The best books on inspirational women athletes

Who am I?

My novels explore women whose contributions to culture have been relegated to the footnotes of mainstream history books, and in few areas have women been more overlooked than in sports. Because of the achievements of today’s female athletes, ranging from the many athletic opportunities available to our young daughters to the professional success of women like Serena Williams, it’s easy to think that progress for women’s sports has come a long way—and in many ways, it has, thanks to legislative protections like Title IX—but these achievements reflect over a century’s worth of sacrifice by many unheralded women athletes. Here are five books that highlight this journey.


I wrote...

Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team

By Elise Hooper,

Book cover of Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team

What is my book about?

Fast Girls is historical fiction inspired by the real-life women track stars of the late 1920s and ‘30s. Three young women—Betty Robinson, Louise Stokes, and Helen Stephens—will join with others to defy society’s expectations of what women can achieve. As tensions bring the United States and Europe closer and closer to the brink of war, these women must fight for the chance to compete as the fastest women in the world amidst the pomp and pageantry of the Nazi-sponsored 1936 Olympics in Berlin. 

The books I picked & why

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We Ride Upon Sticks

By Quan Barry,

Book cover of We Ride Upon Sticks

Why this book?

Big hair. Field hockey. Emilio Estevez. Witchcraft. Mash these things together and you get a clever and quirky novel about the members of the 1989 Danvers High School field hockey team who dabble in the dark arts to ensure a winning season. A perceptive look at the transformation of girls into young women, this one is wicked fun.


A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History

By Seth Berkman,

Book cover of A Team of Their Own: How an International Sisterhood Made Olympic History

Why this book?

A couple of weeks before the 2018 Olympics opened in Pyeongchang, an unlikely women’s South Korean hockey team hastily took shape. Why unlikely? Its roster, bolstered with women of Korean descent from the United States and Canada, suddenly added players from North Korea. Like most sports books, this isn’t really about sports; it’s about identity, belonging, sisterhood, and culture. Miracles on ice can take many forms.


Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World

By Glenn Stout,

Book cover of Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World

Why this book?

These days Gertrude Ederle is unfamiliar to many of us, but a century ago she was an athletic champion whose celebrity rivaled Babe Ruth’s. In 1926, two years after winning three medals at the Paris Olympics, she became the first woman to swim the English Channel, an amazing feat of endurance and perseverance that took 14 hours and 37 minutes, a time almost two hours faster than the speediest of the five men who had gone before her. Along with recreating Ederle’s harrowing Channel journey in vivid detail, renowned sportswriter Glenn Stout infuses life back into Ederle and shows us why President Coolidge called her “America’s Best Girl.”


The Happiest Girl in the World

By Alena Dillon,

Book cover of The Happiest Girl in the World

Why this book?

In this novel that feels ripped straight from the headlines, the life of a young woman training as an elite gymnast is upended when her best friend confides that their doctor has assaulted her. Not only is this story timely, but it provides a glimpse into the mind-boggling discipline and talent it takes to be an Olympic gymnast.


Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story

By Wyomia Tyus, Elizabeth Terzakis,

Book cover of Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story

Why this book?

In this memoir, Wyomia Tyus tells of her journey from Georgia as a sharecropper’s daughter to how she landed a coveted spot on the Tennessee State women’s track and field team, the Tigerbelles, and her domination in Olympic sprinting during the 1960s, a reign that included three gold medals and one silver. The story of Tyus and the Tigerbelles has been likened to a sports version of Hidden Figures and the comparison is apt. Though Tyus and her teammates never graced the cover of a Wheaties box or Sports Illustrated, these African-American women became an unparalleled force in track and field, breaking barriers and setting records, and challenging the racism and sexism of their era.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in witches, athletes, and South Korea?

5,887 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about witches, athletes, and South Korea.

Witches Explore 85 books about witches
Athletes Explore 13 books about athletes
South Korea Explore 24 books about South Korea

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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