Best books for wild swimmers 2023

Whether you want to discover new wild swimming locations, pore over nature writing at its most lyrical, lose yourself in fiction, improve your stroke or read reflective and insightful memoirs, we’re sure you’ll find something that you love in our list of the best books for wild swimmers.

Books about outdoor swimming

The Tidal Year by Freya Bromley 

The Tidal Year is a true story about the healing power of wild swimming and the space it creates for reflection, rewilding and hope. An exploration of grief in the modern age, it’s also a tale of loss, love, female rage and sisterhood.

The Swimmer: The Wild Life of Roger Deakin by Patrick Barkham 

A fascinating and brilliant read about the original wild swimmer, Roger Deakin and his frog’s eye view of the world around him.

The Ripple Effect by Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan

Wild swimming isn’t just an activity. It has become a movement, a wave that has surged in popularity across Britain, rippling out and spreading joy. And at the centre of it all are the groups and communities that gather together

Soul is Waterproof: Adventure Swimming and Stories of Water by Matthew L Moseley 

Much more than a book about swimming! Stories of alligators, snakes, explorers, sultry boat captains and characters of all sorts reveal themselves along in the current.

Under Water: How holding my breath taught me to live by Claire Walsh 

Claire spent her 20s living the life she thought she was supposed to live, all the while playing hide and seek with depression. Then at 60 metres below the surface, she discovered a fresh perspective.

The Green Hill, Sophie Pierce

In 2017, Sophie Pierce’s life changed forever when her son Felix died suddenly and unexpectedly. Thrown into an unimaginable new reality, she had to find a way to survive. By writing letters to Felix – composed during walks and swims close to his burial place by the River Dart – Sophie gradually learned how to live in the landscape of loss, navigating the weather and tides of grief.

Some of Us Just Fall by Polly Atkin

A combination of memoir, pathography and nature writing to trace a fascinating journey through illness. Polly’s journey leads her to the Lake District, where outdoor swimming is purported to cure all, and where every day she turns to the natural world to help tame her illness. The descriptions of swimming and the landscape in the Lake District make you want to plunge in with Polly, while her personal story is compelling and hopeful.

The Wild Swimmer of Kintail by Kellan MacInnes

Newly divorced, HIV positive, flat broke and with a house full of Airbnb guests driving him crazy, Kellan Maclnnes badly needs to find himself again. Inspired by the little known poet and pioneer of wild swimming Brenda G. Macrow, who quit London for the Scottish Highlands in the summer of 1946, Kellan takes the night train north. A life-affirming tale about the healing power of wild swimming.

Unsinkable by Alan Corcoran

An inspirational and humorous tale about persevering after facing life’s most difficult realities, and the story about a 500km length of Ireland sea swim from the Giant’s Causeway to County Waterford.

Mindfulness in Wild Swimming: Meditations on Nature and Flow by Tessa Wardley

Reconnect the physical and spiritual cycles of life to the changing seasons and flow of wild waters worldwide, and be guided through practical mindful exercises and technique tips.

Swimming guides and inspiration

Swimming Wild in Scotland by Alice Goodridge

An informative and inspiring book for both new and experienced wild swimmers, featuring over 100 of the best wild swimming spots across the Scottish mainland and islands.

Sea Pools: 66 saltwater sanctuaries from around the world by Chris Romer Lee

A beautiful book, ideal for the coffee table! It explores the architecture, history and social significance of sea pools. A great way to plan sea pool adventures. 

The Slow Traveller by Jo Tinsley

We all need to slow down and when it comes to travel, it provides an opportunity to do just that, but so often we can be rushing to get somewhere or fit everything in. Jo Tinsley, creator of Ernest magazine, invites you to embrace curiosity, make enduring connections with people and places and traverse your inner world by adopting the mindset of slow travel. Beautifully put together with inspiring photography and illustrations, this book is an excellent travel companion or would make a brilliant gift.

The Joy of Wild Swimming by Lonely Planet

Dive into 60 of the world’s most joyous wild swimming spots and discover a further 120 ideas for uplifting bathing experiences. Expert insights and essential trip planning tips.

Wild Swimming Torbay: Adventures on Devon’s Riviera by Matt Newbury and Sophie Pierce 

In this new revision, go beyond the popular beaches into a hidden world. Torbay’s 22 miles of coastline is enormously diverse, from terracotta crags to a spectacular limestone arch.

Just Add Water by Sarah Henshaw  

A guide to activities and adventures to re-energise and boost your mood, by our rivers, lakes and canals. Nearly 200 destinations are featured, organised into 15 core activities, covering the length and breadth of the UK.

Books about water, the coast and climate 

The Turning Tide: A Biography of the Irish Sea by Jon Gower  

Combining social and cultural history, nature-writing, travelogue and politics, Jon Gower charts a sea which has carried both Vikings and saints, invasion forces and furtive gun-runners, writers, musicians and fishermen.

Forecast: A Diary of the Lost Seasons by Joe Shute 

Travel across Britain tracing the history of our seasons and discover how they are changing. We talk about them. We plan our lives around them. But what happens when the weather changes beyond recognition?

Water Always Wins: Thriving in an Age of Drought and Deluge by Erica Gies 

A science journalist follows water ‘detectives’ as they search for clues to water’s past and present to understand water’s true nature, and how it can help us adapt to climate change.

The Flow: Rivers, Water and Wildness by Amy-Jane Beer    

A book about water, and, like water, it meanders, cascades and percolates through many lives, landscapes and stories. Follow springs, streams and rivers to explore wildness.

The Seaside: England’s Love Affair by Madeleine Bunting  

A vivid journey around England’s great seaside resorts, exploring their history and current struggle, and what they reveal about England.

Water beings by Veronica Strang  

Early human relationships with water were expressed through beliefs in serpentine aquatic deities. This looks into the vast human history of water worship and of our broken relationship with all things aquatic.

The Draw of the Sea by Wyl Menmuir

Since the earliest stages of human development, the sea has fascinated and entranced us. It feeds us, sustaining communities and providing livelihood, but it also holds immense destructive power that threatens to destroy all we have created. This stunning book is well written and moving. It creates a portrait of the sea and the people whose livelihoods revolve around it, examining the ephemeral but universal pull the sea holds over the human imagination.

Move Like Water: A Story of the Sea and Its Creatures by Hannah Stowe    

Drawing on her expertise as a marine biologist and sailor, this book is an exploration of the human relationship with the sea.

Books about nature and journeys in the wild

Otherlands: A World in the Making by Dr Thomas Halliday

In simple terms, this is a book about life on Earth. Otherlands is an epic, exhilarating journey into deep time, showing us the Earth as it used to exist, and the worlds that were here before ours. Travelling back in time to the dawn of complex life, and across all seven continents, award-winning palaeobiologist Thomas Halliday gives a mesmerizing up close encounter with eras that are normally unimaginably distant. Complex scientific research that is brought to life in an accessible way. As well as looking back there is a chance to consider what might happen in the future! 

Soundings by Doreen Cunningham

A story of a woman reclaiming her life, mile by mile; a child growing to love an ocean that is profoundly endangered; and a mother learning from another species how to parent in a time of unprecedented change. Travel to the ends of the earth.

My Life in Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler

The wonders of marine biology with stories of Sabrina’s own family and coming of age, implicitly connecting endangered sea life to marginalised human communities and asking how they and we adapt, survive and care for each other.

The Lost Rainforests of Britain by Guy Shrubsole

Britain was once a rainforest nation, but it has been ravaged and most people don’t realise it still exists in places. When Guy Shrubsole moved from London to Devon, he discovered a spectacular habitat that he had never encountered before: temperate rainforest. He investigated the history, ecology and distribution of rainforests across England, Wales and Scotland. Temperate rainforest may have once covered up to one-fifth of Britain, home to wildlife, wizards, poets and druids. Guy takes readers on a journey through Britain mapping lost rainforests, trying to bring them back. 

Elixir: In the Valley at the End of Time by Kapka Kassabova 

An exploration of connections between people, plants and place. It is an urgent call to rethink how we live – in relation to one another, to the Earth and to the cosmos.

Wild Light by Angela Harding

With over 70 original illustrations, printmaker Angela Harding invites you to look at how the light changes the world around us, and how that changes us in its turn. A journey through 24 hours of collected memories of the nature.

Moderate Becoming Good Later: Sea Kayaking the Shipping Forecast by Katie and Toby Carr 

A moving story of one man’s attempt to sea kayak the areas of the Shipping Forecast. Written by Toby’s sister Katie from his extensive notes his untimely death.

The Outdoors Fix by Liv Bolton

Do you wish you could make the outdoors a bigger part of your life? Liv Bolton, host of the chart-topping podcast The Outdoors Fix, presents an inspiring collection of stories about ordinary people who have done just that. Featuring many Outdoor Swimmer favourites, the book shares how people have found their daily lives transformed through immersion in nature and the countryside. Hikers, runners, swimmers and campaigners – there is something for everyone. 

Awe: The Transformative Power of Everyday Wonder by Dacher Keltner  

Cutting-edge research in neuroscience, cultural history and personal experience exploring awe. This emotion is interlinked with our ability to connect, discover new things and feel happy.

Listen to the Land Speak by Manchan Magan 

A journey through bogs, across rivers and over mountains, to trace our ancestors’ footsteps and uncover ancient myths that have shaped our national identity and are embedded in the strata of our land.

The Forager’s Calendar by John Wright

From dandelions in spring to sloe berries in autumn, via wild garlic, samphire, chanterelles and even grasshoppers, our countryside is full of edible delights in any season. John is the country’s foremost expert to be your guide.

The Jay, The Beech and the Limpetshell by Richard Smyth   

Richard Smyth had always been drawn to the natural world, but when he became a father he found a new joy and a new urgency in showing his kids the everyday wild things around them.

Tree-spotting: A Simple Guide to Britain’s Trees by Ros and Nell Bennett 

An illustrated guide to the marvellous and varied world of trees, and an introduction to the hidden secrets of 52 British species. Ros and Nell have combined their skills to guide us.

Sea Bean by Sally Huband 

One of our books of the year so far, this is a beautiful love letter to Shetland and the sea. When a seed falls from a vine in the tropics and is carried by ocean currents across the Atlantic to the shores of Western Europe – it is known as a sea bean. It is still considered lucky to find a sea bean on the shore, they have been used as magical charms for more than a thousand years. Sally’s search for a sea bean begins not long after she moves to Shetland. When pregnancy triggers a chronic illness and forces her to slow down, Sally takes to the beaches. There she discovers treasure freighted with story and curiosities that connect her to the world.

Enchantment: Reawakening Wonder in an Exhausted Age by Katherine May 

Craving a different path, this explores the restorative properties of the natural world and begins to rekindle a sense of wonder. From sacred wells to wild moors.

How to Read a Tree: Clues and Patterns from Roots to Leaves by Tristan Gooley

Each tree we meet is filled with signs that reveal secrets about the life of that tree and the landscape we stand in. The clues are easy to spot when you know what to look for.

The Book of Wilding: A Guide to Rewilding, Big and Small by Isabella Tree 

A handbook for how we can all help restore nature. It is ambitious, visionary and pragmatic. Learn how to rewild  gardens, allotments, churchyards and community spaces.

Books about swimming training and technique

Open Water: The History and Technique of Swimming by Mikael Rosen

Dive deep into the world of swimming with open water swimmer and coach Mikael Rosen as he explores the sport through eight different perspectives. With topics ranging from the vigorous mental and physical demands of the sport to gender and race politics, no reader will be left treading water. Packed with interesting history, science, and trivia, as well as useful charts, maps, sidebars, tips, and strategies-plus plenty of photos sprinkled throughout-this compendium is a must-have for any athlete or swimming fanatic.

Swim Smooth: The Complete Coaching System for Swimmers by Paul Newsome and Adam Young

Transform your technique in the water and become a better swimmer with this remarkable approach to freestyle swimming, suitable for all. 

Total Immersion: Swim Better, Faster, and Easier by Terry Laughlin and John Delves 

Traditional swimming beliefs are turned inside out as it’s technique – not athletic ability – that makes a swimmer.

No Limits: The Will to Succeed by Michael Phelps and Alan Abrahamson 

Phelps reveals the secrets to his remarkable success, from his training regimen to his mental preparation and, finally, to his performance in the pool.

Fiction and poetry about swimming

Swimming Between Islands by Charlotte Eichler 

A poetry collection that has its own distinctive weathers, atmospheres and fauna. Egg collectors, moth trappers, hermits, cuttlefish, pyjama sharks and bloody henry starfish all play a part.

Hidden Depths by J.H Mann  

Set in Cornwall, this thriller tells the tale of a conventional woman who falls into desperate times after being accused of fraud. As a way to find hope and escape, she turns to the wild Atlantic Ocean and disappears.

Son of the Sea by Richard Pickard 

Casper dreams of swimming the Channel. Surely, he was born to use his webbed toes … Instead, he’s strictly forbidden to go near water. A magical book for kids about a boy who longs to swim, and a town with a mysterious past. 

Three Gifts by Mark A Radcliffe  

If you could save the life of a loved one by trading in years of your own life, how many years would you give? How many lives could you save? Would you know when to stop?

All of these books have featured in the print issues of Outdoor Swimmer in 2023. If you buy a product through a link on this page we may receive a commission.

Jo is the Gear Editor for Outdoor Swimmer and also writes news and features for the website. A keen open water swimmer and long-distance walker, she loves seeking out lakes and lidos close to her home in the Mendip Hills, Somerset. She is the author of The Slow Traveller, editor and founder of independent magazine, Ernest, and has previously tested outdoor clothing and kit for BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC Focus and Ernest Journal.