Recommended books for wild swimmers

As part of the competition to win a bundle of wild swimming books, we asked outdoor swimmers to tell us their favourite reads about water or nature.  The competition generated great conversations and we have added many books to our “must read” list. 

We thought it would be useful to put a list together of the books that were recommended.  We have included links of where to get them, some of which we Sea & Stream stock, some we don’t and have pointed you in the direction of independent bookstores.

If you have any other suggestions of books inspired by water or nature, please let us know and we will happily add them.

Happy Reading!

Books about wild swimming 

Waterlog by Roger Deakin

By far and the most popular book on wild swimmer's bookshelves is Waterlog by Roger Deakin. Deakin set out in 1996 to swim through the British Isles. Waterlog is a personal journey, a bold assertion of the native swimmer's right to roam, and an unforgettable celebration of the magic of water.

Taking the Plunge by Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan

This is one of our favourites! A wonderful book to dive into if you are unable get in the water.  Taking the Plunge explores and documents the outdoor swimming community, and the elements of healing and friendship found in the water. It features portraits of the swimmers in awe-inspiring scenery, in all weathers, including extremes of ice and snow and also serves as a guide for newcomers, with advice on what to wear, how to take the first plunge, how to keep safe and warm, and where to go.


Salt on my Skin by Sarah Kennedy Norquoy

We were so excited to see Sarah publish her first book.  We have been following Sarah's journey on social media for some time and love her writing style.  This book will resonate with so many.  In January 2019, Sarah’s world was shattered by the death of a close friend and her mother’s dementia diagnosis, both within the space of two weeks. In search of solace from her living grief, she turned to her newfound hobby of wild swimming. Sarah’s reflective journey will make you laugh and cry, as she discovers a truth she has always known: that healing comes in waves.


Little Wild Swimming Book

Wild Swimming – Flora Jamieson & Gemma Koomen

Another favourite of ours and a great little book to give to a friend who is contemplating dipping their toe for the first time.  The book covers practical advice, safety tips and health benefits, as well as quotes and useful resources. Beautifully illustrated by Gemma Koomen, it is a perfect gift for those wishing to discover the magic of wild swimming, whether it be in a lake, river, sea or pool.   

Outrun book

Outrun by Amy Liptrott

Winner of the 2017 Pen Ackerley prize and the 2016 Wainwright Prize.  At the age of thirty, Amy Liptrot finds herself washed up back home on Orkney. Standing unstable on the island, she tries to come to terms with the addiction that has swallowed the last decade of her life. As she spends her mornings swimming in the bracingly cold sea, her days tracking Orkney's wildlife, and her nights searching the sky for the Merry Dancers, Amy discovers how the wild can restore life and renew hope.

Why we swim by Bonnie Tsui

Propelled by stories of polar swim champions, a Baghdad swim club, Olympian athletes, modern-day samurai swimmers and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survived a six-hour swim in the wintry Atlantic, Why We Swim takes you around the globe in a remarkable, all-encompassing account of the world of swimming.
Wild Woman Swimming

Wild Woman Swimming by Lynne Roper

Longlisted for The Wainwright Prize 2019. The late Lynne Roper's wild swimming diaries celebrate Dartmoor, the Devon coast, and the deep friendships that grow from shared time in nature. By turns quietly lyrical and frankly comic, this is a book for outdoor swimmers, walkers, and all who prize the wild and free.
I found my tribe

I Found my Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice

Ruth's tribe are her lively children and her filmmaker husband, Simon, who has Motor Neurone Disease and can only communicate with his eyes. Ruth's other 'tribe' are the friends who gather at the cove in Greystones, Co. Wicklow, and regularly throw themselves into the freezing cold water, just for kicks.

Swim Wild

Swim Wild by Jack Hudson, Calum Hudson and Robbie Hudson

Brothers Jack, Calum and Robbie have been swimming together their whole lives, and have never lost the sense of wonder that open water brings. Here we learn about their swimming feats, from tackling the 145km River Eden to setting the world record for swimming in the Arctic. 

Swell a waterbiography by Jenny Landreth

In the 19th century, swimming was almost exclusively the domain of men. Women were (barely) allowed to swim in the sea, but even into the 20th century they could be arrested if they dared dive into a lake. It wasn't until the 1930s that women were reluctantly granted equal access. This is the story of the swimming suffragettes who made that possible. It's also the story of how Jenny eventually came to be a keen swimmer herself.
Swimming with Seals

Swimming with Seals by Victoria Whitworth

This is a memoir of intense physical and personal experience, exploring how swimming with seals, gulls and orcas in the cold waters off Orkney provided Victoria Whitworth with an escape from a series of life crises and helped her to deal with intolerable loss.
Mindful art of wild swimming

The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming by Tessa Wardley

The Mindful Art of Wild Swimming explores how swimming in rivers, lakes, and seas is the very epitome of conscious living. Zen-seeker Tessa Wardley reconnects the physical and spiritual cycles of life to the changing seasons and flow of wild waters worldwide and leads the reader on to a mindful journey through the natural world.

I am an island

I am an Island by Tamsin Calidas

When Tamsin Calidas first arrives on a remote island in the Scottish Hebrides, it feels like coming home. It was idyllic, for a while. But as the months wear on, the children she'd longed for fail to materialise, and her marriage breaks down, Tamsin finds herself in ever-increasing isolation.

Injured, ill, without money or friend she is pared right back, stripped to becoming simply a raw element of the often harsh landscape. But with that immersion in her surroundings comes the possibility of rebirth and renewal. Tamsin begins the slow journey back from the brink.


Floating – Joe Minihane

Floating is a remarkable memoir about a love of swimming and a deep appreciation for the British countryside: it captures Minihane's struggle to understand himself, and the healing properties of wild stretches of water. From Hampstead to Yorkshire, Dorset to Jura, the Isles of Scilly to Wales, Minihane uses Waterlog to trace his own path by diving right in.


Books about water and the coast

Salt Path by Raynor Winn

This book was one of the most frequently recommended 'must reads' by wild swimmers.  In one devastating week, Raynor and her husband Moth lost their house and received a terminal diagnosis. With nowhere to call home, they embarked on a journey along the South West Coast Path, a 630-mile sea-swept trail from Somerset to Dorset via Devon and Cornwall, carrying the essentials for survival on their backs. 

The Salt Path

How to Read Water by Tristan Gooley

Here are over 700 clues, signs and patterns which will help you to interpret ponds like a Polynesian, read the sea like a Viking, forecast the weather from waves, find your way with puddles, and more. From wild swimming in Sussex to wayfinding off Oman, via the icy mysteries of the Arctic, Tristan Gooley draws on his own pioneering journeys to show us all the skills we need to read the water around us.

How to read water

Coastal Britain by Stuart Fisher

When all her islands are taken into consideration, the British coastline spans almost 8,000 miles, which is longer than both Brazil's and Mexico's. From the clear blue waters of serene Cornish bays to the tempestuous seas around rugged Pembrokeshire headlands, this new book journeys around the varied shorelines of England and Wales to complete the most comprehensive survey ever taken.

Coastal Britain

Blue Mind by Wallace J. Nichols

Why are we drawn to the ocean each summer? Why does being near water set our minds and bodies at ease? In Blue Mind , Wallace J. Nichols revolutionizes how we think about these questions, revealing the remarkable truth about the benefits of being in, on, under, or simply near water.

Blue mind

Salt on your tongue – Charlotte Runcie

Charlotte Runcie explores what the sea means to us, and particularly what it has meant to women through the ages. In mesmerising prose, she explores how the sea has inspired, fascinated and terrified us, and how she herself fell in love with the deep blue.

Salt on your tongue

Dark Salt Clear by Lamorna Ash

There is the Cornwall Lamorna Ash knew as a child - the idyllic, folklore-rich place where she spent her summer holidays. Then there is the Cornwall she discovers when, feeling increasingly dislocated in London, she moves to Newlyn, a fishing town near Land's End. This Cornwall is messier and harder; it doesn't seem like a place that would welcome strangers. Before long, however, Lamorna finds herself on a week-long trawler trip with a crew of local fishermen, afforded a rare glimpse into their world, their warmth and their humour. 
Dark Salt Clear

Waterland – Graham Swift

One summer morning in 1943, lock-keeper Henry Crick finds the drowned body of a sixteen-year-old boy. Nearly forty years later, his son Tom, a history teacher, is driven by a bizarre marital crisis and the provocation of one of his students to forsake the formal teaching of history-and tell stories . . .



Useful Guides

Wild Guides

By far the most popular recommendations for guides were the Wild guides by Wild Things Publishing.   From Wild Swimming specific guides to regions of the UK, many swimmers mentioned these as their go to books to discover new places.

Wild Swim Guide

2000 Wild Swims – Rob Fryer

Inspired by Roger Deakin's Waterlog, and encouraged by him personally, Rob first published this wild swimming guidebook privately to members of the Farleigh Hungerford River Swimming Club who, back in 2000, asked Rob to run off a few copies. Since then it has grown in size, scope and detail every year.
2000 wild swims


Nature, wilderness and adventure


Wild by Cheryl Strayed

This was a very popular recommendation.  At twenty-six, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's rapid death from cancer, her family disbanded and her marriage crumbled. With nothing to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America and to do it alone. 
Teaching a Stone to talk

Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard

Annie Dillard fixes her entrancing gaze and powerful sense of wonder on the natural world. Whether watching a sublime lunar eclipse or locking eyes with a wild weasel, Dillard captures the grand and miniature miracles of our universe.

Waymaking an anthology - Helen Mort (Editor)  Claire Carter (Editor)  Heather Dawe (Editor)  Camilla Barnard (Editor)

Waymaking is an anthology of prose, poetry and artwork by women who are inspired by wild places, adventure and landscape.
The Living Mountain

The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

The Guardian described The Living Mountain as 'The finest book ever written on nature and landscape in Britain'.  In this masterpiece of nature writing, Nan Shepherd describes her journeys into the Cairngorm mountains of Scotland. There she encounters a world that can be breathtakingly beautiful at times and shockingly harsh at others. Her intense, poetic prose explores and records the rocks, rivers, creatures and hidden aspects of this remarkable landscape.

The Way Home

The Way Home – Mark Boyle

In this honest and lyrical account of a remarkable life without modern technology, Mark Boyle explores the hard won joys of building a home with his bare hands, learning to make fire, collecting water from the spring, foraging and fishing.
Extreme Sleeps

Extreme Sleeps – Phoebe Smith

Veteran globetrotter Phoebe Smith sets out to prove that outdoor adventures are available in the UK which rival anything found elsewhere in the world. In this sometimes scary, frequently funny and intriguing journey around the country, Phoebe attempts to discover and conquer its wildest places.

Every Day Nature

Every Day Nature – Andy Beer

This book proves that nature isn't something you visit from time to time; it's everywhere - even in the densest concrete jungle. You can find nearly all of the natural wonders in this book within a mile of your front door. There are 365 to look for - one for every day of year, organised by month. 
The Natural Navigator

Natural Navigator – Tristan Gooley

Starting with a simple question - 'Which way am I looking?' - Tristan Gooley blends natural science, myth, folklore and the history of travel to introduce you to the rare and ancient art of finding your way using nature's own sign-posts, from the feel of a rock to the look of the moon.

The Wild Places

The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane

Are there any genuinely wild places left in Britain and Ireland? Or have we tarmacked, farmed and built ourselves out of wildness? In his vital, bewitching, inspiring classic, Robert Macfarlane sets out in search of the wildness that remains.

Wintering – Katherine May

A poignant and comforting meditation on the fallow periods of life, times when we must retreat to care for and repair ourselves. Katherine May thoughtfully shows us how to come through these times with the wisdom of knowing that, like the seasons, our winters and summers are the ebb and flow of life.

Losing Eden

Losing Eden by Lucy Jones

Today many of us live indoor lives, disconnected from the natural world as never before. And yet nature remains deeply ingrained in our language, culture and consciousness. For centuries, we have acted on an intuitive sense that we need communion with the wild to feel well. Now, in the moment of our great migration away from the rest of nature, more and more scientific evidence is emerging to confirm its place at the heart of our psychological wellbeing. 
The Hidden Ways

The Hidden Ways by Alistair Moffat

Alistair Moffat traverses the lost paths of Scotland - its Roman roads tramped by armies, its byways and pilgrim routes, drove roads and railways, turnpikes and sea roads - in a bid to understand how our history has left its mark upon our landscape. As he retraces the forgotten paths that shaped and were shaped by the lives of the now forgotten people who trod them, Moffat charts a powerful, surprising and moving history of Scotland
Into the wild

Into the Wild by John Krakaeur

In April 1992, Chris McCandless set off alone into the Alaskan wild. He had given his savings to charity, abandoned his car and his possessions, and burnt the money in his wallet, determined to live a life of independence. Just four months later, Chris was found dead. An SOS note was taped to his makeshift home, an abandoned bus.  In piecing together the final travels of this extraordinary young man's life, Jon Krakauer writes about the heart of the wilderness, its terribly beauty and its relentless harshness. 
Unsung hero

An Unsung Hero by Michael Smith

Tom Crean was the indestructible farmer's son from Kerry who sailed on three major expeditions to the unknown Antarctic a century ago. He was among the few men who served with both Captain Robert Scott and Sir Ernest Shackleton. He spent longer on the ice than either and outlived them both. 
Addicted to adventure

Addicted to Adventure by Bob Shepton

Bob Shepton is an ordained minister in the Church of England in his late 70s, but spends most of his time sailing into the Arctic and making first ascents of inaccessible mountains. No tea parties for this vicar. Opening with the disastrous fire that destroyed his yacht whilst he was ice-bound in Greenland, the book travels back to his childhood growing up on the rubber plantation his father managed in Malaysia, moving back to England after his father was shot by the Japanese during the war, boarding school, the Royal Marines, and the church. 
Shark and the Albatross

The Shark and the Albatross – John Aitchinson

For twenty years John Aitchison has been traveling the world to film wildlife for a variety of international TV shows, taking him to far-away places on every continent. The Shark and the Albatross is the story of these journeys of discovery, of his encounters with animals and occasional enterprising individuals in remote and sometimes dangerous places.
Lost Railway Walks book

Lost Rail Way Walks by Julian Holland

More than 100 walks across the length and breadth of Britain's lost railway lines. Each walk includes a short history of the railway before it closed, a description of what can be seen along it today, practical details such as car parking, access by public transport, a detailed route map and historical and modern day photographs.

Where the Crawdads Sing book

Where the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the 'Marsh Girl' have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. 

Food for Free by Richard Mabey

A complete guide to help you safely identify edible species that grow around us, together with detailed artworks, field identification notes and recipes.
Back to nature Chris Packham

Back to Nature by Chris Packham

Through personal stories, conservation breakthroughs and scientific discoveries, Back to Nature explores the wonder and the solace of nature, and the ways in which we can connect with it and protect it. 


Homesick by Catrina Davies

Aged thirty-one, Catrina Davies was renting a box-room in a house in Bristol, which she shared with four other adults and a child. Working several jobs and never knowing if she could make the rent, she felt like she was breaking apart. Homesick for the landscape of her childhood, in the far west of Cornwall, Catrina decides to give up the box-room and face her demons. As a child, she saw her family and their security torn apart; now, she resolves to make a tiny, dilapidated shed a home of her own.