Six of the best new books celebrating rivers, seas and lakes

Cool off with books that worship water and dive into the myriad ways to explore our rivers, seas, lakes and lochs.

By Sarah Barrell
Published 13 Nov 2022, 15:00 GMT
Six new books celebrating our rivers, seas and lakes

Six new books celebrating our rivers, seas and lakes.

Photograph by National Geographic Traveller UK

1. Chill: The Cold Water Swim Cure

For those after motivation to keep up outdoor swimming into winter, this ‘transformative guide to renew your body and mind’ by Dr Mark Harper offers up a ‘science-based’ approach to the benefits of cold-water immersion. As such practitioners as Wim ‘The Iceman’ Hof have long maintained, swims can boost circulation and the immune system, and reduce inflammation, anxiety and depression. With research backing these claims, this book offers practical tips on preparing for a cold-water swim, and getting the best out of the experience safely. Chronicle Books, £12.99.

2. The Flow: Rivers, Water and Wildness

Guardian journalist and white-water adventurer Dr Amy-Jane Beer journeys across the UK in search of the watery wonders of our landscape on foot, by canoe and with some magical wild swimming experiences. From chasing salmon in Scotland to discovering beavers in Devon and unearthing Celtic myths in Machynlleth, Beer’s travels give her access to some of the country’s most beautiful spots and natural phenomena, uncovering many of the stories they keep along the way. Bloomsbury Publishing, £18.99.   

3. Swamp Songs: Journeys Through Marsh, Meadows and Other Wetlands

Marshes, bogs and swamps are the murky terrain celebrated in this travelogue by journalist Tom Blass. These are strange, liminal lands where the civilised world, boggarts, bad airs and strange crepuscular creatures sit uncomfortably side-by-side. As human life encroaches increasingly upon these wild, ancient places, Blass engages with their inhabitants – from rich bird life to outlier communities – drawing on traditions of literature, folklore and mythology, and delving into the forgotten histories and untold secrets that lie beneath the surface. Bloomsbury Publishing, £20.

4. Packrafting: A Beginner’s Guide 

Packrafting is fast gaining disciples. Author Chris Scott discovered these lightweight, robust boats – portable enough to pack under a backpack – in the Scottish lochs and has put together this handy guide offering tips on the different types of packraft and the best gear to bring, as well as basic paddling skills and water safety. While Scott has packrafted his way onto the rivers of France’s Massif Central, Utah’s Canyonlands, Iceland, Turkey’s Lycian coast and New Zealand on point-to-point journeys made on foot and by water, he outlines various packrafting adventures for beginners, too — from paddling a local canal to using a packable sail to traverse open water. Fernhurst Books, £10.99.

5. The Outdoor Swimmer’s Handbook

Tapping into our enduring love of plunging into rivers, reservoirs, lakes and seas, founder of the Outdoor Swimming Society, Kate Rew, captures the freestyle spirit and voices of the UK’s growing community of al fresco swimmers in this new tome. One for beginners and stalwart swimmers alike, Rew expands on her 2008 book Wild Swim to explore everything from the physiology of cold-water dips to the best ways to plan lazy downstream summer swims, with field guides to the wildlife you may be lucky enough to encounter en route. Rider, £22.

6. Light on the Riviera: Photography of the Cote d’Azur

The luminosity of France’s sunny south-east coast is celebrated in this collection of photographs dating back 150 years. This glistening stretch of shoreline has long fascinated photographers, forming a sunlit backdrop to their work; classic shots by Charles Nègre, Lee Miller and Helmut Newton are a testament to both the Côte d’Azur’s glamourous development and its wild beauty – from silhouetted palm trees and a portrait of perfectly pedicured toes in the sand, to a barefoot Pablo Picasso walking surfside with his partner and muse Françoise Gilot. teNeues, £20.

Published in the October 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK) 

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