The best competition books

Many authors have picked their favorite books about competition and why they recommend each book.

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The Long Walk

By Stephen King,

Book cover of The Long Walk

Writing as Richard Bachman, this quite short story (for King) is set in a future where once a year, young people are invited to take part in the ‘Long Walk.’ The premise is simple; you walk until you can’t walk any further. Keep above a certain speed limit or, after a couple of warnings, the soldiers who trail the walkers will shoot you dead. The winner is the one who survives. It sounds stupid, but, my God, when I first read it, I felt as if I had been on the walk with the characters you get to know. Horrifying simply because of the skill of King’s writing in describing the feelings of utter exhaustion and terror along the way. Human horror at its peak.


Who am I?

After picking up a copy of James Herbert’s Lair (the second in his Rats trilogy) back in the early 80s, I decided I wanted to write something myself one day. That day came in about 1990, when I finished my first manuscript, Minstrel’s Bargain. I also wrote another MS around that time called Point of Contact, but nothing happened with these stories and I gave up on my writing dreams to concentrate on bringing up a family. Fast forward to 2015, and I sent the MS for Minstrel’s Bargain to an indie publisher. To my surprise, they took it on, and that book has spawned two sequels, entitled the Prophecy Trilogy. 


I wrote...

Point of Contact

By Richard Ayre,

Book cover of Point of Contact

What is my book about?

After the body of a man is found mysteriously burned to death in his home, Northumbria Police know there is only one person they can call on to help; fire Investigator Ian Fenwick, a man fighting his own demons. Fenwick soon finds himself pitched against crazed killers and mysterious entities known only as The Visitors. Can Fenwick stop them from carrying out their mission? If not, the whole world will burn.

Nevermoor

By Jessica Townsend,

Book cover of Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

I was privileged enough to be a part of the first wave of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Like many others I’m sure, those books irrevocably captured my imagination, and sparked the flame of my own story-telling pursuits. I didn’t think there’d ever be a story that would match the sheer wonder and imagination that Rowling created. Then I read Nevermoor. And my imagination was re-captured in the same invigorating, child-like wondrous way. This book is something truly special. It’s full of wonder and wit, including a Willy-Wonker-esque patron, a giant talking cat, and a magical, room-changing hotel. And the setting… the setting is marvelously whimsical, magical, with just the right amount of menace to leave you enraptured. You won’t regret following Morrigan into Nevermoor.


Who am I?

I am a full-time Children’s Fantasy author and illustrator; the result of having my imagination captivated by all the stories told before me. When delving into a story my desire is to have my imagination captured and swept up on a dizzyingly wonderful and fantastical ride. When reading, I just want a good, solid adventure. More importantly, I want to feel like I’m with the characters (and that I actually want to be with them)—that I’m seeing the world unfold as they do. I love when my imagination is inspired, invigorated, startled, and surprised. If you’re like me, give the books on my list a go—your imaginations will (hopefully) be captured and swept up, too!


I wrote...

Kin Seeker

By N.R. Eccles-Smith,

Book cover of Kin Seeker

What is my book about?

The dragons have mysteriously vanished from the lands of Valadae—except one. With no memory of his past, or what happened to his kin, Laeka’Draeon begins the daunting quest for answers, aware that time and unknown perils are against him.

Through ancient, blighted forests and regions steeped in mysterious lore, Laeka’Draeon encounters unexpected allies and terrifying foes, and discovers a dangerous connection between his missing kind and the ominous deterioration of Valadae’s realms. If the dragons fail to return and restore the waning magic of the legendary towers of Klonnoth Aire, the consequences will lead to the return of an ancient and devastating enemy; beasts that once ravaged Valadae in a calamitous 100-year war.

The Gollywhopper Games

By Jody Feldman, Victoria Jamieson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Gollywhopper Games

I love the idea of a competition run by a game/toy factory that is its own game that requires solving all kinds of different puzzles. There are brainteasers the reader can try and solve on their own, but it’s also a blast sitting back and reading how the competitors navigate other puzzles, like an obstacle course and maze. Family and friend relationships also play an important role as the main character strives to come out the winner!


Who am I?

Kim Long loves to write stories with a sense of adventure, a dash of magic, and a hint of science. Her debut, Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament, was a 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Master List Selection. She loves board games, scavenger hunts, and puzzles, so books with aspects of those elements have always appealed to her. Every book recommended below has at least one of those elements, and the great news is that it's also the first in its series, so if you fall in love with the first book, there’s a good chance you’ll love the others, too!


I wrote...

Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

By Kim Long,

Book cover of Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won't let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin's Teleportation Tournament—the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve STEAM-based puzzles. She needs the prize money to re-enroll in the science academy her parents can no longer afford. 

Castles, museums, and labyrinths await as Lexi and her team attempt to stay on course and outwit their competition. The perfect adventure for middle grade readers who like scavenger hunts and puzzle-solving.

I Really Want to Win

By Simon Philip, Lucia Gaggiotti (illustrator),

Book cover of I Really Want to Win

On School Sports Day, an exuberant girl is already planning her celebration because she knows she is going to win. When she loses several competitions to another girl, she is anything but gracious as she makes excuses and decides sports aren’t her thing. She wants trophies and ribbons so she competes in a spelling bee and dance contest and loses – to the same competitor! Our narrator is mad but when she sees her nemesis lose and happily congratulate the winner, she begins to understand that winning isn’t everything.

Filled with humor and whimsy, this is a book where children can easily identify good and bad sportsmanship as they come to realize that doing their best is what really matters. It also shows that everyone has special talents – they just need to practice to get better.


Who am I?

As a children’s librarian, teacher, and parent, I know that children have big feelings. I write heart-filled books that speak to the issues that they deal with while navigating new experiences. I was inspired to write Evie’s Field Day because of the frustrations most children deal with when they lose. I hope that my book will encourage children to enjoy the process of playing sports and games with others and the rewards of being a friend and a good sport.


I wrote...

Evie's Field Day: More Than One Way to Win

By Claire Annette Noland, Alicia Teba (illustrator),

Book cover of Evie's Field Day: More Than One Way to Win

What is my book about?

Evie loves to run, jump, hop, and win. So, when the school’s field day comes around, she plans to add to her growing collection of ribbons and trophies. Unfortunately, Evie struggles and loses each competition. She wants to be happy for her friends, but it is so hard to lose! Finally, Evie finds herself ahead of the pack but when faced with a choice she learns that there is more than one way to win.

Children will root for Evie as she learns to navigate the playground in this celebration of competition, teamwork, friendship, sportsmanship, and the challenge of losing. The backmatter includes suggestions for helping children learn to be good sports whether they win or lose.

Phoebe Clappsaddle and the Tumbleweed Gang

By Melanie Chrismer, Virginia Roeder (illustrator),

Book cover of Phoebe Clappsaddle and the Tumbleweed Gang

Phoebe Clapsaddle was a southern belle who lived on a ranch. This fiction book involves the Tumbleweed Gang who made an acquaintance with Phoebe after they visited her town. Appalled by their lack of manners and impolite speech, Phoebe decides they need her southern charm and culture. Phoebe teaches them lessons in riding, roping, and good manners. There are more Tumbleweed Gang adventures in other books, too. I know the author personally. Phoebe Clapsaddle’s name is in her family tree. Though she didn’t know if Phoebe was a southern belle cowgirl, the author loved her name so much, she wanted to write a book about her as a main character.


Who am I?

I grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma and have always been fascinated by the Wild West. Native Americans, cowboys, rodeos, settlers, farmers, and the great National Parks of the West. I’ve been fortunate to see Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Glacier National Park, and many western national monuments. My first elementary school was Sequoyah, named for the great Cherokee who created the Cherokee alphabet. While researching early library methods of transportation, I came across books being delivered by stagecoach in the west. That eventually led me to discover the amazing life of Jackson Sundown. I hope these books on cowboys, buckaroos, and rodeos enchant you and your little ones like they have me.


I wrote...

Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

By Doris Fisher, Sarah Cotton (illustrator),

Book cover of Jackson Sundown: Native American Bronco Buster

What is my book about?

Jackson Sundown was the best rodeo performer in Idaho and Oregon. He was a member of the Nez Perce tribe who fled from the U.S. Cavalry in 1877. Due to his Native American heritage, he was denied first place. With determination and persistence, his amazing rodeo tricks and bareback rides eventually caused the crowds to insist he be recognized. He won the 1916 Pendleton Round-Up World Champion for bronco riding! He is the only Native American in the National Cowboy Hall of Fame.

The Easter Egg

By Jan Brett,

Book cover of The Easter Egg

Speaking of classics, it seems like whatever Jan Brett publishes is an instant classic! Her detailed illustrations are luscious and worthy of pouring over time and again. Hoppi wants to decorate the winning egg so that he can be chosen to assist the Easter Rabbit in hiding eggs. As he views other rabbits’ eggs trying to figure out how he will decorate his, each rabbit gives him material he could use. Instead of trying to make a winning egg, Hoppi decides to make an egg he’s proud of. He comes upon a robin’s egg that fell out of the nest and keeps it warm. When Easter Bunny comes to choose the most special egg he chooses the robin egg – a surprise to all!


Who am I?

I have a thing about bunnies! My first plush toy was a rabbit named Boing Boing and I had a pet lop-eared bunny named Br’er. The first book I wrote in my series was The Night Before Easter because I wanted to write a story for kids who love bunnies and Easter - like me! When I was a child I also liked to read books by Beatrix Potter and hope to one day visit her house in England.


I wrote...

The Legend of Lop-eared Larry

By Natasha Wing, Hester Applebee, Brittany David (illustrator)

Book cover of The Legend of Lop-eared Larry

What is my book about?

When Larry is born with floppy ears he is an outcast. His mother and father try to get Larry’s ears to stand straight up, but they fall back down. Luckily, having lop ears helps Larry save the Easter celebration and Easter Bunny proclaims Larry the village hero! When some of Larry’s children are born with floppy ears, he lets them be. This is a tale about how differences can be strengths. 

The Candymakers

By Wendy Mass,

Book cover of The Candymakers

Told in alternating points of view by several characters as they compete in a national competition to find the tastiest confection in the country, this book lets the reader into the minds of all the main competitors. The enemy isn’t really the enemy once we get to know their feelings and thoughts. Being in a candy factory is an added bonus, as it’s such a unique location.


Who am I?

Kim Long loves to write stories with a sense of adventure, a dash of magic, and a hint of science. Her debut, Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament, was a 2021-2022 Texas Bluebonnet Master List Selection. She loves board games, scavenger hunts, and puzzles, so books with aspects of those elements have always appealed to her. Every book recommended below has at least one of those elements, and the great news is that it's also the first in its series, so if you fall in love with the first book, there’s a good chance you’ll love the others, too!


I wrote...

Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

By Kim Long,

Book cover of Lexi Magill and the Teleportation Tournament

What is my book about?

Twelve-year-old physics whiz Lexi Magill won't let anything stop her from winning Wisconsin's Teleportation Tournament—the annual competition where teams teleport around the world to solve STEAM-based puzzles. She needs the prize money to re-enroll in the science academy her parents can no longer afford. 

Castles, museums, and labyrinths await as Lexi and her team attempt to stay on course and outwit their competition. The perfect adventure for middle grade readers who like scavenger hunts and puzzle-solving.

The Hunger Games

By Suzanne Collins,

Book cover of The Hunger Games

I think it important to acknowledge newer dystopian among the classics, and I feel The Hunger Games to be a bright and powerful new story in this genre. Why I love this story is that it comments on the grizzly measures a collapsing society will go to suppress and dope up its citizens while also providing us with a suspenseful and action-packed tale of a young woman forced to fight in a modern colosseum. The world-building and imagining of this modern Rome society was vivid and really immersed me, and has challenged me as a writer to think of new methods to immerse my own audience into my stories.


Who am I?

Political sciences was always an exciting topic for me in college, and to this day I enjoy reading about failed states and tyrannical governments. And as someone who loves philosophy, I see something very important about reading the dystopian genre, as this breed of fiction constantly reminds me how utopia is unachievable on this earth, and that civility only resides in each human soul working out its own imperfections. Today, I see something important as different political factions strive to manage men, that it should not be a machine or faction that rules over a human’s heart, but a human that tames their own passions.


I wrote...

Masks: The Unmercenaries

By Konstantin Traumer, Lexie Takis,

Book cover of Masks: The Unmercenaries

What is my book about?

What happens when Halloween carries on a little too long? An entire city is threatened with being leveled.

Welcome to Nymphis, a city of Masks on the brink of destruction. Caped vigilantism and masked crime has spiraled out of control, one feeding the other, and resulted in the inception of urban legends known as Masks. Follow the Unmercenaries as they uncover a plot to level the entire city. Through the leadership of their insomniac hacker, Father, the Unmercenaries square off against their greatest foe yet: The Den, a masked cabal of thieves and murderers led by the cold giant, Silverback.

The Perfect Escape

By Suzanne Park,

Book cover of The Perfect Escape

I have an odd fascination with zombies. Movies, shows, books, I love them all. I also know that I would never survive an actual zombie apocalypse because I have no survivor skills and my cardio sucks. Luckily, The Perfect Escape brings my love for all of that into a great YA rom-com. But it’s not all about the zombies and survival as the main characters, Nate and Kate, struggle with their own families and loves. It was a much deeper book than I expected, but it’s a great way to escape from your life for a few hours. 


Who am I?

As a kid, I’ve always loved reading romances, even if it meant spending my recesses in the library and reading through lunchtime. This resulted in my 6th-grade teacher giving me the weirdest look when she caught me reading a romance at school. When I started writing, I wrote a couple of different genres to test out, but YA contemporary romances were always the ones that stuck with me. I loved writing about the fluttery feelings of first love and the complexities of an uncertain future. It also helps that I met my husband, the love of my life, in high school so I’ll always have a soft spot for books that make me feel that way again.


I wrote...

Fake It Till You Break It

By Jenn P. Nguyen,

Book cover of Fake It Till You Break It

What is my book about?

Mia and Jake have known each other their whole lives. They’ve endured summer vacations, Sunday brunches, even dentist visits together. Their mothers, who are best friends, are convinced that Mia and Jake would be the perfect couple, even though they can’t stand to be in the same room together. After Mia’s mom turns away yet another cute boy, Mia and Jake decide they’ve had enough. Together, they hatch a plan to get their moms off their backs. Permanently. All they have to do is pretend to date and then stage the worst breakup of all time―and then they’ll be free.

It’s the perfect plan - except that it turns out maybe Mia and Jake don’t hate each other as much as they once thought…

The Selection

By Kiera Cass,

Book cover of The Selection

Classism and competition meet in this young adult first-in-series. Thirty-five poverty-stricken girls compete for a chance to swap out their down-and-out lifestyles for a chance at wealth and prestige. Being “selected” means winning the affections of heart-throb Prince Maxon and being allowed to live in some pretty fabulous new digs (it’s a palace!). But what happens if the selected one doesn’t want to be selected? That’s the case for America, our protagonist…until she actually gets to know the prince she’s won. Some have said this series is The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, and I couldn’t agree more. 


Who am I?

Games, challenges, and riddles. Who doesn’t love ‘em? Who doesn’t love to imagine, from the safe distance of your armchair (or couch, or car, or bed, or wherever you read) themselves in the characters’ shoes and imagine what they would do? We certainly do—so much so that we went ahead and wrote a time travel series based around them. There are few things more captivating than a high-stakes game, in which competitors grow rapidly under the pressure of a rapidly ticking clock, tight constraints, and sometimes deadly circumstances. The following list is a sampling of books (mostly young adult, with one exception) that fall in this category. 


I wrote...

The Time Trials

By Jon McConnell, Dayna McConnell,

Book cover of The Time Trials

What is my book about?

Walkman-toting, guitar-playing Finn Mallory blames himself for his parents' deaths and would do anything to turn back time and set things right. So, when he's recruited into a secret club at his new school that specializes in competitive time travel games, Finn sees a world of opportunity open before him. The games, however, are far from benign. Competition is cutthroat. Scenarios are rigged. And the mysterious timekeepers who organize it all have no qualms about using—or disposing of players—to suit their own sinister plans.

Now Finn must decide who he can trust while making peace with his past if he's to have any hope of leading his team to victory and surviving his junior year.

Or, view all 13 books about competition

Bookshelves related to competition