Holiday Book Suggestions for the Runners in Your Life

by Tom O'Grady

The 2022 holiday season is now upon us, and the nagging question arises:  What do I get for the runner in my life?  There are so many choices and at wildly different price levels.  Books are a relatively inexpensive gift that can give hours of reading pleasure to those who receive them. Plus, they can be put in a bookshelf to be read again and again. For example, how many times have you read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall? Here are some suggestions bound to make your running buddy smile.

Shoe Dog - Phil Knight

This book has it all, as Phil Knight tells the story of how Nike came to be a multibillion-dollar company. One of the most synonymous names with Nike is Michael Jordan, but runners know that Steve Prefontaine was one of the first athletes to sport Nikes. You will learn about how Phil Knight’s numerous connections from his time at the University at Oregon helped him build Nike. Finally, this is a true story about endurance. Most people think that success happens overnight. Nike did not go public until the early 1980s when Knight was in his mid-40s and had spent over a decade building the company.

How She Did It: Stories, Advice, and Secrets to Success from Fifty Legendary Distance Runners - Molly Huddle and Sara Slattery

The Boston Marathon 2022 marked 50 years after the first official women participants in the marathon crossed the finish line and 55 years after Kathrine Switzer paved the way for those women in 1967. This has meant that 2022 has been a year of celebration for female runners, so why not pick up a book by two premier female athletes about inspiring stories as told by fifty legendary female runners.

Can’t Nothing Bring Me Down: Chasing Myself in the Race against Time – Ida Keeling

This is another great book about an inspirational female runner. Ida didn’t start running until the age of 67, long after many give up the sport. At 104 years old Ida is still running and serves as a beacon of inspiration for those looking to age in a healthy and active way.

The Rise of Ultra Runners: A Journey to the Edge of Human Endurance – Adharanand Finn

The marathon no longer seems to be enough to quell those driven athletes who are continually seeking to push themselves to the edge. Why are such grueling events so popular? What led to the rise of ultra-running’s popularity? Explore these topics and more in this book for anyone who enjoys a really, really, really long run.

Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero – Christopher McDougall

Did you enjoy Born to Run? Do you enjoy running long distances? Do you enjoy covering those distances out on the trails? Are you an animal lover? If that is the case, then Running with Sherman is a good bet for you. This is a story of how nursing a donkey back to health can create memorable running stories. Another great book by Christopher McDougall is Natural Born Heroes. This book by McDougal tells the tale of athletic prowess and natural movement against the backdrop of World War II.

The Perfect Mile – Neal Bascomb

In 1954 Roger Bannister did the impossible when he ran the mile in 3:59.4 in Oxford. The story behind this magical mile and how breaking the four-minute mile opened the doors of possibility for future middle distance athletes is told in this story. If you love running and are a history buff this book is an instant favorite. If you have a young reader at home, a young reader version was released this year so it is also a great book to read with your children.

Triumph: The Untold Story of Jesse Owens and Hitler’s Olympics – Jeremy Schapp

Life in the 1930s was not easy for Jesse Owens to navigate as a famous African American athlete. Add in the rising tensions in Europe as Hitler rose to power and the fact that the 1936 Olympics would be held in Nazi Germany against a backdrop of white supremacy, and you have an inspiring story. This is another great book for those who love running and are history buffs.  Jesse Owens was a sprinter and was very fast, but distance runners will enjoy this story as well.

Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running Brought Me Back from the Brink – Nita Sweeney

We are all doing well until something pushes us over the edge, and everything unwinds. Some of us may not be doing well at all. Life can be tough, and its constant struggles can wear on even the best of us. Luckily, running and a little companionship from our fellow humans and canines can go a long way in restoring our faith in the universe. Nita Sweeney is not the fastest among us, but she represents many who struggle with life’s everyday challenges that can be often be compounded by mental health issues. Nita Sweeney overcame those struggles to finish her first marathon, and won her faith in life back in the process.

Mighty Moe: The True Story of a Thirteen-Year-Old Women’s Running Revolutionary - Rachel Swaby

Running the Rift - Naomi Benaron

Running While Black - Alison Desir

Rise and Run: Recipes, Rituals and Runs to Fuel Your Day: A Cookbook -Shalane Flanagan and Elyse

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype - Clarissa Pinkola Estes
Born to Run 2: The Ultimate Training Guide – Christopher McDougall and Eric Orton (Coming out on December 6, 2022)

26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career -Meb Keflezighi, Scott Douglas

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - Haruki Murakami

A Beautiful Work in Progress - Mirna Valerio

Running is My Therapy – Scott Douglas

Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory - Deena Kastor

And many many more… Plus there are also Runner’s World Calendars!


Reviewer Tom O’Grady is a successful runner, coach, writer and college professor with a joint appointment  at NYSDOH/UAlbany School of Public Health. Click on his picture to read all that he has written for the Pace Setter-and it is a lot!

Thank you Tom!

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