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.

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The books I picked & why

The Crossover

By Kwame Alexander,

Book cover of The Crossover

Why did I love 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.

By Kwame Alexander,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Crossover as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A million copies sold

'With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .
The court is SIZZLING.
My sweat is DRIZZLING.
Stop all that quivering.
Cuz tonight I'm delivering'

12-year-old Josh and his twin Jordan have basketball in their blood. They're kings of the court, star players for their school team. Their father used to be a champion player and they each want nothing more than to follow in his footsteps.
Both on and off the court, there is conflict and hardship which will test Josh's bond with his brother. In this heartfelt novel in verse, the boys…

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

Why did I love 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 Daniel James Brown,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Boys in the Boat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times-bestselling story about the American Olympic rowing triumph in Nazi Germany-from the author of Facing the Mountain.

Soon to be a major motion picture directed by George Clooney

For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times-the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

It was an unlikely quest from the start. With a team composed of the…


By Fredrik Backman,

Book cover of Beartown

Why did I love 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. 

By Fredrik Backman,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Beartown as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?



'I utterly believed in the residents of Beartown and felt ripped apart by the events in the book' JOJO MOYES

'I couldn't put it down. Heart-rending and engrossing' 5***** Reader Review

In a large Swedish forest, Beartown hides a dark secret . . .

Cut-off from everywhere else, it experiences the kind of isolation that tears people apart.

And each year, more and more of the town is swallowed by the forest.

Then the town is offered…

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

Why did I love 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. 

By Rachel Ignotofsky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Women in Sports as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Women in Sport celebrates the success of the tough, bold and fearless women who paved the way for today's athletes. The sportswomen featured include well-known figures like tennis player Serena Williams and broadcaster Clare Balding, as well as lesser-known pioneers like Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel, and Keiko Fukuda, the highest-ranked female judoka in history.

From the creator of the bestselling Women in Science, this richly illustrated book highlights the achievements and stories of fifty notable sportswomen from the 1800s to today, including trailblazers, Olympians and record-breakers in more than forty sports. It also contains…

Book cover of Skating Over Thin Ice

Why did I love 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. 

By Jean Mills,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skating Over Thin Ice as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Imogen St. Pierre is a musical prodigy, a classical pianist touring Canada and abroad in a trio with her father and grandfather. Though clearly accomplished she is also painfully awkward socially, getting lost in the music even after it's over.

Imogen's in the final year in a private boarding school where she meets a boy of the same age, Nathan McCormick, who turns out to be the Next great hockey player. Nathan however has recently been penalized for a vicious fight in an international tournament. Imogen and Nathan don't exactly become an item, but there's an elusive special quality to…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in brothers, athletes, and coming of age?

9,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about brothers, athletes, and coming of age.

Brothers Explore 82 books about brothers
Athletes Explore 14 books about athletes
Coming Of Age Explore 1,006 books about coming of age

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