The most recommended running books

Who picked these books? Meet our 15 experts.

15 authors created a book list connected to running, and here are their favorite running books.
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Book cover of Elements of Effort: Reflections on the Art and Science of Running

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?

An absolute denominator of life is resistance. Nietzsche had it right: adversity helps so long as it doesn’t do us in, and we make the biggest changes in our life when life pushes back. That applies to longevity too; the kites that stay longest in the air are pinned there by resistance. John Jerome gets this. This isn’t a book about longevity, it’s a book about running – slight but wise, with a kind of shopcraft-as-soulcraft turn of mind, if you think of your own body as the machine in the shop. Really, the book is a defense of stretching, in every sense of the word. You have to make periodic jaunts to “edge city,” where you eat the beans of just-manageable difficulty.

Takeaway sentence: “Heroism is endurance for one moment longer.”

By John Jerome,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

All runners, from beginners to Olympians, will delight in this luminous compendium of wisdom wrought from many years of running. Applying his clear vision and wry wit to a smorgasbord of running-related topics, including stretching, dancing, bugs, falling, spaghetti, sweat, and the food police, John Jerome shares his contagious passion for the most basic of sports. Stripping the art of running down to its barest elements, he takes readers and runners with him on a joyous journey -- a run that revels in a profound affection and respect for the single sport that is as pure and simple as it…


Book cover of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Sam Murphy Author Of Run Your Best Marathon: Your trusted guide to training and racing better

From my list on challenge the status quo about how to run.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was a journalist, writing about health and fitness for women’s magazines and national newspapers, I had a strong sense that much of the advice being doled out by personal trainers and other ‘experts’ was dubious, to say the least. I decided to see for myself, embarking on an Exercise and Sport Science degree and training as a running coach. Two decades on, with a handful of running books and a 13-year-strong column in Runner’s World to my name, I still like to delve into the science underpinning physical activity to see if it really stands up, and if so, for who, and under what circumstances?  

Sam's book list on challenge the status quo about how to run

Sam Murphy Why did Sam love this book?

This must be one of the most widely read running books. For good reason – it’s a great read – exciting story, quirky characters – by an excellent journalist.

But at the heart of it lies one question: ‘Why does my foot hurt?’ McDougall’s quest to find out, his deep dive into the evidence underpinning many accepted aspects of the ‘science’ of running, is what influenced me as a runner, and as a coach.

Why do runners wear built-up shoes? Why do runners only move their bodies in one plane of motion and expect to have all-round fitness? Why do so many people lose the joy in running? Why don’t we eat salad for breakfast? If you read this book, and change nothing about your running, I’ll be surprised.

By Christopher McDougall,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Born to Run as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

At the heart of Born to Run lies a mysterious tribe of Mexican Indians, the Tarahumara, who live quietly in canyons and are reputed to be the best distance runners in the world; in 1993, one of them, aged 57, came first in a prestigious 100-mile race wearing a toga and sandals. A small group of the world's top ultra-runners (and the awe-inspiring author) make the treacherous journey into the canyons to try to learn the tribe's secrets and then take them on over a course 50 miles long.

With incredible energy and smart observation, McDougall tells this story while…


Book cover of British Marathon Running Legends of the 1980s

Andy Mouncey Author Of So You Want to Run an Ultra: How to Prepare for Ultimate Endurance

From my list on runners, records, and the remarkable human spirit.

Why am I passionate about this?

I think that we’re all a Work In Progress whatever our relative levels of success so I’m drawn to people who share that belief, are way out there and are still working on their own stuff. Especially if they’ve managed to do so without becoming a righteous arse in the process. ‘Cos I want reasons to be reminded how incredible it can be to use as much of what we’ve been given and be ALIVE in every sense of the word. I want to keep learning and growing and getting stronger and faster and more bombproof and compassionate and connected as I moved through my fifth decade and beyond. These books really resonate with me – I hope they will for you too.

Andy's book list on runners, records, and the remarkable human spirit

Andy Mouncey Why did Andy love this book?

Britain used to be a hotbed of marathon talent that ruled the world over 26.2 miles decades before Lottery funding. This is a collection of 21 interviews of men and women who left their mark on the sport often by force of will alone. For those of us who grew up watching these people – and I was one - this is the how and why they did it which at the time was the bit that was never really in the spotlight. So it squares the circle for me. And for those of you who came later – welcome to Old School…

By Gabrielle Collison,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked British Marathon Running Legends of the 1980s as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After the running boom of the 1980s, British marathon running standards gradually started to decline. This was despite the continued advancements in scientific backup, training methods, equipment, full-time professionalism and sponsorship. As a consequence, in the late 1990s, Gabrielle Collison decided to research the factors as to why this was happening and conducted interviews with some of the top British marathon runners from the previous era. Interviewees include London Marathon winners: Hugh Jones, Mike Gratton, Veronique Marot and Joyce Smith; Olympic bronze medallist, Charlie Spedding; and several other "Big City" marathon winners. The stories about their lifestyles and training make…


Book cover of A Beautiful Work In Progress

Jennifer Pharr Davis Author Of Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail

From my list on women who love the outdoors.

Why am I passionate about this?

Jennifer Pharr Davis has covered over 14,000 miles - and explored trails on six different continents - and in all fifty states. In 2011 she set a record on the Appalachian Trail by covering 2,190 mile miles in 46 days (an average of 47 miles per day). Jennifer is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year and a member of the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition.

Jennifer's book list on women who love the outdoors

Jennifer Pharr Davis Why did Jennifer love this book?

The author of this book is an amazing combination of personable and empowering. She takes readers on her journey from a city kid growing up in NYC to a trail runner who explores the most scenic trails in the US. When you are finish you will feel like you have a new friend and some new inspiration.

By Mirna Valerio,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Beautiful Work In Progress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Runners' vocabulary is full of acronyms like DNS for "Did Not Start" and DNF for "Did Not Finish," but when Mirna Valerio stepped up to the starting line, she needed a new one: DNQ for "Did Not Quit."

Valerio has tied on her running shoes all across the country, from the dusty back roads of central New Jersey to the busy Route 222 corridor in Pennsylvania to the sweltering deserts of Arizona. When you meet her on the trail, you might be surprised to see she doesn't quite fit the typical image of a long-distance runner. She's neither skinny nor…


Book cover of Coasting: Running Around the Coast of Britain - Life, Love and (Very) Loose Plans

Jessica Hepburn Author Of Save Me from the Waves: An adventure from sea to summit

From my list on females adventure and change their life.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am an author and adventure activist who believes passionately in the power of big and small adventures to change your life for the better when you’ve been through dark and difficult times. I have written three books, all of which I describe as ‘alternative adventure stories’ because they don’t look like the usual ‘Boy’s Own’ tales of danger and derring-do (although they do include some of that, too!). I’m drawn to the words of wonderful women warriors who give me strength in times of sadness. These books have inspired me to live big and bravely in what is often a challenging but (mainly) wonderful world.

Jessica's book list on females adventure and change their life

Jessica Hepburn Why did Jessica love this book?

A book I read fairly recently about a woman who started adventuring in her twenties, at a much younger age than me. Yet her story of running around the coast of Britain still gave me a great sense of solidarity, particularly because she wasn’t a very good runner when she started and couldn’t read a map. Thank you, Elise! Ditto! 

By Elise Downing,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Longlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award 2021

Running away from your problems doesn't solve anything - but sometimes it's more fun than dealing with them

Elise was spending a lot of time crying on buses. She had just graduated from university; she had a shiny new flat, her first proper job and a budding relationship - and they were all making her utterly miserable. Sitting at work one day, she hit upon the obvious solution:

Run 5,000 miles around the coast of Britain, carrying her kit on her back.

Six months later Elise set off,…


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 What I Talk about When I Talk about Running: A Memoir

Fumio Sasaki Author Of Hello, Habits: A Minimalist's Guide to a Better Life

From my list on harnessing the power of habits.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I became a minimalist, I found that having less made my household chores so much easier. Before then, I thought I was a loser who lets dirty dishes and laundry pile up. But when my environment changed, what I had believed was my personality also shifted. Once my apartment was tidy, it became a habit to do the dishes right away and vacuum the floor before going out, and my life became consistently enjoyable. But other habits were harder nuts to crack, like quitting drinking or exercising regularly. In Hello, Habits I write about my journey of acquiring these habits through a process of trial and error.

Fumio's book list on harnessing the power of habits

Fumio Sasaki Why did Fumio love this book?

What really fascinates me about Haruki Murakami is not his body of work per se, but the process through which he rose from anonymity and became a world-renowned author. Until he was 29, he’d never imagined he had the talent to write a novel. Before his rise to fame, novelists were known to live a wild and intemperate existence, drinking lots of alcohol into the wee hours and getting started on their manuscript past deadline. Murakami, however, broke this stereotype as someone who wakes up early, works out every day, and has run multiple full marathons. I have no doubt it was the power of his habits that made him a world-famous author. He even says his motto is to turn himself into “a creature of habits.”

By Haruki Murakami,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked What I Talk about When I Talk about Running as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional'

A compelling mediation on the power of running and a fascinating insight into the life of this internationally bestselling writer. A perfect reading companion for runners.

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he'd completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing.

Equal parts travelogue, training log and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for…


Book cover of Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory

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?

Deena Kastor is a phenom that holds American records in every distance from the 5K to the marathon. Let Your Mind Run is a fascinating peek into the mindset of an elite athlete.

By Deena Kastor, Michelle Hamilton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

NOW WITH A NEW WORKBOOK

Deena Kastor was a star youth runner with tremendous promise, yet her career almost ended after college, when her competitive method—run as hard as possible, for fear of losing—fostered a frustration and negativity and brought her to the brink of burnout. On the verge of quitting, she took a chance and moved to the high altitudes of Alamosa, Colorado, where legendary coach Joe Vigil had started the first professional distance-running team. There she encountered the idea that would transform her running career: the notion that changing her thinking—shaping her mind to…


Book cover of 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower

Sage Rountree Author Of The Athlete's Guide to Recovery: Rest, Relax, and Restore for Peak Performance

From my list on books for athletes who want to up their game.

Why am I passionate about this?

Though I’ve coached endurance athletes to world championships, I’m an expert on not working out. It’s what you do when you’re not training that matters most! All the books on this list teach habits that help you relax about things that don’t matter while guiding you to define what does matter and explaining ways to most efficiently focus your energies there. This jibes with my work as a yoga teacher: we seek to find the right application of effort, and to layer in ease wherever possible. I don’t think it’s stretching too much to call each book on the list both a work of philosophy and also a deeply practical life manual.

Sage's book list on books for athletes who want to up their game

Sage Rountree Why did Sage love this book?

I think Matt Fitzgerald is the GOAT in the space of nonfiction books for endurance athletes. He’s not only prolific, but he’s also in tune with exactly what people want and need to hear. This book is one of his best.

I love that it validates my urge to do less and to focus on quality over quantity. This applies not only in sports but in all aspects of life! This book gives me permission to go easy most of the time and, when I don’t, to focus on exactly why I am doing hard things.

By Matt Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 80/20 Running as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This revolutionary training method has been embraced by elite runners - with extraordinary results - and now you can do it too.

Respected running and fitness expert Matt Fitzgerald explains how the 80/20 running program - in which you do 80 per cent of runs at a lower intensity and just 20 per cent at a higher intensity - is the best change runners of all abilities can make to improve their performance. With a thorough examination of the science and research behind this training method, 80/20 Running is a hands-on guide for runners of all levels with training programs…


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.…