Need a little nudge to help you train smarter, eat better, stay motivated, and run your best?
If you want to be a better runner in 2023, you might think all you need is...
But what if you could "learn" how to be a better runner WITHOUT running yourself into the ground?
You know - train smarter, not harder...
Here's a low-impact way to help you with training, eating, and motivation to help you run your best...
Sit down, take off your running shoes and read a book.
Ready to become a better runner in 2023?
Check out these 33 awesome running books...
Reading is even a wonderful way to rest and recover post-run, and certainly a means to dive deeper into one of our favorite pastimes: running.
Hence, I’ve compiled a list of the best running books I’ve read to date in the hopes that you find one or more that spark joy within your running heart.
The list is organized by the following categories:
📕 Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek.
For three years during my mid-30s, I was vegan, meaning that I ate zero food products from animals:
At the time, I was training for the Pittsburgh Marathon and devoured any running book I could find about being a runner and a vegan, and Jurek’s Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness was my favorite, because, for one...
Even if you’re not a fan of veganism, all runners can benefit from the wisdom of Jurek, who won the Western States 100 seven years in a row and held the Fastest Known Time on the Appalachian Trail, just to name a couple of his accomplishments.
Eat and Run shows us that we are all unique and require different approaches to running...
Though during my second pregnancy I gave up veganism and never looked back, I still love this book and appreciate that a plant-based diet has supported such an accomplished athlete.
📕 The Endurance Diet: 5 Core Habits of the World’s Greatest Athletes to Look, Feel, and Perform Better by Matt Fitzgerald.
If you’ve ever read a book by author, coach, nutritionist and athlete Matt Fitzgerald, chances are you’ve read, well, more books by him.
Because once you’re exposed to his work, you simply want more of it. That was the case for me, anyway, because of his funny, simple, direct style, which he displays in The Endurance Diet.
Fitzgerald combines in-depth research with personal experience and observation and concludes that...
The chapters are divided into the “5 Core Habits” in the book’s title.
Additionally, don’t let the title fool you...
The book is not mandating a strict “diet,” rather, it is more of a compilation of short stories from Fitzgerald’s travels around the world as he observes the dietary habits of many types of elite, professional athletes in a wide array of cultures and geographic locations.
Favorite quotes from The Endurance Diet:
📕 ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health and a Strong, Lean Body for Life by Stacy T. Sims.
Ladies, this one’s for us. Actually, do yourself a favor and get it right now.
A female friend told me about this book one day while we were trail running and discussing fueling strategies for ultramarathons. I bought it as soon as I got home, finished it in a couple days and told all my female runner friends about it.
For one, ROAR teaches female athletes and active women:
Whether you’re a runner or a weight lifter, a cyclist or a boxer, ROAR can guide you along your fitness and wellness journey and provide insight into nourishment for athletic pursuits.
Dr. Stacy Sims, Environmental Exercise Physiologist and Nutrition Scientist, carries the theme that “women are not small men” throughout ROAR. In fact, once you watch her TED talk, you’ll be rushing to get your hands on this book, and I 100 percent recommend it for all active women.
Ladies, get it, asap.
Favorite quotes from ROAR:
📕 Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas
We all have our “favorite books of all time” list, right?
For instance, some of mine include:
One thing that Bravey has in common with my non-running favorite books listed above is its superior writing and storytelling, which surpasses any running memoir I’ve ever read...
Furthermore, Pappas is an Olympic athlete, professional runner, filmmaker and actress.
Need I say more for her ability to write a book worthy of an award, in my opinion?
Furthermore, for our poetry lovers out there, Pappas includes her poetry, mostly as chapter titles, in Bravey.
The following poem, which inspired the name of the book, exemplifies her charm and way with words:
run like a bravey
sleep like a baby
dream like a crazy
replace can't with maybe
I dare venture to say that we can all relate to that, if not now, at one time or another in our running lives.
And we can all relate to navigating the highs and lows of life, just like Pappas did.
Go ahead, treat yourself to Pappas’ masterpiece (yep, I said it), which isn’t just for runners. I recently recommended it to the book club to which I belong, and not many of them are runners.
📕 Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor.
Maybe I just really favor memoirs by women, because Let Your Mind Run, like Bravey, is one of those books I could read again and again.
Deena Kastor, a three-time Olympian and American record holder in the marathon...takes us through her journey to greatness under legendary coach Joe Vigil.
She makes you feel as if you’re there with her...
I could not put this book down. It is a must-read.
📕 Out and Back: A Runner’s Story of Survival Against All Odds by Hillary Allen.
Hillary Allen was ranked the number one skyrunner in the world when she fell 150 feet from a ridgeline during a race in Norway.
If you think you just couldn’t have it worse because of, say, an overuse injury like a stress fracture or iliotibial band syndrome, think again, and read this book.
You’ll find optimism in all things and the light at the end of the tunnel and fall in love with Hillary’s perseverance and appreciation for the small, detailed work of recovery and making a comeback.
In summary, Out and Back is a quick read and will keep your perspective in check.
📕 A Runner’s High: My Life in Motion by Dean Karnazes.
Each chapter of “ultramarathon man” Dean Karnazes’ book tells a separate story about his lifelong running experiences.
Favorite quotes from A Runner’s High:
📕 Running Home: A Memoir by Katie Arnold.
A friend of mine recommended this book after reading about it in Outside Magazine, because it was about running and the death of a woman’s father, something I had just experienced.
There are large chunks of favorite quotes from Running Home highlighted in my Kindle, too many to type here, but I’ll share some:
📕 Running the Dream: One Summer Living, Training, and Racing with a Team of World-Class Runners Half My Age by Matt Fitzgerald.
Another one of Fitzgerald’s lively, hilarious, engaging books, Running the Dream recounts his time training with the HOKA Northern Arizona Elite professional running team as a recreational runner with a bit more talent than just the average Joe (his marathon personal best is 2:39:30).
The book reads somewhat like a personal journal or log of what Fitzgerald and the NAZ Elite team do on a daily basis, with a focus around the author’s goal to break his marathon personal best at the Chicago Marathon.
Does he achieve his dream, with the guidance of coach Ben Roasario and support of his NAZ Elite teammates?
You’ll have to read to find out!
Favorite quote from Running the Dream:
📕 Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson.
If you’re fascinated by Nike’s Breaking2 project, which served as the powerhouse behind Eliud Kipchoge’s amazing feat of running a marathon in under two hours, then read this book.
Hutchinson was one of two journalists allowed behind the scenes of the Breaking2 project, and he delicately tells the story of how Kipchoge and his team of scientists worked tirelessly to push the barrier of what was thought to be impossible.
Yet, Breaking2 is not the only story told in Endure.
Hutchinson tells stories from all facets of human endurance, not just running...
To illustrate how the human mind and body is capable of performing and surviving under more stress, hardship and failure than we can ever imagine.
📕 How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind over Muscle by Matt Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald tells real-life stories about how the mind has done its magic and overcome countless obstacles when the body has been completely maxed out.
How Bad Do You Want It? is inspiring, awesome, in the truest sense of the word, and in some ways a cliffhanger.
Favorite quotes from How Bad Do You Want It?
📕 Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.
Born to Run is another book that I have read again and again, every five years, since it first hit the shelves in 2009.
Beyond barefoot running, McDougall, a professional journalist, travels to Mexico to study the Tarahumara’s way of life while also coordinating a foot race with some of the best ultramarathoners in the world, including Scott Jurek and Jenn Shelton.
Born to Run is educational, entertaining, and can even be life changing, as it was for me the first time I read it.
I don’t run in FiveFingers anymore, instead sporting Barefoot Ted’s Luna Sandals (Ted is one of the guys who travels to Mexico in the book) for summertime cooldowns.
And though I never cared much for chia seeds, Born to Run draws you into the story, making you feel part of it, beckoning you to read it again and again.
Additionally, Born to Run 2: The Ultimate Training Guide, was recently released, explaining exactly how to run as similar to the Tarhumara as the average modernized human can, applying the techniques we saw in the first book.
📕 Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth by Adharanand Finn.
The Kenyans have a reputation for being the best runners in the world, and author Finn experienced first-hand what makes them not just great, but excellent.
Favorite quotes from Running with the Kenyans:
📕 The Way of the Runner: A Journey Into the Fabled World of the Japanese Runner by Adharanand Finn.
After reading Finn’s Running with the Kenyans, I was hooked on his way with words, so I dove into The Way of the Runner.
Unlike the Kenyan culture, I was not familiar with the Japanese running culture, which made reading the book not only an interesting examination of running but also a totally new learning experience.
If you like any of Finn’s books, you’ll like this one just as much.
Favorite quote from The Way of the Runner:
“It is here, in the racing of legs, the whirl of the trees rushing by, too fast to see or care, that your mind begins to empty. You enter a space where the outside world ceases to exist, except as a path to traverse.
Beautiful scenery becomes irrelevant. You could be running through an abandoned industrial estate and it would make no difference. All that is left is you and the road.
And it is here, in the push to run faster, that you can begin to surprise yourself. When you really start to run, hard and fast, it can be like you’ve broken through something and come out the other side into a wide open space. It can sometimes feel like you’ve taken a drug.
Something is always trying to drag you back - the pain, the hurt in your legs - but occasionally you can run so hard you want to laugh out loud.”
📕 The Rise of the Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance by Adharanand Finn.
The Rise of the Ultrarunners was the first book by Adharanand Finn that I read.
He unravels the ways in which ultrarunning went from a sport in which very few (mostly men) participated to a thriving entity encompassing average working humans, not just super athletes.
Favorite quote from The Rise of the Ultra Runners:
📕 The Happy Runner: Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer by David and Meghan Roche.
Typically I don’t make blanket statements such as:
But when it comes to The Happy Runner, I make an exception and say it, in all caps at that, to honor the way the authors type out the dialogue that they use when speaking on behalf of their dog, Addie:
EVERY RUNNER SHOULD READ THIS BOOK, BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, AND YOU WILL LOVE YOU IF YOU READ THE HAPPY RUNNER!!!
Why wouldn’t I say this for any other book on this list?
Whatever the reason, besides saving such grand statements for the most important things, The Happy Runner is for every runner:
Every single one of us can benefit from the Roches’ approach to being a happy runner.
After all, finding happiness is the meaning of life, isn’t it?
The husband/wife authors, who are running coaches:
I’ll admit, I may be partial to a book with the word “happy” and “runner” in the title, as I wholeheartedly eat up books like:
Thus, The Happy Runner harnesses two of my favorite topics and explains:
The Happy Runner gets five stars from yours truly.
Gosh, I highlighted a third of this book, but here are some goodies that’ll maybe get you on board to read it and catch the happy runner vibe:
📕 Run Forever: Your Complete Guide to Healthy Lifetime Running by Amby Burfoot.
Want a refreshing, invigorating, perhaps new, lens from which to view running?
Then read Run Forever.
Any avid runner aiming to run the entirety of their lifetime will take great pleasure in Burfoot’s words and point of view.
He doesn't talk about getting better, faster, but instead how to incorporate running into life as a means toward longevity.
Favorite quotes from Run Forever:
📕 Running and Being: The Total Experience by George Sheehan (1978).
This is a classic, written by the great Dr. George Sheehan, who speaks as if he were a trained monk, or yogi guru, or at least a great philosopher, which I would argue that he is.
Running and Being is the perfect book if ever a perfect book exists, especially for anyone seeking the “why” or greater meaning behind the physical act of running.
📕 46 Days: Keeping Up with Jennifer Pharr Davis on the Appalachian Trail by Brew Davis.
Jennifer Pharr Davis is not an ultrarunner, but anyone who can speed hike the 2,00-plus-mile Appalachian Trail and set a Fastest Known Time is certainly worthy of being on a list of favorite running books.
Favorite quotes from 46 Days:
📕 North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail by Scott Jurek.
I’m a big fan of Scott Jurek, and I’m probably not alone.
North is the story of his Fastest Known Time speed record on the Appalachian Trail.
So, if you’re into:
Read North. I picked it up after reading Born to Run and Eat and Run.
Why? I wanted to read about another one of Jurek’s amazing running accomplishments and for my own inspiration for the Vermont Infinitus Trail Marathon and Kanawha Trace 50k trail race.
After all, I told myself, if one man can run 50 miles per day every day for 46 straight days, I could come back from baby number two and run a marathon one month and a 50k the next.
Favorite quotes from North:
📕 The Pants of Perspective: One Woman’s 3,000 Kilometre Running Adventure Through the Wilds of New Zealand by Anna McNuff.
A trail running friend recommended this book to me while training for the above-mentioned trail marathon and 50k.
One way I get my head in the game of marathon and ultramarathon training is to read books like North and The Pants of Perspective.
Because, as it says in the title of McNuff’s book, it’s all about perspective...
And supporting other runners, whether you’ve met them or not, by reading about their enormous, sometimes mind-blowing accomplishments, does the mind and soul good, and eventually the body, because the mind governs what we believe our bodies can do, as they say.
It took a while to really get into and enjoy this book...
Perhaps I wanted to quit as I struggled through the first several chapters - but after I got over the hump of whatever was causing me discord with the book (I can’t really say, perhaps my mood), I was hooked.
McNuff ran 1,864 miles on a point-to-point New Zealand trail by herself.
Any woman who can persevere in such a way is a brilliant, brave human being, and her story reveals her fiery, fun-loving spirit.
Furthermore, I spent three months with my husband in New Zealand, before we had kids and got married, so this book was a nice way to reminisce about our adventures there.
Favorite quotes from The Pants of Perspective:
📕 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster by Training Slower by Matt Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald is a running coach, and in 80/20, he discusses how most recreational runners spend too much time running in the moderate heart rate zone and not enough time in the low intensity zone.
If you’re into:
80/20 Running is one of those classic, fundamental training plan books you won’t want to skip.
Favorite quotes from 80/20:
📕 Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Performance by Dr. Kelly Starrett.
This is a book for every runner, every athlete, anyone who moves their body.
One of the physical therapists with whom I’ve worked recommended it to me back in 2015.
To use the book most effectively:
📕 Fixing Your Feet: Injury Prevention and Treatment for Athletes by Jon Vonhof.
I got the first edition of this book in search of answers for postpartum plantar fasciitis and a heel spur.
If you’re prone to foot injuries and maladies, get this book.
📕 Hansons Marathon Method: Running Your Fastest Marathon the Hansons Way by Luke Humphrey with Keith and Kevin Hanson.
Any book that debunks the traditional approach to training is one worth reading, and Hansons Marathon Method does just that.
It lays out the empirical evidence that high mileage weeks and super long runs, particularly the 20-mile must-do for marathon training, is actually not necessary.
I followed the plan for a marathon once and have even altered it to suit ultramarathons and really liked it.
If the traditional marathon or ultra training plans don’t seem to work for you, or if you want a new perspective, read this book.
📕 Meb for Mortals: How to Run, Eat, and Think Like a Champion Marathoner by Meb Keflezighi.
Back when I was training for the 2016 Pittsburgh Marathon, I read Meb for Mortals.
No, I didn’t want to win the race like Meb crushed the 2014 Boston Marathon.
In fact, I had zero goals and no interest in running with a pacer, because it was the first longest race I ran after having my first child.
I simply wanted to:
So, why did I read the book?
Because, like I said, when I’m training for races that make me nervous, like marathons and ultras, I like to completely immerse myself in the experience, and reading books is one of the ways I get that fix.
Meb for Mortals speaks to people like me, the recreational runner, the general population, making it easy to apply some of his own techniques to our running regimens, without having to run certain times or paces.
Favorite quotes from Meb for Mortals:
📕 Mental Training for Ultrarunning: Your Psychological Skills Guidebook for Ultra Success by Addie Bracy.
I love a good reference book, and Mental Training for Ultrarunning falls into that category.
Mental Training for Ultrarunning is a must-read for anyone interested in tapping into the power of the mind and using it as a skill for running tough races and enjoying them.
📕 Run Less Run Faster: Become a Faster, Stronger Runner with the Revolutionary 3-Runs-a-Week Training Program by Bill Pierce and Scott Murr.
This is another book, similar to Hansons Marathon Method, that debunks traditional training methods and emphasizes quality over quantity.
For those who love other sports besides running and find it not their style (like me) to only run, this book validates why you should not, in fact, only run, at least most of us who are non-professional athletes who might:
It is a must-read reference book for anyone serious about sustainable running.
📕 Running Rewired: Reinvent Your Run for Stability, Strength and Speed by Jay Dicharry.
Like Becoming a Supple Leopard, Running Rewired was recommended to me by a physical therapist.
Those who abhor spending hours with weights doing strength training that may not apply to running will appreciate the extremely-running focused exercises described by Dicharry as well as the knowledge he shares about running and body mechanics.
Even more, the exercises include the simple, timeless ones, like planks, push-ups and kettlebell swings, nothing super complicated.
📕 Running Your First Ultra: Customizable Training Plans for Your First 50K to 100-Mile Race by Krissy Moehl.
Though I am not “running my first ultra” anymore, I still refer to the training plans in this book. It has plans for:
Admittedly, I hardly follow anyone’s plan verbatim besides my own, but this is by and large the book that I use the most when writing out my own personal plan.
📕 Strong: A Runner’s Guide to Boosting Confidence and Becoming the Best Version of You by Kara Goucher.
Can you call a book cute?
With the layout and design of this one, I would say yes.
I borrowed this book from a library, but I recommend getting your own copy to make the writing activities easier, though I was fine doing all my writing in a separate journal.
Strong is a runner/ journaling lover’s dream and fantastic resource to incorporate into a training cycle for a race, particularly one that makes your confidence wax and wane, like any good ultra might do.
📕 The Runner’s Guide to Yoga: A Practical Approach to Building Strength & Flexibility for Better Running by Sage Rountree.
Even though I think going to yoga classes or practicing from an app at home will give runners what they need, granted the teacher is skilled and well-rounded, this book tells us exactly why different poses are good for runners, and also covers the mind/ soul part of the yoga/ running equation.
Any runner who practices yoga, or runner who needs a little more strengthening/ balancing/ coordination in their lives (because yoga is not all about stretching), and especially any runner who teaches yoga, will benefit from this book.
📕 Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across Any Finish Line - and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.
Postpartum running is hard, period.
No, postpartum running doesn’t have to be like that, and in fact it wasn’t like that for my second pregnancy. But after my first, it was a 16-month ordeal.
So, I read books like Train Like a Mother, because postpartum running can feel lonely, and I needed to feel a connection to other moms who struggled after having babies, even if it was just through the pages of my Kindle.
Train Like a Mother acted as a support team and also led me to discover Rolfing, a form of bodywork that healed my plantar fasciitis after one session.
Gosh, there are still so many running books on my wish list! They include but are not limited to:
…but I hope this list of 33 offers fellow runners somewhere to start in their running book game.
If you’ve read any of the 33 books reviewed, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
When it comes to reading, you never know what secrets, inspiration and magic are hiding in a book, do you?
So go on, get lost in the pages of one, opening your mind to the many: