I recently finished a book from the stack I purchased at Powell’s this past August. This in itself can be a feat–I have books on my bookshelf that have competed with each other for years to get my attention, to no avail. I was interested in them enough to purchase them, but in waiting for the right moment where I’ll break down and actually read them (which is usually “not now,” since I’m catching up on another book), they’ve bided their time, promising not to let their covers get sun damaged before I can crack them open.
I’d say this book was special, but they’re all special, aren’t they? Even the books that are downright awful–they’re special in their own way. However, it was a book that spoke to me ever since I saw it while browsing the shelves at Porter Square Books. I didn’t buy it then, but it was important enough for me to write down the title and promise myself I’d find it later: Swimming Studies by Leanne Shapton. I’m glad that Powell’s came through for me and had a used copy for sale (sorry, PSB) so that I could get to it more quickly then never.
Suffice it to say, I fell in love with this book. I wanted to devour it, yet I never wanted it to end. Why? It captured how I feel when I swim. Shapton, who tried out for the Canadian Olympic team twice and is now a writer and illustrator, told of her time in swimming through glimpses at her life. It’s not an inspirational tome, nor is it one to help you improve your swimming; however it floats along and pulls you in, much like the sport itself.
I was an age-group swimmer for several years, so I understand the regimented workouts, the frozen hair in the winter, rinsing out swimsuits and putting them on while still damp, things that Shapton notes. While I never pursued swimming beyond age 12, I still love to swim laps–sometimes even creating my own workout with kick board and pull buoy–or go for a long swim in a pond or lake.
When I swim, I don’t really think of anything. Sometimes I’ll work through a writing piece or project. Sometimes I hear music playing in my head. But mostly it’s nothingness. It’s me and the pool and the stroke, and to be honest, that’s one thing I love about swimming. This book captured that feeling of nothingness and made me want to read page after page, just like I will swim lap after lap, taking it all in and letting the words wash over me.
I’d like to read it again soon. While the odds of that happening are very slim, considering the fight that’s going on to get to the top of my reading list, Swimming Studies instantly got a prime spot on my bookshelf, where I can see it daily and let the memory of Shapton’s words wash over me.