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on July 5, 2012
There's something elusive, unsatisfying about this book - it doesn't have the absolutely lovely finality of Roger Deakin's Waterlog for instance - but that feeling of lack, of something missing is also what the book is about. Much recommended, though I regretted buying the book on Kindle - there are a lot of images that really don't translate to the small black-and-white screen.
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on September 12, 2012
"Swimming Studies" is Shapton's memoir of her life as young swimmer training for Olympic trials, her continued fascination with water and bodies in water, and her eventual turn toward art. She's brave and honest, and her descriptions transport - you feel the squeeze of a bathing cap, the atmosphere in a bus full of young athletes on their way to a competition, the chlorinated air of swimming pools, her elation, and her exhaustion.

Her book isn't a sport memoir so much as a meditation on her journey (often a watery one), as Shapton figures out how her former swimming life inspires her life as an artist. I came to this book not as a swimmer, but as an artist, and it resonated when Shapton quoted "The Nuts and Bolts of Psychology for Swimmers," by Keith Bell. He writes about training discipline, the nonnegotiable commitment to practice. Words that apply equally to working on a creative project, once you have set a goal: "It doesn't make much sense to have to decide whether to take each individual step in a trip you have already decided to make."

I love Shapton's watercolor portraits of fellow swimmers, rectangles of pool water, and gallery of vintage swimsuits - in both digital and paper forms (our family ended up with both versions, and it was fun to compare the illustrations) - the book is a treasure!
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on July 14, 2012
After hearing the author interviewed on NPR, I bought the book, which is beautifully designed, and read it in close to one sitting. I found it disjointed, sometimes boring and confusing and a rather frustrating read as this collage of a book ultimately doesn't really give a deep sense of the author, or what her point is aside from her frustration, attraction and ambivalence toward swimming and pools. I don't know quite what to make of this book or the author, but there were moments where her reflections and thoughts resonated with me more deeply.... then these ruminations were lost among the nonlinear format of the memoir. I did love the artwork scattered throughout but wanted ultimately to feel the depth of her relationship with swimming and art. Unfortunately this memoir left me feeling she had only touched the surface of things.
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on September 5, 2012
I loved this book - enjoyed seeing the inside of the world of competitive swimming. I also enjoyed her collection of vintage swimsuits and swimming locations. I would have given this 5 stars, but her artwork section was not at the same level as the rest of the book. Perhaps it was better in print (I read on Kindle Fire).
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on March 17, 2013
I don't disagree with the criticism of this book, there are moments when one wonders why someone wrote it and why someone (especially if that someone is oneself) is reading it. The entire concept seems not only a bit arrogant, but the sort of pet project only a writer who's not exactly worried about making ends meet gets to take on, like a Carly Simon children's book. So this review is about what makes a book which fails the usual metrics great anyway, at least to me.

Here we go; 1) It's physically beautiful to look at inside and out (take that Kindle users - ha!). The cover construction and design is not only nice, it hints at aquatics in its color, and that subtlety matches the writing, it makes sense the author is an illustrator because there is a cohesion among otherwise separate concepts - the color of experiences, emotions in the form of surroundings. 2) The spare writing is deceptively complex. Novels-in-Three-Lines comes to mind as these 5 and 6 word sentences shake entire scenarios from the reader's subconscious. The book starts with a couple shocking lines about our relationship with water - no more questions about the reason for a swimming book after that! 3) Those girls in high school, whether they're athletes or musicians or drag-racers, who lived outside teenage life were the ones we were all really fascinated by, right? They seemed inaccessible, maybe even absent, but we knew their worlds were full of SOMETHING and never really stopped wondering what it was - here's the answer at last. 4) It's self indulgent and disjointed because the thoughts and lives of teenagers are self indulgent and disjointed. They have so little control over their lives and schedules they couldn't create any experiential flow even if their thoughts were arranged in any sort of order, which their changing minds and bodies prevent. Teenage years are a mystery and, while this book won't resolve that, it will give the reader another chance to try for himself by gently holding the essence of those moments for us to see and feel again.

It is not a good ordinary book; it's not an ordinary book. But it is the best example of the Swimming Studies genre I've ever seen, even if it's alone in the category. Consider it a work of expressive art and give it a try. Even if you don't end up liking it, just having it to leave out and see is worth the money.
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on June 26, 2015
I really enjoyed how this book! This really spoke to me because this is how I feel about my own sport, rowing. Since I began training everything in my life has been altered because I have discovered that I am more powerful than I thought and I have become even more driven to succeed. My rowing days are always in the back of my mind, especially when i'm near a body of water that is row-able. Another thing about this book that really spoke to me was the fact that this book is about someone who is really good at something, who wants to be great. This is something that I have really run into in my life with my academic work, as well as my athletic training. A quote that I really liked was saying that being special is made up of doing a not special thing a million times. Like one lap of a pool isn't special in itself, but to be a 'special' swimmer you must swim a million laps. The same thing applies to crew. I really saw a lot of similarities between the two sports.

One thing I didn't like about the book were how it was so fragmented like memories. This made is very realistic because that's how we think of our lives instead of a concrete autobiography, but it made the story of the author's life difficult to follow. I didn't get a true sense of where she was when in moments of time due to all of the snippets.
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on June 29, 2016
Amazing. I also was a competitive swimmer. She captures the experience perfectly. It is incredibly satisfying to read the really unique and complex experiences of being a swimmer, but also the feelings of returning to the water after retirement from competitive swimming. As some experience like I did, it is hard to get back in the water once your skills no longer match your previous levels, yet the water is a draw and a part of who we are as swimmers. Really great read. It was a quick, easy read - more a vacation read, but still really enjoyable.
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on June 10, 2016
This is now one of my favorite books. Shapton's tone is cool (as in temperature) and her voice is original. Her literary techniques are engaging. She takes you into the world of competitive swimming in surprising and memorable ways.
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on November 14, 2014
A quirky, beautiful book. I bought it as a housewarming present for my friend--it's the sort of story that should always be lying around, waiting for someone to wander into. A pleasure to read and to look at.
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on September 7, 2012
As a former schronized swimmer and competive swimmer I was quite anxious to read. Ms. Sharptons descriptive writting brought me right back to the smell of chlorine,sweating in a pool!(non swimmers find this hard to believe) aching muscles and not wating to get out of bed for practice!
Great to know another person "gets it"that Iam truly home in the water! I have always felt the water is a calling..its my calling...true serenity.
Thank you ms sharpton:-)
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