueco
That's a great picture! It was actually quite funny. I had the ability pop out my stomach and that is what I did and Dennis made a really strange looking face. I was surprised when Conrad put it in his book. The story I told everyone (he called me a con artist) was in a restaurant called "La Pignon Rouge". That restaurant was one of my sponsors I ate there free for three years, and a few bucks for the pocket.

October 15th, 2005, 10:38 PM
If you want to see that picture look here http://swimdownhill.com/_wsn/page11.html I just added it to my web site.

Frank Thompson
October 18th, 2005, 12:39 PM
Hi Randy:

Thanks for sharing your list. I think Deep Water by Don Schollander and Duke Savage is one of the all time great books about swimming. It wasn't just a great biography about Don Schollander but it kinda of reflected the times in the 1960's and how swimming changed with those times. I have 3 copies of the book and was lucky to get Don to sign one through masters swimmer Robert Smith, the great backstroker from Oregon who grew up in swimming in Michigan. About 12 years ago Robert used to workout with Don in Lake Oswego and Don swam in Masters that year in Relays that made the Top Ten and I believe some of them made All American.

The book was kinda of controversial because it was like a tell all about swimming. He talks about the NCAA, AAU, Olympic movement and how he changed as a person from 1964 Olympics to the 1968 Olympics. There is a section that talks about how he was going to retire the day before the 1968 Olympics. I won't say anymore because I don't want to spoil it for anyone wanting to read it in the future. This book was published in 1971. You can still find this pretty easily.

Another book that I still believe is the greatest biography book written about swimming is "The 50 Meter Jungle" How Olympic Gold Medal Swimmers Are Made by Sherm Chavoor with Bill Davidson. This is kinda of a biography of Mark Spitz but goes beyond that and talks about all of the great swimmers from the Arden Hills. On the first page is a description about what's inside.

"I call our sport the fifty meter jungle. The actual arena of competition is just an ordinary rectangle of water, exactly 50 meters long and 25 yards wide. But it is the focus of more scratching and clawing, more struggling for power, and more parasitism than almost anywhere in the world of sports".

He then goes into how swimming changed from the 50's to the 60's to the early 70's. People don't realize it but it was Sherm Chavoor, not Doc Counsiliman, who prepared Mark Spitz for the 1972 Olympics in the spring of 1972. In fact when the college seasons was over, Mark would go back to train at Arden Hills in the summer and on college breaks. It also tells the story of how Mike Burton and Debbie Meyer got there starts and became 1968 Olympic Champions. Other swimmers in the book are John Ferris, who is Carolyn Boak's brother, Sue Pederson, Vicky King, David Fairbank, and Jeff Float just to name a few.

The book talks about injustices in swimming, why swimming was so contoversal with prejedices. How it when from a private and country club sport to a more professional sport where swimmers trained 5 hours a day. He talks about parent infractions at the club, how girls/women were perceived in the sport and how sad it was when Debbie Meyer retired from swimming 8 months before the 1972 Olympics.

This book is so good that every time I lend to someone they want to buy it. In fact, its the most expensive sought after book in swimming right now. I think if you can get a copy of the book for $50.00 you are lucky. That alone will attest to the greatness of this book. It was published back in 1973.

Both Deep Water and the 50 Meter Jungle were not advertised much in the Swimming publications at the time because they were considered very controversial.

Other Great books I would recommend are:

Swimming the American Crawl by Johnny Weismuller, published 1930.

Below the Surface by Dawn Fraser with Harry Gordon, published 1965.

Competitive Swimming As I See It by Steve Clark, published 1967.

Donna de Varona Gold Medal Swimmer by Donna de Varona and Bob Thomas, published 1968.

Six Days to Swim A Biography of Jeff Farrell by Jan Henning, published in 1970.

David Wilkie by Pat Besford and Tommy Long, published in 1976.

Champions The Making of Olympic Swimmers by Donald F. Chambliss, published in 1988. This book is the like a 1980's version of Gold in the Water by PH Mullen.

October 18th, 2005, 03:31 PM
All these books being mentioned has just increased my "must read" list....what a great thread....reminds me of the thread a year or two ago about "what music do you listen to when you swim?" After that started I spent days in the music stores....now I'll be at amazon.com with my credit card....can someone start one about the best wine?!

Frank Thompson
October 18th, 2005, 04:04 PM
Hi Randy:

I was listening to Robert Plant while swimming the other day. Which reminds me, I can't believe you were able to see Robert's sound check and meet him before his concert with out even trying. Back on swimming, 3 more books that I did not mention because they are really reference books with great swimming history.

100 Years of Olympic Swimming by Kelly Gonsaloes and Susan LaMondia, which has a history of Olympic swimming up to the 1996 Olympics. Great stories and has the results of all of the finalists and not just the medal winners. It was published in 1999.
You can still purchase this book but you better hurry because it will probably be out of print soon.

Weissmuller to Spitz by Buck Dawson, which details the first 21 years of people inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. The years are from 1965 to 1986. Book was published in 1987. They are due for an update and I believe new chief Bruce Wilgo said they were working on it. I not sure if you can still purchase this. I got mine in 1987 when it came out.

Encyclopaedia of Swimming by Pat Besford, published last in 1976. This book has at least 4 editions and I have the 1971 and 1976 additions. It has all of the different countries different championships plus detailed histories of Olympics, World Championships, Pan Am Games, Commonwealth Games, etc. You can still get this because there was a lot of editions printed and is easy to fine.

October 18th, 2005, 04:45 PM
My sister and I absolutely loved the book about Donna de Varona - is it still in print?!?. We must have read it a million times during age group swimming in the 60s-70s.

When you listen to music, do you have the waterproof IPOD or another device? I'd like to find something affordable but can't seem to find anything.

Wine: If you want something affordable Clos Du Bois - a Sonoma County winery is consistently satisfying. Chateau Ste Michelle from Washington State is not too bad either.

Something more pricier but great - any wines from Chateau Montelena are my personal favorite. :D

October 19th, 2005, 11:43 AM
Originally posted by geochuck
If you want to see that picture look here http://swimdownhill.com/_wsn/page11.html I just added it to my web site.

Good Site!

October 20th, 2005, 10:35 PM
MichiganHusker Thanks for mentioning 'Chateau Ste Michelle from Washington State" - I have enjoyed it many times and will go buy a bottle tomorrow based on your recomendation...by the way.....Robert Plant and his band the Strange Sensation played at their vinyards two weeks ago and I am still upset I did make the show. Will read the Donna De Varona book, open a bottle and put on Roberts latest CD......got lots of time this weekend waiting for Wilma to hit us in South Florida.......

October 21st, 2005, 01:36 PM
HEre at the Galesburg Public Library there are about six books about fathers' teaching their sons to swim. I think that is really over-kill.

October 23rd, 2005, 12:20 AM
Anyone read the new History of Open-Water Marathon Swimming ?

Mp3-I use the H2Audio case with the Iriver and like it a lot for the pool. THey make a case for the ipod also.

Wine, I like Big House Red and Trader Joe's Well Red.(which is funny given the topic)

Frank Thompson
October 11th, 2006, 06:12 PM

Here is the thread that I was referring to about the swimming books.

October 11th, 2006, 07:32 PM

Here is the thread that I was referring to about the swimming books.

Frank I had to relink Page 11 because I moved it to another page and you brought up some very old stories and I was getting emails that they could not see what they were supposed to. If you want to see that picture look here http://swimdownhill.com/_wsn/page11.html I just added it to my web site.

December 3rd, 2011, 04:23 PM
I liked the following book

Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way To Swim Better, Faster, and Easier (http://best-gear.org/total-immersion-the-revolutionary-way-to-swim-better-faster-and-easier/)

And for swimming drills

The Swimming Drill Book (http://best-gear.org/the-swimming-drill-book/)

December 8th, 2011, 08:48 PM
I'm pretty excited about Lynn Sherr's new book, Swim: Why We Love The Water:


It's coming out in April, and she's going to be one of the guests at our annual meeting of independent booksellers in January, in New Orleans. Can't wait to meet her!

December 8th, 2011, 11:41 PM
50 Meter Jungle was great.

My favorite part is the history lesson about interval training. Before that era, hard training with little rest was thought to cause brain damage. Meyer, Burton and Spitz paved the way for every coach and swimmer who followed.

December 9th, 2011, 12:02 AM
Nice to see this thread resuscitated. What's surprising is that there really aren't that many books about swimming - much less open-water swimming (this is in the OWS forum, after all). I'm not sure what the reference point should be... for OWS, perhaps mountaineering? A search of Amazon.com reveals 245 books in the Exercise & Fitness > Swimming category, compared to 7,018 books in the Sports & Outdoors > Mountain Climbing category.

A few important OWS books have been published since this thread was originally active... off the top of my head:

- Young Woman and the Sea (Glenn Stout) - about Gertrude Ederle & the English Channel
- and two Lynne Cox books - Grayson and South with the Sun

If you're going to include instructionals like the TI book, it would be imperative to mention:

- Maglischo's Swimming Fastest
- Salo's Complete Conditioning for Swimming
- and Steven Munatones' Open Water Swimming

December 9th, 2011, 04:14 PM
There's another bio of Gertrude Ederle that was published in the last couple years called "The Great Swim" by Gavin Mortimer. It actually follows the story of several women who planned to attempt the channel that summer, but since Ederle had the first successful swim the focus is clearly on her.

I'd love to get my hands on a copy of "The 50-Meter Jungle." I'm sure it's a great read.

December 9th, 2011, 04:58 PM
Swimming to Antarctica by Lynn Cox -- Amazon.com: Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer (9780156031301): Lynne Cox: Books

I also picked up a signed copy of this one (:canada:) while in Portland this summer:

Some of the ideas are dated (e.g., swimming is a young person's sport, look up and have the water line hit right above your goggles on free), but there are some good, classic technique and training reminders that still hold true today. And, let's face it, all of us would love to be able to swim like Alex, a great champion of the sport in and out of the pool.

December 12th, 2011, 08:21 PM
I'm not sure what the reference point should be... for OWS, perhaps mountaineering?

You'd be surprised how many times I use my experiences in mountaineering to describe many aspects of marathon swimming.

- Maglischo's Swimming Fastest

Just to date myself I had Swimming Faster memorized in the 80's. Unfortunately the book got dso much bigger and my memory got so much worse that it is no longer possible.

- and Steven Munatones' Open Water Swimming

I just finished this book and think it's a must read and offers information I have not seen anywhere else (including giving my friend Jason Lassen credit for his record setting breastroke crossing of the Catalina Channel in 2010). Of course Penny Dean Lee's book Open Water Swimming has always been my bible, and Lynne's Swimming to Antartica has been an amazing source of inspiration for me.

December 16th, 2011, 07:40 AM
"Dover Solo Swimming the English Channel" Marcia Cleveland

I love this book. I have read so many times...