• Why We Swim

    by Bonnie Tsui
    Price $26.95
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    Why We Swim
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April 21, 2020

Bonnie Tsui

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes New York Times contributor BONNIE TSUI—author of American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods—for a discussion of her latest book, Why We Swim. She will be joined in conversation by celebrated author CAROLINE PAUL.


We swim in freezing Arctic waters and piranha-infested rivers to test our limits. We swim for pleasure, for exercise, for healing. But humans, unlike other animals that are drawn to water, are not natural-born swimmers. We must be taught. Our evolutionary ancestors learned for survival; now, in the twenty-first century, swimming is one of the most popular activities in the world.

Why We Swim is propelled by stories of Olympic champions, a Baghdad swim club that meets in Saddam Hussein’s palace pool, modern-day Japanese samurai swimmers, and even an Icelandic fisherman who improbably survives a wintry six-hour swim after a shipwreck. New York Times contributor Bonnie Tsui, a swimmer herself, dives into the deep, from the San Francisco Bay to the South China Sea, investigating what about water—despite its dangers—seduces us and why we come back to it again and again.

About Author(s)

Bonnie Tsui lives, swims, and surfs in the Bay Area. A longtime contributor to the New York Times and California Sunday Magazine, she has been the recipient of the Jane Rainie Opel Young Alumna Award from Harvard University and a National Press Foundation Fellowship. Her last book, American Chinatown: A People’s History of Five Neighborhoods, won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and Best of 2009 Notable Bay Area Books selection.

Caroline Paul graduated from Stanford University with a degree in communications. She spent thirteen-and-a-half years as a San Francisco firefighter, a career that inspired her debut memoir, Fighting Fire, published in 1998 and reissued in 2011. Her other books include the novel East Wind, Rain, the memoir Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology, and the young-adult books Gutsy Girl and You are Mighty.