Are you looking for a great book about running? If so, here is a list of eight books that every runner should have on their bookshelf.
In curating this list, I tried to include books that provided different perspectives and ideas about running. From Ultramarathon runners to Buddhist monks in Japan who run daily marathons. Each of these added to my knowledge about running. They taught me how to run more efficiently and have motivated me to push myself harder. They also helped me to learn how natural it is for humans to run.
From these books, you can learn from some of the best runners and from cultures that have taken running to another level. Enjoy!
8 Fascinating Books Every Runner Should Read
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall
Born to Run is one of the most popular running books of all time. This book makes the case that humans are literally born to run. We come from a heritage of running. Experts on the human body are continually finding adapations humans have that make them excel at running long distances. To make his point, McDougall explores the latest research on human anatomy, while also telling the story of a trip he took to Mexico to visit and run with the famed Tarahumara tribe. The Tarahumara are a hidden tribe living in the mountains of Mexico and are known to be super athletes who are able to run long distances.
The story is full of some of running’s most eclectic runners. Including ultramarathon champion Scott Jurek (see Eat and Run below) and Caballo Blanco (Micah True), who led a simple life living among the Tarahumara people in the Copper Canyons of Mexico.
This book has inspired countless people to pick up running, and learn first hand that they are truly born to run.
Scott Jurek is one of the most decorated long-distance runners. He is known for winning the Western States 100-mile race six years in a row. He also set the US record of running 165.7 in a single 24 hour period.
In Eat and Run, Jurek tells the story of how he started running, and how he believes his diet has helped him be a better runner. Jurek is a vegan, and before Jurek began dominating Ultramarathons, many in the sport didn’t think a non-meat eating diet could sustain a long-distance runner. Jurek proved them wrong.
At the end of each chapter, Jurek shares his favorite recipes, including many foods he eats while running his races. This book is for the runner who wants to take his abilities to the next level by focusing on diet.
The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb
This book documents the events leading up to Roger Bannister’s first sub-4-minute mile. Instead of just focusing on Bannister, the book looks at the competitive landscape of chasing the perfect mile. Roger Bannister, Wes Santee, and John Landy were all likely candidates to break the four-minute barrier, and Landy would go on to break Bannister’s record.
The book looks at each of these men. We learn what motivated them and how they trained to break the barrier. This is a must-read for any student of running history. It’s entertaining, exciting, and one of the better-written running books that I’ve read.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami is a famous Japanese author who is a lifelong runner. His most famous works are Norwegian Wood and Kafka on the Shore. Murakami has run six miles almost every day of his life and has run 26 marathons (at the time of publishing).
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is not like his other works. This book is a memoir. It’s Murakami’s reflection on a life spent writing and running. The best part about this book is the quality of the writing. Murakami, through his prose, tells beautiful reflections about what running means to him. He also makes the case that the attributes that made him a good writer also made him a great runner.
If you want to learn more I did a review of this book on my YouTube channel, and also wrote an article on the book.
With Shoe Dog, Phil Knight has written both a history of Nike and how running has changed his life. It is both a great business book and a running book. Knight ran for legendary running coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon. After school, he began selling his Japanese-made shoes out of the back of his car. This eventually turned into Nike.
You don’t have to be a runner to enjoy this book. It is full of life lessons and is inspiring. For running fans, you can learn about the rise of Nike and how it influenced the world of running
This book explores the limits of human endurance. One of the biggest ideas in the book centers around the idea that you often can’t die from exhaustion. Your brain shuts off your body before you die, thus implying that your body could go further. The book is full of interesting information about the human body and pushing it to the limits.
Ultramarathons changed Rich Roll’s life. He was forty years old and very unhealthy. He drank, did drugs, and was overweight. A change was needed. Roll began to turn his life around as he focused on his health. He also began to run. In just a few years, he became one of the best ultramarathon runners around. In Finding Ultra, he recounts his dramatic transformation and how finding ultramarathons changed his life.
The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei by John Stevens.
I almost didn’t include this one. This book is not like the other books on this list. At times it feels like reading a textbook. However, this book had a tremendous impact on me.
John Stevens wrote this book about the monks of Mount Hiei.
Mount Hiei is just north of the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto. The mountain is home to a famous temple and a sect of Buddhism known as Tendai. The monks who live here run great distances as part of their devotion. Ultimately leading to running 52 miles a day for 100 days.
The book documents how running is infused with their spiritual quest. It makes you reflect on the spiritual aspect of running while also teaching about a very interesting culture.
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