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This week in L.A.: Olympian Amanda Beard, Piper Laurie and more

April 9, 2012 | 12:15 pm

Swimming gave Olympian Amanda Beard a sense of belonging. "With the sun shining, my sisters as teammates, and my parents as cheerleaders," she writes in her memoir "In the Water They Can't See You Cry," "I would have been happy to stay in the water forever. Life would always be like this, because why change what's perfect?"

But when success arrived -- in the form of seven Olympic medals and her camera-ready good looks -- everything in her life did change, and her memoir describes how she responded with self-destructive behavior. Beard visits the L.A. area this week, specifically Vroman's in Pasadena and at the Barnes & Noble at Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, to discuss her new book and what finally saved her life.

Vroman's also welcomes another author of a swimming-related book: Lynn Sherr, who looks at the activity as both sport and social experience in "Swim: Why We Love the Water." H2O also seems to trickle through Lynell George's conversation with poets Wanda Coleman and Lewis Macadams on "Concrete Rivers: The Emotional Topography of LA” for the Central Library's Aloud Series.

Feeling a bit waterlogged? That's OK. Other author visits this week include veteran actress Piper Laurie on her Hollywood life, RJ Smith on James Brown and a Hammer poetry reading in honor of late Nobel laureate Wislawa Szymborska. On the other hand, Szymborska does bring us back to the subject of water. She wrote about it once, about its life-saving and death-bringing meanings, in the poem "Water":

You have saved houses from fire, you have carried off houses
as you did trees, forests as cities.

You’ve been in christening fonts and courtesan’s baths.
In kisses and coffins.

As always, we advise that you check with bookstores and venues for any time or other changes to the events listed below.

April 9  7 p.m. Piper Laurie discusses and signs “Learning to Live Out Loud: A Memoir” at Book Soup.

April 9  7:30 p.m. Readings from Grantland, Issue 2 at Skylight Books.

April 9  7:30 p.m. L.A. times columnist and author Michael Hiltzik discusses “Medical Devices: Where Are the Watchdogs? The Story of the Lap-Band” as the Dock Society Lecture at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

April 10  7 p.m. Lynn Sherr discusses and signs “Swim: Why We Love Water” at Vroman’s.

April 10  7 p.m. Seth Grahame-Smith reads “Unholy Night” at the Third Street Promenade Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica.

April 10  7 p.m. Joel Engel signs his book “L.A. ’56: A Devil in the City of Angels” at Esowon Bookstore.

April 10 7:30 p.m. Peggy Dobreer and Eric Morago read and sign their poetry collections, “In the Lake of Your Bones” and “What We Ache For” at Skylight Books.

April 10  8 p.m.  Writers Bloc presents a sold-out evening with Rachel Maddow (“Drift”) in conversation with Bill Maher.

April 11 3 p.m.  Mike Doughty presents and signs “The Book of Drugs: A Memoir” at Book Soup.

April 11  7 p.m.  Joel Engel presents and signs “L.A. '56: A Devil in the City of Angels” at Book Soup.

April 11  7 p.m. Amanda Beard discusses and signs “In The Water They Can't See You Cry” at Vroman’s.

April 11 7 p.m. Aria Minu-sepehr reads “We Heard the Heavens Then: A Memoir of Iran” at the Third Street Promenade Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica.

April 11  7:30 p.m. Allison Burnett reads and signs the novel “Death by Sunshine” at Skylight Books.

April 12   7 p.m.  Book Soup presents Unstuck, a new literary annual, with readings from authors Aimee Bender, Rachel Swirsky, and Marisa Matarazzo.

April 12  7 p.m. The Aloud Series at the Central Library presents “Concrete Rivers: The Emotional Topography of LA,” a reading and conversation with poets Wanda Coleman and Lewis MacAdams in conversation with Lynell George.

April 12  7 p.m. Amanda Beard reads and signs “In the Water They Can’t See You Cry: A Memoir” at the Third Street Promenade Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica.

April 12  7 p.m. The Hammer Readings series presents a reading of the poetry of Wisława Szymborska by actress Beata Pozniak and poets Piotr Florczyk, Roman Koropeckyj and Stephen Yenser at the Hammer Museum.

April 12  7 p.m. RJ Smith signs “The One: The Life and Music of James Brown” at Esowon Bookstore.

April 12  7:30 p.m. Kevin Moffett reads and signs “Further Interpretations of Real-Life Events” at Skylight Books.

April 13  5 p.m. Children's book illustrator Jon Klassen (“I Want My Hat Back” and “Extra Yarn”) signs his books at Mrs. Nelson’s Toy and Book Shop.

April 13  7 p.m. Cara Hoffman discusses and signs “So Much Pretty” at Vroman’s.

April 13  7 p.m. Steven John presents and signs “Three A.M.” at Book Soup.

April 13  7:30 p.m.  Richard Sennett, author of “Together: The Rituals, Pleasures and Politics of Cooperation,” presents the lecture “Can Diverse Societies Cohere?” as the Second Annual Zócalo Book Prize Lecture, sponsored by Southern California Gas Co.

April 14  Lin Oliver signs his YA thriller (with Theo Baker) “Sound Bender” at Chevalier’s Books.

April 14  5 p.m. Linda Albertano, Iris Berry, Alice Carbone and Annette Zilinskas read from the anthology “How Dirty Girls Get Clean,” presented by editor Rene Diedrich, at Skylight Books.

-- Nick Owchar

Photo: Amanda Beard during the 2004 Summer Games in Athens.   Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times