The best books about determination and perseverance

Lorna Schultz Nicholson Author Of When You Least Expect It
By Lorna Schultz Nicholson

Who am I?

As a child I loved to read and write but I also loved sports. I played every sport I could, and races and games fueled me. My mother called me the “joiner.” Teams create bonds and friendships and I’m still in touch with former teammates. This gives me inspiration to write human interactions. Determination and perseverance are part of being an athlete and I write about strong characters who want to succeed but often meet obstacles along the way. I honestly believe that my sports background has helped me survive publishing, because both are full of highs and lows. Please, enjoy my recommended list because they’re books with heart.

I wrote...

When You Least Expect It

By Lorna Schultz Nicholson,

Book cover of When You Least Expect It

What is my book about?

Seventeen-year-old Holly Callahan desperately wants to make the national rowing team so she can compete overseas, but she is the last rower cut. Her summer dreams are shattered, and she finds herself back at home, living with her mother's annoying new boyfriend, Super Stew.

Holly's not a quitter. She lands a summer job, and then is handed an unexpected lifeline in the person of a man who offers to coach her in a single rowing boat. For a girl raised without a father, the coach's generosity — and rigorous demands — are a gift. But where did he come from and who is he, really? Discovering the answer plunges her into sadness — but then he inspires her to work beyond her comfort zone.

The books I picked & why

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The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander,

Book cover of The Crossover

Why this book?

Written in poetic verse, this novel is captivating, clever, and emotional. I love it when a book is written with so much emotion that I have to wipe away the tears. Yes, I cried. Alexander combined sport with heart, and this book has depth, and covers so much more than basketball. The family scenes are realistic and powerful.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

By Daniel James Brown,

Book cover of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

Why this book?

Amazing read! The detail in this book was incredible, especially about the sport of rowing, even down to how rowing shells are made. I was completely invested in the lives of the real-life characters because they were so well drawn. And then there was that final Olympic rowing race! I felt as if I was in the boat with the wind blowing and water splashing against the side of the shell. 


By Fredrik Backman,

Book cover of Beartown

Why this book?

I love hockey so this book was an easy one for me to pick up. Once I started reading, however, I was so impressed with the “other” story surrounding the hockey team. To me, it was the story. This is a powerful read that stayed with me long after I turned the last page. I really appreciated that the hockey action and facts were well researched. There are multiple points of view, and all are handled with skill. 

Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

By Rachel Ignotofsky,

Book cover of Women in Sports: 50 Fearless Athletes Who Played to Win

Why this book?

I personally don’t think there are enough books on the shelves about Women in Sports. Although this is a middle grade book, I thoroughly enjoyed how the author brought her chosen athletes to life. Ignostofsky also illustrated the book and that added another dimension to the book that made it fun and entertaining. I was pleasantly surprised that she chose a few athletes who I hadn’t heard of. 

Skating Over Thin Ice

By Jean Mills,

Book cover of Skating Over Thin Ice

Why this book?

This is such a beautifully written book that combines art and sport, two of my passions. Imogene is a piano prodigy and there wasn’t one moment in the book where I didn’t root for her. The teen love story between her and the suspended hockey player is so believable and not like typical teen romance novels. I liked that Mills didn’t sugarcoat the work that goes into being successful at something. The book was real and honest which made the ending completely realistic. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in brothers, athletes, and bildungsroman?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about brothers, athletes, and bildungsroman.

Brothers Explore 52 books about brothers
Athletes Explore 13 books about athletes
Bildungsroman Explore 159 books about bildungsroman

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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