Great Books for Holiday Giving

by Karen Bertasso Hughes, Bill Hoffman, Tom O’Grady and Michelle Merlis

A book makes a marvelous gift for the holidays as it can be uplifting, helpful, read many times, and if nothing else decorate a coffee table or bookcase. Four prominent runners who are avid readers were asked to highlight books that changed their lives or made it better.


Karen Bertasso Hughes

1- Dandelion Growing Wild. About elite marathoner, Kim Jones, and her hardships and growth into becoming one of the top marathoners. Truly inspirational.

2- 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career- Meb. I’ve read all his books, but this one was my favorite. I felt it really highlighted how incredible he is (was), his accomplishments, motivation and rejection.

3- Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom. A time I wasn’t around for and therefore I love reading about this era when “high tech” was Coca Cola fuel stops and a stopwatch.

4- Let Your Mind Run- Deena Kastor. Who doesn’t love her? She talks about the importance of a positive mindset.

5- Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery. Easy and interesting read about all the latest hypes to improve performance/enhance recovery. Ultimately, the findings are not shocking, but the author is entertaining.

Runners up/other books to consider

Jack Rightmyer’s “It’s Not About Winning”- local author, parent, runner and coach

Classics: Duel in the Sun, Running with the Buffaloes

Others with local ties

Running to the Edge (author is a Union College alumni).

Amazing Runners- Marc Bloom does a great job of telling the story of the Fayetteville-Manlius High School XC team, consistently one of the best overall teams in the nation. Not sure how much is exaggerated or how much I agree about some their methods, but a great, motivational read.


Bill Hoffman

Born to Run

Well, what can I say, this is the book that started me running. I have not stopped since I finished the book. Great inspiration and a fun story.

Running with Sherman

This is Chris McDougall’s latest book. He has adopted a neglected donkey and takes it to Leadville to run a donkey race in the mountains! The guy is an amazing storyteller, and this book will make you want to run with a donkey.

Running to the Edge

This is an interesting book on distance running in the USA. It focuses on Bob Larson, the Toads and Meb and really tells a great story.

Eat and Run

This is Scott Jurek’s book on Ultra running on a vegan diet complete with recipes.

 North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail

This is Scott Jurek’s book about his FTK run on the AT. You have to read it because I made it into the book. I am not mentioned by name, but if you know me you will be able to find where he talks about me.


Tom O’Grady

Once a Runner - John L. Parker : A running classic. If you can get your hands on a copy it gives an examples of the trials and tribulations of distance runner. It's the book that the famous quote "Trials of miles; Miles of trials" comes from.

Again to Carthage - John L. Parker: A follow up to Once a runner that follows a distance runner taking one last crack at qualifying for the Olympics.

A Perfect Mile - Neal Bascomb: A book that follows three runners pursuit to be the first person to run under 4 minutes in the mile.

Running With the Buffaloes - Chris Lear: This book follows the 1998 U of Colorado D1 Men's Cross Country team in their lead up to NCAA Cross Country Championships.

Ultramarathon Man - Dean Karnazes: This book follows Karnazes on his path from an early 30 year old working long hours and raising a family to a running entrepreneur who tackles ultramarathons for fun.

Born to Run - Chris McDougall: The book that started the barefoot running revolution. McDougall discusses what makes us run and why barefoot runners such as the Tarahumara are some of the world's greatest endurance athletes.

Natural Born Runners - Chris McDougall: The follow-up to Born to Run that chronicals McDougall in the mountains of Crete.

My Life on the Run - Bart Yasso: This book offers stories that provide a humurous look at how running has intertwined with life for Yasso.

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon - Kenny Moore: Learn about the U of Oregon program, the coach behind the success of the program, and the impact that one person can have on a number of young lives.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami: A discussion on how Murakami began running, what it means to him, how his interest and participation in running evolved.

Running the Rift - Naomi Benaron: Follow Partrick Nkuba from his pursuit of becoming Rwanda's first Olympic medal contender to the dangers he faces within his own country.

How Bad Do You Want It? - Matt Fitzgerald: Fitzgerald looks at specific races and discusses what makes elite athletes mentally strong. From there learn how to increase your own mental toughness and make breakthroughs in your racing.

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance - Alex Hutchinson: What gives us the capacity to endure and what allows us to perform at very high levels? How much are you capable of and can you learn to push farther and harder than you thought? This book discusses the mental and physiological aspect of running.

Amazing Racers - Marc Bloom: Learn how a national high school running powerhouse came to be and the man behind the methods of Fayetteville Manlius.

The Sports Gene - David Epstein: A look at the difference particular genetic variables can make in our capacity to perform at different sports and how our genes interact with out environment (epigenetics) to create our own unique phenotypic response to the world (how you actually perform given your genes and environment). Not technically just a running book but very interesting.


Michelle Merlis

Great books about Running

Let Your Mind Run by Deena Kastor

A look inside how one of the greatest American runners thinks. This may have been my favorite book I've read all year. Not only did I get to learn more about Deena and her journey, but I took away so much from the book that I could apply to my own life and running. It was motivational and provided some ready to use mental techniques. 

What Made Maddy Run by Kate Fagan

This book is about Madison Holleran, a successful runner who tragically committed suicide while she was at the University of Pennsylvania. While we will never actually know what led Maddy to do what she did, I think this book is essential for all athletes, parents, and coaches. It provides a look into the major life transition that young adults go through when they leave home and go away to college. In addition to the story Kate Fagan tells about Maddy, she also incorporates some of her own story for a unique style of writing that I found compelling. 

The Happy Runner by David Roche and Megan Roche

One part running philosophy, one part training advice, and one part the voice of the happiest dog on the planet (Addie). If you are finding yourself wondering why you run, the first part of this book will help you rediscover why and find the happy in running again. The second part will provide some practical training advice, which can be summed up by one of my favorite David quotes: "run lots, not too much, mostly easy," which is a play on Michael Pollen's "eat food, not too much, mostly plants".

Training for the Uphill Athlete by Kílian Jornet Burgada, Scott Johnston, and Steve House

An absolute must for anyone interested in the science behind endurance athletics and guidance on being a successful trail, mountain, and ultra athlete. This book has so much information... and it's BIG. It's my number one reference book right now -- I pull it out several times a week, and have re-read many sections. 

Running Rewired by Jay Dicharry

This book helped me understand the importance of mobility and strength and identify some key weaknesses in my body. Jay guides you through learning about potential weaknesses and provides exercises to help make you a better, stronger, less-likely-to-be-injured runner. 

Roar by Dr. Stacy Sims

If you are a female endurance athlete, this book is a must. Dr. Stacy Sims is definitely the leading voice and advocate for scientific research based on and for female athletes right now. Her book has been around for a few years, but has gained popularity this past year. This is another book I reference quite frequently. Since reading it, I have implemented several of her suggestions and it has definitely helped improve my running performance.


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