The most recommended books about runners

Who picked these books? Meet our 17 experts.

17 authors created a book list connected to runners, and here are their favorite runner books.
Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

What type of runner book?

Loading...
Loading...

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 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 Running and Philosophy: A Marathon for the Mind

Bruce Grierson Author Of What Makes Olga Run? The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us about Living Longer, Happier Lives

From my list on actually living before you die.

Why am I passionate about this?

Writing the Olga book was a privilege in several senses. I got to hang out for five years with a remarkable human who kicked my butt (in the nicest possible way) and pulled me out of a midlife funk with the example of her indomitable spirit. Just as significantly, I got to delve deeply into the question of What makes some people almost … bulletproof? To what degree is healthy aging, well … a choice? This is really all a writer can ask for: to stumble on a subject that will never exhaust itself, that will just continue to open new angles. One way or another, I keep writing about Olga, and I suspect I always will.

Bruce's book list on actually living before you die

Bruce Grierson Why did Bruce love this book?

Because the 21st century belongs to friendships. And camaraderie is the number 1 ingredient in the longevity recipe. We need each other. We need mutual assistance if we want to live not just longer but better. (What’s the saying? “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.”) It’s easy to forget that in the tech age, which promotes ferocious independence (which ultimately isn’t much fun). Think of Durkheim’s notion of “collective effervescence”—which we missed big-time during Covid lockdown – and you’ll appreciate what Michael Austin, a philosopher from the University of Eastern Kentucky, is offering here. This is a philosophy with a healthy heart in every sense.

By Michael W. Austin (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A unique anthology of essays exploring the philosophical wisdom runners contemplate when out for a run. It features writings from some of America's leading philosophers, including Martha Nussbaum, Charles Taliaferro, and J.P. Moreland.* A first-of-its-kind collection of essays exploring those gems of philosophical wisdom runners contemplate when out for a run* Topics considered include running and the philosophy of friendship; the freedom of the long distance runner; running as aesthetic experience, and "Could a Zombie Run a Marathon?"* Contributing essayists include philosophers with athletic experience at the collegiate level, philosophers whose pasttime is running, and one philosopher who began running…


Book cover of North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail

Janet Patkowa Author Of The Impossible Long Run: My Journey to Becoming Ultra

From my list on ultrarunning for amateur adventurers.

Why am I passionate about this?

I want an adventurous life filled with experiences and challenges that make me appreciate the world around me. My experience in running 50 miles shows just how determined I am to lead an uncommon life. The books I’ve compiled here all share that one thing in common, they chronicle the author’s paths in following this mantra. Life is meant to be lived, no matter what form you find that in. I hope you find and nurture your adventurous life from these stories that were written from the heart.

Janet's book list on ultrarunning for amateur adventurers

Janet Patkowa Why did Janet love this book?

This is a dazzling tale of an ultrarunning icon running the length of the Appalachian Trail. However, I found myself waiting for the chapters written from Jenny’s perspective as his one-woman crew bringing him supplies and a place to sleep each night. I wanted to know how she dealt with the fear of driving down desolate roads. How she made sure to be in the right place at the right time navigating areas with no cell service. I liked hearing her find pride in what she was accomplishing.

By Scott Jurek, Jenny Jurek,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

2,200 miles.
47 days.
One remarkable journey.

In July 2015, ultramarathon legend Scott Jurek smashed the world record for running the Appalachian Trail, the sprawling mountain path that runs nearly the entire length of the United States. For nearly seven weeks straight, Jurek battled the elements to run, hike and stumble 50 miles every single day.

A tale of mind-boggling physical exertion, pressure and endurance, North reveals the extraordinary lengths to which we can push our bodies and our minds.

Instant New York Times Bestseller
_____________

'Pure suspense, adventure, and inspiration . . . His story of plunging into the…


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 Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World's Fastest Woman

Marsha Diane Arnold Author Of The Pumpkin Runner

From my list on children's stories about running.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a multi-award-winning picture book author of many types of books, from The Pumpkin Runner to Badger’s Perfect Garden. I’ve always been a reader more than an athlete, but throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed running - running down a dusty Kansas backroad, running to the pasture to call in the cows, running to the stream to climb a cottonwood. When I reached my sixties, I finally decided it was time to run a half-marathon. Partway through the race, I broke my foot! But I persevered. When I crossed the finish line, I felt a little like Joshua Summerhayes in The Pumpkin Runner.

Marsha's book list on children's stories about running

Marsha Diane Arnold Why did Marsha love this book?

The beginning of Wilma Unlimited pulls you in as it describes a tiny girl who weighed just four pounds at birth. As a child Wilma was sickly, contracting both scarlet fever and polio. The story is beautifully written with stunning illustrations. Information about the 1940s, segregation, and the love and support of a mother who had 22 children, is seamlessly woven in. Who could put down a story about a girl who once wore a heavy steel brace on her leg, but, through perseverance, went on to win three gold medals in track-and-field at the 1960 Olympics?

By Kathleen Krull, David Diaz (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Wilma Unlimited as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 7, 8, and 9.

What is this book about?

This award-winning true story of Black Olympic runner Wilma Rudolph, who overcame childhood polio and eventually went on to win three gold medals, is illustrated by Caldecott medal–winning artist David Diaz.

Before Wilma Rudolph was five years old, polio had paralyzed her left leg. Everyone said she would never walk again. But Wilma refused to believe it. Not only would she walk again, she vowed, she'd run. And she did run—all the way to the Olympics, where she became the first American woman to earn three gold medals in a single Olympiad. This dramatic and inspiring true story is illustrated…


Book cover of Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas

Dean Karnazes Author Of A Runner's High: My Life in Motion

From my list on running from an ultrarunner.

Why am I passionate about this?

An internationally recognized endurance athlete and New York Times bestselling author, Dean Karnazes has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. Among his many accomplishments, he has run 350 continuous miles, foregoing sleep for three nights. He's run across Death Valley in 120-degree temperatures, and run a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. On ten different occasions, he's run a 200-mile relay race solo, racing alongside teams of twelve. His long list of competitive achievements include winning the world's toughest footrace, the Badwater Ultramarathon, running 135 miles nonstop across Death Valley during the middle of summer. His most recent endeavor was running 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days, finishing with the NYC Marathon, which he ran in three hours flat.

Dean's book list on running from an ultrarunner

Dean Karnazes Why did Dean love this book?

Olympic runner, actress, filmmaker and writer, Alexi Pappas’ wisdom and wit are beyond her age. This book will have you laughing, crying and cheering, sometimes all at once!

By Alexi Pappas,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Olympic runner, actress, filmmaker and writer Alexi Pappas shares what she’s learned about confidence, self-reliance, mental health, embracing pain, and achieving your dreams.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY REAL SIMPLE •“Heartbreaking and hilarious.”—Mindy Kaling • “A beautiful read.”—Ruth Reichl • “Essential guidance to anyone dreaming big dreams.”—Shalane Flanagan • “I couldn’t put it down.”—Adam Grant

run like a bravey
sleep like a baby
dream like a crazy
replace can’t with maybe

When “Renaissance runner” (New York Times) Alexi Pappas—Olympic athlete, actress, filmmaker, and writer—was four years old, her mother died by suicide, drastically altering…


Book cover of Her Fearless Run: Kathrine Switzer's Historic Boston Marathon

Marsha Diane Arnold Author Of The Pumpkin Runner

From my list on children's stories about running.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a multi-award-winning picture book author of many types of books, from The Pumpkin Runner to Badger’s Perfect Garden. I’ve always been a reader more than an athlete, but throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed running - running down a dusty Kansas backroad, running to the pasture to call in the cows, running to the stream to climb a cottonwood. When I reached my sixties, I finally decided it was time to run a half-marathon. Partway through the race, I broke my foot! But I persevered. When I crossed the finish line, I felt a little like Joshua Summerhayes in The Pumpkin Runner.

Marsha's book list on children's stories about running

Marsha Diane Arnold Why did Marsha love this book?

Running was magic to Kathrine Switzer. But she grew up in a time when most people thought women were too fragile to run a race, especially a 26.2-mile marathon. The illustrations are vibrant and the text well-written, with a “Pat, Pat, Pat” refrain which expands as Kathrine runs faster and faster. The story revolves around how Kathrine entered the Boston Marathon in 1967 when it was a race for men only. She was almost stopped during the race by an angry Race Director, who also believed women should not run a marathon. Kathrine persevered and finished! Since 2008, more than 10,000 women have officially entered to run the Boston Marathon. 

By Kim Chaffee, Ellen Rooney (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Her Fearless Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kathrine Switzer changed the world of running. This narrative biography follows Kathrine from running laps as a girl in her backyard to becoming the first woman to run the Boston Marathon with official race numbers in 1967. Her inspirational true story is for anyone willing to challenge the rules.

The compelling collage art adds to the kinetic action of the story. With tension and heart, this biography has the influential power to get readers into running. An excellent choice for sports fans, New Englanders, young dreamers, and competitive girls and boys alike.


Book cover of The Last Pick: The Boston Marathon Race Director's Road to Success

Paul C. Clerici Author Of Born to Coach: The Story of Bill Squires, the Legendary Coach of the Greatest Generation of American Distance Runners

From my list on the sport of running.

Why am I passionate about this?

Born and raised in the Boston area, I’ve always loved history and running. Fortunately, I’ve been able to combine those passions for decades as a newspaper sports editor, magazine writer, and author, who has covered the sport for decades; runner, who has run hundreds of races, from the mile to the marathon, including 43 marathons (Boston 23 times); and public speaker and media guest about the sport. I enjoy delving deep into the history of races, athletes, records, etc. – everything within the sport – which has afforded me the great pleasure to meet, interview, and become friends with many Olympians, champions, record-setters, and Hall of Famers.

Paul's book list on the sport of running

Paul C. Clerici Why did Paul love this book?

The Last Pick is proof positive that anything is possible. He is the race director of the Boston Marathon and Falmouth Road Race. He has his own business which organizers athletic events throughout the world. He has run extraordinary distances for charity, including across America! He is revered, respected, and renowned. But as he unabashedly explains in his life story, he fought hard against many obstacles and slights to develop a level of perseverance and determination that constantly drives his success and benevolence. As evidenced in the book, he has also become one of the finest personable ambassadors of the sport, whether contributing to causes or promoting the many benefits of running. And on a personal note, he wrote a foreword for one of my books.

By David J. McGillivray, Linda Glass Fechter,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Always the last pick for team sports because of his small stature, David McGillivray drove himself to excel at individual sports. When he was 16, he set himself up for the one "failure" that would motivate the rest of his life. He attempted to run in his first Boston Marathon - without training for the event. Not crossing the finish line could have been a crushing blow. Instead, he went on to complete 115 marathons and eventually to become the Boston Marathon's race director. At age 23, McGillivray completed his celebrated 3,452-mile run across the United States to raise money…


Book cover of Runners of North America: A Definitive Guide to the Species

Scott F. Parker Author Of The Joy of Running qua Running

From my list on the inner life of running.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been running for a quarter of a century now, ever since I got the irresistible urge in high school to quit the soccer team and make my way over to cross-country practice junior year. In that time, running has been a source of mental clarity and physical expression for me, a source of joy and even of meaning. Naturally, it has become one of the focuses of my writing life, too. I’ve written three books about running and now write the On the Run column for Sport Literate. It is gratifying to write about a sport that has such a rich literature.

Scott's book list on the inner life of running

Scott F. Parker Why did Scott love this book?

For a bit of levity, Mark Remy’s Runners of North America presents a mock classification of twenty-three subspecies of runners, including the Fashion Mag Runner (Lopus lulemonus) and the Dramatic Weight Loss Runner (Lopus saladus). Have fun identifying yourself and your running friends and gaining insight into what makes you all tick differently. A treat from running’s premiere humorist.

By Mark Remy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Runners of North America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

If there's one thing that Mark Remy knows, it's running. After 25 marathons and a career of writing for and about runners in Runner's World, he is well equipped to dissect the running world and the odd creatures that make up its population.

The North American Runner has evolved greatly over the years, adapting to changes in environment, including new threats, technologies, food sources, and fashion. These mysterious, brightly clad creatures live side by side with humans, but how many of us truly understand them?

In Runners of North America, a comprehensive guide to the 23 subspecies of runners (ranging…