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Running Book Picks for National Reading Month

March means its National Reading Month! I’m an avid reader and over the years I’ve sought out as many running books as I could find, so I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorites in the runner memoir/history genre. Books on training and physiology would be a separate category, and I have yet to find many running books in the fiction section (any recommendations?). So, in no particular order, here are six of my favorites. 

A pile of six running books
My top picks for running memoir/history books

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (2007). In the forward to this meditative little book, Murakami says that the book contains “personal lessons I’ve learned through putting my own body in motion” and it follows his running loosely from summer of 2005 to fall of 2006 as he trains for the New York City Marathon. It’s an interesting way to see his reflections as he goes through different seasons of fitness and different acts of balancing running and the rest of life. When you spend a lot of time thinking about your own running and what it means to you, it’s nice to see another human doing the same thing, and how you are different or the same. Each chapter is loosely connected but can generally also be read as a standalone vignette - one chapter entitled “Athens in Midsummer - Running 26.2 Miles for the First Time” is followed by “Most of What I Know About Writing I Learned by Running Every Day” - so it’s easier to read over an extended period of time than a novel, where you can easily forget the ins and outs of a plot. His prose is simple and straightforward, which for me creates a really calming and reflective read. 

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb (2004). This book follows three runners - John Landy, Wes Santee, and Roger Bannister - during the 1950’s as they each try to be the first man to break four minutes in the mile. Bascomb creates a good amount of suspense as each racer gets closer and closer to the barrier, following very different training and lifestyles. This is one of those books I reach for when I want a good, almost cozy read. 

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor (2018). There’s a reason that Emily Sisson thought of this book when she was hurting during the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials. While a memoir and not specifically advice focused, Deena’s book contains a lot of gems. I’ve used a lot of the cues she discusses in the book myself - thinking of wind or other adverse conditions as things that help you get stronger, focusing on the parts of your body that feel good rather than those that hurt, etc. I also admire her incredibly strong self-belief and the sense you get of her kind and open view of the world - something I’m always working on emulating. 

Choosing to Run: A Memoir by Des Linden (2023). OK, so I just want to be Des Linden when I grow up. Reading this book and listening to her podcast, you get the sense of someone who knows exactly who she is. She knows her strengths and how to maximize them, and her weaknesses and how to work around them. Her book intertwines the story of her winning Boston Marathon race (including a lot of backstory that she hadn’t previously shared) with her more general running story. I enjoy her reflections around both and her references to other writers that bring her inspiration, particularly Joan Didion’s 1975 commencement address at UC Riverside. 

Good for a Girl: A Woman Running in a Man’s World by Lauren Fleshman (2023). 2023 was apparently the year of the running memoir, between Des, Lauren, and Kara Goucher (notable mention to her book). Lauren is such a great writer and she eloquently describes how training designed for men can’t just be directly applied to women, particularly as women go through puberty. I recommend pairing this with Christine Yu’s Up to Speed if you want a solid look at how science and training have let women down, and how they can do better. It’s also interesting to read about Lauren’s side hustle making Picky Bars and the business aspect of the sport. 

Long Run to Glory: The Story of the Greatest Marathon in Olympic History and the Women Who Made It Happen by Stephen Lane (2023). Great reading for an Olympic year! It’s a lot harder to get an event added to the Olympics than you may guess, and getting through that process while dealing with 1980's cultural norms around women and long distance running was a real triumph for those involved. I loved reading more about Joan Benoit Samuelson’s running and think this is a must read for marathon fans. 


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