All-Time Greatest books
25. Swoosh: The Unauthorized Story of Nike and the Men Who Played There (1991)
Of all the books written about Nike, this is one of the best. Written by sisters Julie Strasser (Nike’s first advertising director) and Laurie Becklund (a reporter for the Los Angeles Times), “Swoosh” tells about alleged steroid use by Nike-sponsored athletes, under-the-table payments to amateur runners, and how Phil Knight, Steve Prefontaine, Geoff Hollister and a few others helped make Nike the most successful athletic shoe and apparel company in the world. (Another good book with less of an investigative slant is “Out of Nowhere: The Inside Story of How Nike Marketed the Culture of Running, ” which Hollister wrote a few years before he passed away in 2012.)
24. Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving—and Not Lose Your Family, Job or Sanity (2010)
Although the generation of empowered mommy joggers probably started in the 1990s, Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea organized, authenticated and rallied the tribe with this landmark book—the first of three they’ve written together—and now it’s a movement. The authors offer insight, inspiration and plenty of training service content that encourages any woman (but especially mothers who are juggling a lot of things in life) to get fit and inspired through running.
23. Running With the Kenyans (2012)
British journalist Adharanand Finn immersed himself (and his family) in elite Kenyan running camps to uncover the secrets of the Rift Valley. He trained side-by-side with Olympic legends and up-and-coming hopefuls, ate their food, followed their customs, interviewed their coaches and came away with a mesmerizing glimpse at the culture of distance running at its purest level.
22. A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York (2009)
The New York City Marathon is the world’s biggest race—and one of the hardest to get into—but whether you’ve run it just once, finished it many times or are still pining for a chance to run through New York’s five boroughs, Liz Robbins’ journalistic approach is worthy of a read. The New York Times reporter covers the race through the eyes of five recreational runners with unique reasons for running the race and makes it come to life for the same reasons it has mushroomed in size since its inception 45 years ago.
21. Why We Run: A Natural History (2002)
Originally released with the title of “Racing the Antelope: What Animals Can Teach Us About Running and Life, ” this book explores the idea that human evolution was made possible by the ultra-distance running capabilities of human beings. Author Bernd Heinrich, a biologist and award-winning nature writer, investigates the physical, spiritual and primal desires and instincts to compete in a blend of anthropology, psychology, philosophy and his own personal passion for running long distances.
20. Eat & Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness (2012)
Ultrarunning champion Scott Jurek is one of the greatest distance runners of his generation. Although many of the highlights of his career occurred before ultrarunning hit the mainstream (including seven straight wins in the Western States 100), he’s one of the sport’s first transcendent stars and one of the reasons for its recent growth. In his autobiography, Jurek tells about his childhood in Minnesota, his growing interest in ultrarunning, family challenges and his emerging running career. Most importantly, it also details how he went from traditional meat-eating dietary habits to becoming a vegan. He outlines his entire nutritional approach and serves up some of his favorite recipes.
19. The Accidental Athlete: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Middle Age (2011)
Known by fans as "The Penguin" for his back-of-the-pack speed, John Bingham is one of the unlikely heroes of the modern running boom. In this warm, witty memoir, the best-selling author and magazine columnist recalls his childhood dreams of athletic glory, sedentary years of unhealthy excess and a life-changing transformation from couch potato to "adult-onset athlete." It’s a must-read for new fitness-oriented runners or lifelong runners who have kept running despite slowing down through the years. What Bingham proves is that if he can become a marathoner and a healthy runner, anyone can.
18. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances (2014)
Matthew Inman, a Seattle-based cartoonist known for “The Oatmeal, ” burst on the running scene over the past few years by writing and illustrating honest, witty, authentic and sometimes brazenly awkward stories about his own running. His debut book is a funny and poignant look at the sport through his own curious pursuits as a marathoner and ultramarathoner. He’s one of the freshest voices in running, because he gets it all and because he isn’t afraid to question it all. Says “Born to Run” author Chris McDougal: "Finally! A voice that sings with the blerches of angels!"
17. Running with the Mind of Meditation: Lessons for Training Body and Mind (2012)
No book has exposed and cultivated the spiritual connections between runner and running better than this book by Sakyong Mipham, a Tibetan lama and leader of Shambhala (an international community of meditation centers). Mipham, an accomplished distance runner who has also been trained in horsemanship and martial arts, explains how physical activity (and specifically running) is essential to spiritual well-being and offers lessons for any runner to create a mind-body connection.
16. The Silence of the Great Distance: Women Running Long (2000)
Frank Murphy combined his experience as a writer, runner, coach, director and sociology professor to write “a stirring account of the development of women's distance running.” Although he chronicles American legends Doris Brown Heritage, Mary Decker Slaney and Suzy Favor Hamilton, the primary narrative of the book is about Stephanie Herbst, a nine-time All-American at the University of Wisconsin in the 1980s who promptly walked away from the sport. Through the examples of Herbst and Kathy Ormsby, Murphy tells of the intensity, dedication, passion and pressure of women’s athletics.