66 books like The Perfect Mile

By Neal Bascomb,

Here are 66 books that The Perfect Mile fans have personally recommended if you like The Perfect Mile. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Today We Die a Little!: The Inimitable Emil Zátopek, the Greatest Olympic Runner of All Time

Nicholas Smith Author Of Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers

From my list on running history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I get it, to most people running isn’t fun, but its simplicity can be deceptive. To some, running (especially when done in nature) can be a spiritual act. To others, it (along with its cousin jogging) should’ve been included in the Geneva Conventions. Me? I’ve been running since the third grade and watching running for even longer. Growing up, the Olympics were required viewing and an interest in running naturally flowed from it. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the great many books out there about runners and their impact on sports, culture, and world events. 

Nicholas' book list on running history

Nicholas Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

There has never been (nor will there likely be) a runner like Emil Zatopek. His crowning achievement, a gold medal in the 5000m, 10000m, and the marathon in a single Olympics, has never been equaled, before or since. Yet the “greatest runner of all time” was more than just medals. Besides his Rocky Balboa-esque training regimen, Zapotek stood up to Soviet tanks during the Prague Spring. For this action, the runner was punished for years with a string of humiliating and strenuous jobs, before finally having his image rehabilitated in 1989. Known for his pithy quotes, the title of the book comes from a line he is said to have expressed to his fellow competitors before a race. 

By Richard Askwith,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Today We Die a Little! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to enjoy something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon." --Emil Zatopek For a decade after the Second World War, Emil Zatopek--"the Czech locomotive"--redefined the sport of distance running, pushing back the frontiers of what was considered possible. He won five Olympic medals, set eighteen world records, and went undefeated in the 10,000-metre race for six years. His dominance has never been equaled. In the darkest days of the Cold War, he stood for a spirit of generous friendship that transcended nationality and politics.…


Book cover of Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America's Greatest Marathon

Nicholas Smith Author Of Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers

From my list on running history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I get it, to most people running isn’t fun, but its simplicity can be deceptive. To some, running (especially when done in nature) can be a spiritual act. To others, it (along with its cousin jogging) should’ve been included in the Geneva Conventions. Me? I’ve been running since the third grade and watching running for even longer. Growing up, the Olympics were required viewing and an interest in running naturally flowed from it. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the great many books out there about runners and their impact on sports, culture, and world events. 

Nicholas' book list on running history

Nicholas Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

Few races match the majesty of the Boston Marathon, often called the “People’s Olympics” for giving everyone who can qualify the chance to compete alongside the sport’s best. Few runnings of the Boston Marathon can compare to the 1982 race, which concluded with a down-to-the-wire finish that separated the first and second finishers by only two seconds. The book profiles both of those runners, Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley, their build-up to the race, the back-and-forth of race day, and how the careers of each of those runners fell apart after the race. Dual in the Sun is one of the rare books that makes a two-hour race feel like an edge-of-your-seat sprint.

By John Brant,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The 1982 Boston Marathon was great theater: Two American runners, Alberto Salazar, a celebrated champion, and Dick Beardsley, a gutsy underdog, going at each other for just under 2 hours and 9 minutes. Neither man broke. The race merely came to a thrilling, shattering end, exacting such an enormous toll that neither man ever ran as well again. Beardsley, the most innocent of men, descended into felony drug addiction, and Salazar, the toughest of men, fell prey to depression. Exquisitely written and rich with human drama, John Brant's Duel in the Sun brilliantly captures the mythic character of the most…


Book cover of Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler's Olympics

Nicholas Smith Author Of Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers

From my list on running history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I get it, to most people running isn’t fun, but its simplicity can be deceptive. To some, running (especially when done in nature) can be a spiritual act. To others, it (along with its cousin jogging) should’ve been included in the Geneva Conventions. Me? I’ve been running since the third grade and watching running for even longer. Growing up, the Olympics were required viewing and an interest in running naturally flowed from it. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the great many books out there about runners and their impact on sports, culture, and world events. 

Nicholas' book list on running history

Nicholas Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

In one of the indelible images from the 20th Olympic Games is the grainy footage of American sprinter Jesse Owens racing down a dirt-running track to victory during the notorious 1936 Berlin Olympics, which Adolf Hitler sought to exploit as a propaganda opportunity. Owens won an unprecedented four gold medals during those Games, a stark defiance to the Nazi’s racist ideology. Triumph tells the story of those Olympics, along with Owens humble origins as a talented black athlete in Jim Crow America, his unlikely friendship with a German long jumper, and his inglorious return to the U.S. that prohibited him from profiting from his success on the track because of draconian amateur rules of the time. 

By Jeremy Schaap,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Triumph as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

The remarkable behind-the-scenes story of one of the most iconic clashes in sports and world history.

In 1936, against a backdrop of swastikas flying and storm troopers goose-stepping, an African-American athlete won a staggering four Olympic gold medals. Jesse Owens, the son of sharecroppers, had single-handedly crushed Hitler's myth of Aryan supremacy. The story of Jesse Owens at the 1936 games is that of a high-profile athlete giving a performance that transcends sports. But it is also the intimate and complex tale of the courage of one remarkable man.

This is the incredible true story of one of the moment…


Book cover of Marathon Woman: Running the Race to Revolutionize Women's Sports

Nicholas Smith Author Of Kicks: The Great American Story of Sneakers

From my list on running history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I get it, to most people running isn’t fun, but its simplicity can be deceptive. To some, running (especially when done in nature) can be a spiritual act. To others, it (along with its cousin jogging) should’ve been included in the Geneva Conventions. Me? I’ve been running since the third grade and watching running for even longer. Growing up, the Olympics were required viewing and an interest in running naturally flowed from it. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a runner to enjoy the great many books out there about runners and their impact on sports, culture, and world events. 

Nicholas' book list on running history

Nicholas Smith Why did Nicholas love this book?

For much of the 20th century, women were banned from taking part in some of running’s biggest races, because of misogynistic beliefs about supposed female fragility. A few women were brave enough to challenge this sexist idea by competing in the same arena as men. By 1967, some women had managed to sneak in to run the Boston Marathon, then all-male, but Kathrine Switzer was the first to officially receive a race number by registering with only her initials. Yet her run wasn’t without drama, as Switzer explains firsthand in her book. A race official noticed Switzer running and attempted to force her off the course. Press photographers captured the whole confrontation. When the resulting photos ran in newspapers, it pushed forward the movement for women’s equality in sport.

By Kathrine Switzer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marathon Woman as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Katherine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon in 1967 where she was attacked by one of the event's directors who wanted to eject her from the all-male race. She fought off the director and finished the race. From the childhood events that inspired her to winning the New York City Marathon in 1974, this liberally illustrated book details the struggles and achievements of a pioneering women in sports.


Book cover of The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner

Dennis Barker Author Of The River Road: Becoming a Runner in 1972

From my list on discovery & experience of running.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a runner for 50 years and a coach for 30 years. From 2001-2016 I was the coach of Team USA Minnesota Distance Training Center. During that time I coached 24 U.S. National Champions, including an Olympian & 2 USATF Running Circuit Champions, at 1500 meters, 3000 meters, and 10,000 meters on the track; the mile, 10k, 15k, 10 miles, half-marathon, 20k, 25k, and marathon on the road; 4k, 6k, 8k and 10k in cross country.  Athletes I coached qualified for 30 U.S. national teams competing in IAAF World Championships in cross country, indoor track, outdoor track, and road, and achieved 73 top-three finishes in U.S. Championships. 

Dennis' book list on discovery & experience of running

Dennis Barker Why did Dennis love this book?

A non-runner begins running in prison and discovers its therapeutic benefits that help him do his time and start him on a journey of self-discovery. Having been an early morning runner for many years, I appreciated the protagonist’s descriptions of frosty early morning runs, which I think are some of the best in literature.

By Alan Sillitoe,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Perhaps one of the most revered works of fiction in the twentieth-century, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is a modern classic about integrity, courage, and bucking the system. Its title story recounts the story of a reform school cross-country runner who seizes the perfect opportunity to defy the authority that governs his life. It is a pure masterpiece. From there the collection expands even further from the touching “On Saturday Afternoon” to the rollicking “The Decline and Fall and Frankie Buller.” Beloved for its lean prose, unforgettable protagonists, and real-life wisdom, The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner…


Book cover of The Self-Made Olympian

Dennis Barker Author Of The River Road: Becoming a Runner in 1972

From my list on discovery & experience of running.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a runner for 50 years and a coach for 30 years. From 2001-2016 I was the coach of Team USA Minnesota Distance Training Center. During that time I coached 24 U.S. National Champions, including an Olympian & 2 USATF Running Circuit Champions, at 1500 meters, 3000 meters, and 10,000 meters on the track; the mile, 10k, 15k, 10 miles, half-marathon, 20k, 25k, and marathon on the road; 4k, 6k, 8k and 10k in cross country.  Athletes I coached qualified for 30 U.S. national teams competing in IAAF World Championships in cross country, indoor track, outdoor track, and road, and achieved 73 top-three finishes in U.S. Championships. 

Dennis' book list on discovery & experience of running

Dennis Barker Why did Dennis love this book?

Having quit running altogether because of a lack of improvement and a bad college experience, Ron Daws discovered a different way of running that brought him joy and success. Following the training of Arthur Lydiard, Daws began a road racing career that culminated in making the 1968 U.S. Olympic team in the marathon.

By Ron Daws,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Self-Made Olympian as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"In Alamosa Colorado, seven days before the '68 Olympic Trials, all the runners herded into the college dorm to watch the '64 Games film. During the marathon coverage, Abebe Bikila came into focus as he "floated" down the Japanese thoroughfare..."Bikila's expression was intense, not a frown but forever unsmiling as he patiently drew away from Ron Clarke and the rest of the world. He was immune to the noisy crowd, the other runners, his healing appendectomy...everything. His gaze on the road ahead never faltered and his cheeks and lips quivered with each stride as though he were counting. His determination…


Book cover of The Silence of Great Distance

Dennis Barker Author Of The River Road: Becoming a Runner in 1972

From my list on discovery & experience of running.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a runner for 50 years and a coach for 30 years. From 2001-2016 I was the coach of Team USA Minnesota Distance Training Center. During that time I coached 24 U.S. National Champions, including an Olympian & 2 USATF Running Circuit Champions, at 1500 meters, 3000 meters, and 10,000 meters on the track; the mile, 10k, 15k, 10 miles, half-marathon, 20k, 25k, and marathon on the road; 4k, 6k, 8k and 10k in cross country.  Athletes I coached qualified for 30 U.S. national teams competing in IAAF World Championships in cross country, indoor track, outdoor track, and road, and achieved 73 top-three finishes in U.S. Championships. 

Dennis' book list on discovery & experience of running

Dennis Barker Why did Dennis love this book?

Murphy writes about the early years of women’s distance running as women discover their desire and ability to run long, and push for acceptance to participate. It traces the experience of the first competitive female long-distance runners who laid the groundwork for the next generation of girls and women runners to begin to experience the benefits.

By Frank Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Silence of Great Distance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Silence of Great Distance is the story of the developing world of women's athletics, focused on long-distance runnning. With significant chapters on Doris Brown Heritage, the women of the Soviet Union, and Mary Decker Slaney, the primary narrative is carried by Stephanie Herbst, a nine-time all-American who competed for the University of Wisconsin between 1984 and 1988.


Book cover of A Cold Clear Day

Dennis Barker Author Of The River Road: Becoming a Runner in 1972

From my list on discovery & experience of running.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been a runner for 50 years and a coach for 30 years. From 2001-2016 I was the coach of Team USA Minnesota Distance Training Center. During that time I coached 24 U.S. National Champions, including an Olympian & 2 USATF Running Circuit Champions, at 1500 meters, 3000 meters, and 10,000 meters on the track; the mile, 10k, 15k, 10 miles, half-marathon, 20k, 25k, and marathon on the road; 4k, 6k, 8k and 10k in cross country.  Athletes I coached qualified for 30 U.S. national teams competing in IAAF World Championships in cross country, indoor track, outdoor track, and road, and achieved 73 top-three finishes in U.S. Championships. 

Dennis' book list on discovery & experience of running

Dennis Barker Why did Dennis love this book?

At a low point in U.S. distance running, American Buddy Edelen travels overseas seeking to train with, and race, the best distance runners in the world. He discovers that their secret to success is not genetics but hard training. With the help of a top U.S. coach, he ramps up his training and discovers his ability to handle a large volume of intense training. The result is a world marathon record and stunning U.S. Olympic Trials win.

By Frank Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Cold Clear Day as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Presents a biography of the great American marathon runner.


Book cover of For the Glory: The Untold and Inspiring Story of Eric Liddell, Hero of Chariots of Fire

Jim Noles Author Of Undefeated: From Basketball to Battle: West Point's Perfect Season 1944

From my list on sports during World War II that inspire me.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an “Army brat” who attended five different middle and high schools, graduated from West Point (where I majored in international history), and later attended law school. The law is my profession, but writing is my avocation, and I’ve been fortunate to have several military histories published. I reside in Birmingham, Alabama, with my wife, our youngest son, and two untrained, incorrigible dogs. As far as my latest book is concerned, they like to say at West Point that “the history that we teach was made by people we taught.” In my case, I guess it was “the history I wrote about was made by people wearing the same uniform that I wore.”

Jim's book list on sports during World War II that inspire me

Jim Noles Why did Jim love this book?

You probably know Eric Liddell’s story from the film Chariots of Fireor, at least the first part of his story, leading up to his triumph in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. In many ways, however, Liddell’s following twenty years—mostly spent as a missionary in China—were even more impressive. Hamilton’s book takes Liddell’s story through those two decades and into his final, and fatal, five years of quiet, stoic heroism and leadership in a Japanese internment camp.

By Duncan Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked For the Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Hamilton is a guarantee of quality." -Financial Times

"Duncan Hamilton's compelling biography puts flesh on the legend and paints a vivid picture of not only a great athlete, but also a very special human being." -Daily Mail

The untold and inspiring story of Eric Liddell, hero of Chariots of Fire, from his Olympic medal to his missionary work in China to his last, brave years in a Japanese work camp during WWII

Many people will remember Eric Liddell as the Olympic gold medalist from the Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire. Famously, Liddell would not run on Sunday because…


Book cover of Ghost

Jennie Liu Author Of Enly and the Buskin' Blues

From my list on boys for middle graders whose reading is falling off.

Why am I passionate about this?

My boys greedily consumed books until middle school when screens began to pull them away. I still brought home piles of books, especially stories that stirred empathy, hoping they would pick them up (especially during enforced no-screen times). My then-5th grader complained that I brought home too many “sad books about kids having a really hard time,” and that’s when I realized I was choosing titles I liked and wanted them to read. The novels I had written thus far were heavy stories for teens, but after this little episode with my boy, I decided to pay attention to what they really wanted to read. And to write one they might like.  

Jennie's book list on boys for middle graders whose reading is falling off

Jennie Liu Why did Jennie love this book?

Although Ghost is heavy on hardship (angry kid, incarcerated father), and a struggle story for sure, it’s such a tight, fast-paced one with a voice that you can’t help but fall right into the narrative.

Add to that sports (track), bad choices (stealing shoes), and all the intense emotions of a seventh-grader, any kid will have a hard time putting it down. 

By Jason Reynolds,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Ghost as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

Running. That's all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons -until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medallist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?

READ THE RUN SERIES:
Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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