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VIRTUAL EVENT: Bonnie Tsui, Why We Swim

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 7:00pm

FREE VIRTUAL EVENT: Award-winning Bay Area author Bonnie Tsui will join us to discuss Why We Swim (in paperback April 13th)—her immersive, unforgettable, and eye-opening perspective on swimming and human behavior. Tsui will be in conversation with Boston Marathon champion and two-time Olympian Des Linden. 

Rebecca Skloot, bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, says, "I was enchanted by this book: it’s a beautifully written love poem to water that takes us inside the incredible human need to be at one with it, the amazing ways we succeed, and the tremendous price that comes when we feel. It’s a deeply reported and fascinating story that takes us from the first record of swimming (which lies in the middle of a desert) to tales of vanishing aquatic societies, sea nomads, and so much more. This is a book Bonnie Tsui was born to write.”

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This is a free event. The featured book may be preordered below. You can make a donation to help support Bookshop Santa Cruz here. Thank you!

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 it is about water that seduces us, despite its dangers, and why we come back to it again and again. 

“The only thing better than reading Bonnie Tsui’s writing about swimming is swimming itself—and both are sublime. Why We Swim is an aquatic tour de force, a captivating story filled with adventure, meditation, and celebration. This book is a joy to dive into.” — Susan Casey, bestselling author of The Wave and Voices in the Ocean

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, the Lowell Thomas Gold Award, 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 was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Best of 2009 Notable Bay Area Books selection. Her website is

Des Linden is the 2018 Boston Marathon champion and a two-time U.S. Olympian. In April 2018, Linden braved headwinds and torrential rain to become the first American women’s champion at the Boston Marathon since 1985. Her win was one for the record books as she bested the field in the worst conditions in race history. She finished 7th in the women's marathon at the Rio Olympic Games. Linden attended Arizona State University where she was an All-American in both cross country and track. After graduation, she moved to Rochester, Michigan to join the Hansons Brooks Distance Project. She currently trains in Northern Michigan and continues representing Brooks. A self-proclaimed bacon aficionado, her hobbies include reading, writing, and collecting assorted whiskeys.

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Why We Swim By Bonnie Tsui Cover Image
ISBN: 9781643751375
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Algonquin Books - April 13th, 2021