Aquatic tales

Swim: Why We Love the Water, by Lynn Sherr, Public Affairs, RRP$25, 208 pages

Swimming has a long and storied history. Leander swam the Hellespont nightly to visit his illicit love Hero, and Byron followed suit in 1810, starting a trend. Emperors and presidents, soldiers and mythic gods have all enjoyed taking a dip.

In Swim, a joyful plunge into the history, lore and legend of swimming, US journalist and avid swimmer Lynn Sherr explores the pleasures of gliding through cool waters while preparing to follow Leander and Byron and cross the Hellespont herself. Along the way, we learn an assortment of fascinating aquatic facts. For instance, president John Quincy Adams would take a daily 5am dip – naked – in Washington’s Potomac river and almost drowned there one day in 1825 after paddling down Tiber creek, which now runs under Constitution Avenue.

Essentially a compendium of watery tales studded with illustrations, Swim is carried along by Sherr’s clear enthusiasm for her subject.

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