Despite making up 60 percent of U.S. road runners, women continue to be underrepresented in running literature—in both subject matter and authorship. Back when bookstore browsing was acceptable, a quick stop in the male-dominated “Running” section left no room for interpretation.
Fortunately, there’s reason to believe that at least this gender gap is shrinking. Here are eight recently released or announced books to add to your reading list, six of which come from female authors. (And it’s always nice to kick back and be entertained, inspired, motivated, or provoked by the words of a great writer, keep reading for classic books to add to your reading list this year.)
New Books for 2021
By all indicators, if steeplechase world champion Emma Coburn isn’t on the track or in the gym, there’s a good chance she’s in the kitchen, whipping up elaborate meals for her Team Boss teammates and impressive cakes for friends and family. Her goal for The Runner’s Kitchen, released at the end of 2020 and featuring 100 of her favorite recipes, is “to open people’s eyes to the joy, and health, of having a diet with a variety of carbs, protein, fats, fruits and veggies, and sugar.” Coburn also hopes to debunk the myth, especially prevalent among young female runners, that a restrictive diet is the way to go. “Every body is different,” Coburn says, “and I’m so excited that I got to show what food works for my body.” (published December 2020)
In classic Matt Fitzgerald style, his recently published The Comeback Quotient combines real-world experiences with cutting-edge science, this time to demystify the beloved sports comeback story. “I wrote the book for athletes of all stripes who want to become mentally fitter,” Fitzgerald says. Using ultrarunners, triathletes, and road runners like cover model (and Olympic Marathon qualifier) Molly Siedel as inspiration, he breaks down the three-step process that great athletes use to bounce back from adversity. Readers will be left with the belief, toolset, and readiness to stage such epic comebacks of their own. (published December 2020)
From psychology of endurance expert Noel Brick, Ph.D., and Runner’s World contributing writer Scott Douglas comes The Genius of Athletes. The aim, Douglas says, is “to help everyday athletes learn and hone the thinking skills that top athletes use”—for application within and outside the confines of sport. Readers will learn the five key types of cognitive tools for navigating challenges and how to employ them at different stages (whether in a race or a challenging non-running project). They’ll also glean inspiration from individuals who have translated athletic success to different realms, such as former top miler Steve Holman becoming a senior executive at Vanguard, and Olympic Nordic ski champion Kikkan Randall overcoming breast cancer. (May 2021 publication)
→ Defying Gravity: A Memoir of Radical Resilience by Tianna Bartoletta
While working towards her third Olympic berth, three-time Olympic gold medalist (twice in the 4 x 100-meter relay and once in the long jump) Tianna Bartoletta wrote a memoir called Defying Gravity. According to Bartoletta, whose insightful commentary and succinct and honest writing style have made her blog a favorite in the track and field community, the book is “equal parts an origin story and a tale of radical resilience. Proof that greatness is the result of powerful intention and a refusal to quit on yourself.” (June 2021 publication)
Lottie Bildirici, the nutrition coach, recipe developer, and athlete behind the Running on Veggies blog, is taking her plant-based, performance-driven food philosophy to print this year. Her cookbook, also called Running on Veggies, draws on her experience helping athletes from around the world fuel properly and features more than 100 new recipes, along with meal plans, grocery lists, and pantry staples. Through it all, Bildirici seeks to simply the eating process, factor in the “why” behind food choices, and share accessible recipes that will help athletes “feel better and enjoy every bite.” (Fall 2021 publication)
→ The Unbearable Whiteness of Running by Alison Désir
Just when it seemed like Alison Désir had filled her plate as an activist, founder, runner, and mom—her initiatives include Harlem Run, Run 4 All Women, and the Meaning Thru Movement Tour—she added writing a book. The Unbearable Whiteness of Running is Désir’s response to the illusion that running is a space where all are welcome. It’s a manifesto that traces “her journey toward social change through distance running” and an exposé of “the historic and current effects of racism on the industry.” The book exists, Désir says, “at the intersection of running, sociology, social justice and anti-racism work and invites readers to reimagine a running industry where all are truly welcome.” (2022 publication)
→ Rise and Run: Recipes, Rituals, and Runs to Jumpstart Your Day by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky
When Rise and Run hits bookstores this fall, Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky can officially claim a cookbook trifecta. With Rise and Run being three-quarters recipes, one-quarter training manual, Kopecky calls it “much more than a cookbook.” Alongside first and second breakfast ideas, it offers tips for sunrise stretches, daily intentions, and early-morning miles. Lovers of the duo’s first two cookbooks (Run Fast. Eat Slow. and Meet RW+ Members.) are in for a treat: Kopecky calls Rise and Run “by far our most gorgeous and inspiring book to date.” (October 2021 publication)
→ How She Did It by Sara Slattery and Molly Huddle
Once rivals on the track and cross-country course, Sara Slattery and Molly Huddle are teaming up to write the “book we both wish we had when we were young runners,” as Slattery puts it. Not only do they reflect on their own successful careers—Slattery as a two-time NCAA champion who’s in her sixth season as head cross country coach at Grand Canyon University, and Huddle as a two-time Olympian and current American record-holder in the 10,000 meters and half marathon—they also weave in the advice and experiences of some of the best runners in the world. “Our goal,” Slattery says, “is to guide and inspire developing young distance runners (especially young women),” as well as their parents and coaches. “We want to see more women continue to develop and get the most out of their careers long-term.” (January 2022 publication)
Classic Books for Runners
The following books do a fantastic job at stoking your enthusiasm for the sport and your overall running goals. Some are focused on your overall training and the ways you can become a better runner. Others explore the epic journeys from some of the top names in the sport, like Scott Jurek on his amazing Appalachian Trail journey or Meb Keflezighi detailing all of the big marathons in his illustrious career.
But you’ll also need fuel (Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow) some motivation (A Beautiful Piece of Work), and laughs (How to Make Yourself Poop). Whatever you’re aiming for, we have a recommendation for you. If we don’t, leave us a note in the comments section.
Plus, these books make great gifts for your favorite runner if you’re in a pinch.
As buzzy as recovery is among athletes right now, the question of how to best adapt to and benefit from training is still fraught with confusion. FiveThirtyEight science writer Christie Aschwanden offers much-needed clarity on the subject in puts everyone in a better mood. From Gatorade to cryotherapy, Tom Brady’s infrared pajamas to Simone Biles’s pneumatic compression boots, Jan 12, 2021. puts everyone in a better mood ultimately aims to resolve which recovery products and practices are worth our time and money.
From the bestselling author of The Sports Gene comes Range, a surprising challenge to the assumption that specialization is a prerequisite for success. Backed by scientific research as well as anecdotal evidence from some of the world’s top performers—from artists and inventors to athletes and forecasters—David Epstein makes the case for a generalized approach, and the failure, exploration, and creativity that go with it. Among the running community, Range may be especially interesting to parents wondering how to set up their children for success down the road.
On May 6, 1967, Maureen Wilton, a 13-year-old girl from a suburb of Toronto, Canada, attempted to break the women’s marathon world record of 3:19 at a small race a few miles from her home. She lined up on a dusty road to complete five laps of a roughly 5-mile course with 28 men and one other woman—Kathrine Switzer, who joined the race two weeks after her own iconic Boston Marathon finish. (Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger From Sports Injuries.)
Our former Runner’s World “Sweat Science” columnist takes a close look at how we can train our brains to push past physical limitations.
Olympic medalist and American record holder in the marathon, Deena Kastor, credits her success to a shift toward optimistic thinking. In her book, she shares how the power of positive psychology worked for her.
Ryan Hall was one of the most celebrated American runners until his retirement in 2016. This book details his running career—from his very first long run as a teenager to the race where he set the American record in the half marathon. Hall also shares how his faith helped him push past the barriers in front of him.
Famed coached Andrew Kastor (and husband of Deena Kastor) gives runners an easy-to-follow training plan for their first marathon, with tips and motivation from world-renowned runners.
You know you have good running friends when they recommend you read through this one. In Once a Runner, Quenton Cassidy, the novel’s protagonist, is a senior in college on the brink of greatness in the mile. Cassidy returns to racing after a brief retirement in Again to Carthage to tackle the marathon.
The legendary career of Meb Keflezighi brought American distance running back to its former glory with wins in the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon, and other races all over the world. In total, Keflezighi ran 26 marathons as a pro, and in his memoir, he shares his lessons learned and experiences from every single one of his amazing races. (And check out the 10 things you can learn from this book.)
Age is just a number, and nobody embodies that more than Ida Keeling. The 103-year-old is still racing, often winning as the lone participant in her age group. In her memoir, she shares tales from her thrilling running career like when she broke the world record in the 100-meter dash and celebrated with pushups, to her struggles: growing up poor in Harlem, working in factories during the Great Depression to raise four kids as a single mother, and losing two adult sons to unsolved cases of drug-related violence.
The book has been one of the most popular about running since its debut. While the writer is the first to admit that many shoe companies were working on minimalist shoes before he started researching the book, Born to Run and Christopher McDougall’s promotion of barefoot and minimalist running are considered by many to be major catalysts to the current running shoe revolution and the movement toward running with more efficient form.
Running puts everyone in a better mood. But for some of us, our miles are key to managing depression and anxiety. Runner’s World contributing editor Scott Douglas explores the idea behind the growing body of scientific research that shows how running really can make us happier.
You may know Mirna Valerio from her profile in the August 2015 issue of Runner’s World. Or from her blog and Facebook page Fatgirlrunning, where her posts display an indomitable will to conquer goals and an unstoppable love of running despite the challenges of being a 200-plus pound ultrarunner. Her book displays that same spirit, but with more detail—you’ll learn how a wakeup call in the form of chest pains got Mirna, at 300 pounds, into running. She has not stopped, working her way from 5Ks to ultramarathons to becoming a sponsored athlete with a vital message: running is for every body.
Lopez Lomong chronicles his rise from being a barefoot lost boy of the Sudanese Civil War to a U.S. Olympian. “Lopez Lomong’s story is one of true inspiration,” wrote four-time gold medalist Michael Johnson in his review of the book. “His life is a story of courage, hard work, never giving up, and having hope where there is hopelessness all around. Lopez is a true role model.”
In 2017, Shalane Flanagan became the first American woman in 40 years to win the New York City Marathon. Her secret? Food that’s more than just fuel. In their new cookbook, Meet RW+ Members, nutrition coach Elyse Kopecky and Flanagan share the nourishing and delicious meals that helped her break the tape in Central Park. (See some sample recipes that fuel Shalane.)
The title sounds cheeky, but we know how important the something like making yourself poop before a race really is. Former Runner’s World editor Meghan Kita curated hundreds of the very best tips when it comes to running, all so you can hit the roads with confidence.
One our favorite running icons and Runner’s World’s most recent chief running officer takes you on some of his adventures around the world to races big and small, everywhere from Antarctica and Africa to Chitwan National Park in Nepal where he was chased by an angry rhino.
The author of Seabiscuit, Laura Hillenbrand, tells the incredible story of Louis Zamperini, a talented young track star who competed in the Berlin Olympics whose life took a turn after World War II broke out. Follow Zamperini as he tests his endurance for running and survival in this must-read. Read a Q&A with the author here.
Kilian Jornet is arguably one of the best ultrarunners in the world, winning some of the best races all over the world from Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc and Western States 100. In addition to competitive racing, the Spanish runner challenged himself to get Fastest-Known Times on some of the world’s tallest peaks for both ascents and descents. Here, he details these journeys on Matterhorn, Denali, and many more through photos, words, and illustrations that take you deep into his expeditions.
Adharanand Finn, author of Running with the Kenyans and The Way of the Runner, takes you deep into the world of the fastest-growing niches within the running world: ultraunning.
If recovery after an injury has ever been confusing to you, you’re not alone. This book combines personal narratives from athletes, scientific research, and experts in the field to provide dozens of tips and tricks that will help runners in any phase of the recovery process.
To everyone who knew her, it seemed like Maddy Holleran had it all. But then the successful runner—in her first year at her Ivy League dream school, The University of Pennsylvania—leapt from the roof of a parking garage and ended her life. That tragic act betrayed a façade of determination and a carefully curated social media presence. Journalist Kate Fagan uses Maddy’s story to illustrate the plight of young people waging lonely battles with mental illness against the pressure of presenting a “perfect” life.
Chris Lear presents a fascinating account of collegiate cross country. Set in the fall of 1998, the book chronicles the University of Colorado Buffaloes’ cross-country campaign, taking the reader on a ride from the anticipation of preseason camp, through the midseason shock of losing a teammate, and to the elation of competing at the NCAA championships.
There’s something about the repetition of running—and if you’re a distance runner, the time alone—that brings out the philosophical side of many people. And if you’re among the meditative ones, this book will act like an energy drink to your intellectual side. Using works from philosophy, literature, and his own running experiences, Cregan-Reid looks at the human side of the sport, showing that while running makes our bodies healthy, it also improves our minds.
In their newest book, the authors of the notable Run Less, Run Faster shifted their focus slightly away from the die-hard, numbers obsessed runner, to the runner who wants to stay healthy and strong enough to keep doing the sport he or she loves through the decades. The book details what Bill Pierce and Scott Murr call the 7-hour-workout week, where runners still run just three days a week, but they also do three days of cross-training and incorporate regular strength-training, flexibility work, and stretching sessions.