Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton was such a beautiful, inventive book. Shapton takes a thoughtful look at the life of a competitive athlete in a solitary sport, and how those abilities linger and manifest once your days of competing are over. I come from a distance running background and have always felt like running and swimming are first cousins, both involving hours of practice alone with your physical limits and discomfort. Nothing to break up the activity but thoughts in your head as you grind through repetitions and miles. It was easy for me to love this book because her main preoccupations, swimming and writing, so closely resemble my own.
The book is dotted with collections—a series of drawings of the view from a hotel room, photographs of Shapton’s bathing suit collection and where they were worn, renderings of all of the swimming pools she has swam in throughout her life. The persistence of swimming in her life is really touching and made me wonder what the common thread is in my own. Shapton’s writing is introspective and soothing, with a rhythm not completely unlike the lapping of a pool.