The Runner’s Library – 17 Running and Training Book Gift Ideas

As other running nerds can attest, the feeling of opening a new running book is only surpassed by running a PR or lacing up a new pair of racing flats.

For me, the best stocking stuffer is a running book I don’t own. It’s one of the few books that I will always refer to when I have a question or want to read a particularly inspiring chapter.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of every running book out there.  But it is a pretty damn good list if I do say so. I don’t usually buy every running book out there, only the good ones.

Technical Running Books

Explosive Running by Michael Yessis. This book was my first introduction to dynamic warm-ups, body weight exercises, and barefoot running. Chock full of photos of each exercise, this book is a how-to of improving your running form and using science to get faster. Buy this book if you are a more serious runner and want detailed examples of strength exercises, drills, and running form photos.

Daniels’ Running Formula by Jack Daniels. This book is for the running nerds out there. If you’re interested in determining your VO2 Max or lactate threshold and want to design a training program based on science – buy this book. It’s been one of the best training resources I’ve had for the last 7 years. If you are a beginner, I’d first read Run Faster by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald.

Brain Training For Runners: A Revolutionary New Training System to Improve Endurance, Speed, Health, and Resultsby Matt Fitzgerald. I haven’t read this book yet; it’s a very thick book so I’m sure it will be plenty dense. It looks at running from a mental perspective and offers strategies to get faster based on new research into the brain. I’ll talk about it more in depth once I finish it, but check it out.

The Runner’s Body: How the Latest Exercise Science Can Help You Run Stronger, Longer, and Faster (Runners World)by Ross Tucker and Jonathan Dugas. This book is sure to provide the science, biology, and anatomy behind running performance. Another book that’s on my nightstand, I can’t wait to read it. I normally stay away from general Runner’s World books but this looks to be an exception.

Training Guides & Complete How-To’s

Run Faster by Brad Hudson & Matt Fitzgerald. My favorite training book of all-time, Run Faster outlines Brad Hudson’s complete training system that he used with Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein. There are plans for the 5k-Marathon and a great opportunity to see into the mind of an elite coach. Perfect for everyone – a great book to understand why certain training works.

Runner’s World Complete Book of Running – Edited by Amby Burfoot. This book was published in 1997 so it offers a more old school look at training. There are 37 chapters that dive into injury prevention, circuit workouts, marathon training, and nutrition. I recommend this for a new runner who also has the ability to spot old ideas. In other words, take certain chapters with a grain of salt. Also, if you are a nerd and like collecting running books, this one is a classic.

Competitive Triathlon in 10 Hours a Week by Patrick McCrann. This is the only digital book on this list and I included it because it’s a valuable resource to help runners get more from their running. This training guide will help you plan your perfect season, increase your endurance, and build full body athleticism to reduce your chance of injuries.

[Also Daniels’ Running Formula]

Inspiration and Tales of Incredible Performances

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. If you’re a runner and you haven’t read this book, you are living under a rock. This book combines an inspiring story with cutting-edge science and a how-to manual of injury-proofing your body and running further than you ever have.

The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb. If you enjoy the history of track & field, this book is a great account of the events leading up to the first sub-four minute mile. It chronicles the running careers of Roger Bannister, Wes Santee, and John Landy as they attempted what was previously considered impossible: a 3:59 mile.

The Four-Minute Mile by Sir Roger Bannister. Similar to The Perfect Mile, this book is about the first sub-4 mile attempt. Since it’s written by Bannister, you learn a great deal about his life and training. This book is a classic and is sure to inspire you to attempt “impossible” goals.

Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner by Dean Karnazes. One of the latest books I read, it chronicles Karnazes’ most epic ultarendurance races from his marathon to the South Pole, his first Badwater 135-mile Ultramarathon, and his first attempt at running 200 miles. It’s very motivating and can be funny at times. If you’re a serious runner, you may roll your eyes at how Karnazes portrays the sport, but if you can get over that it’s an interesting read.

The Running Life by Donald Buraglio and Michael Dove. Donald Buraglio is the writer at Running & Rambling and this book is on my “to-read” list. It’s a collection of articles that range from instructional articles on training, public health issues, human interest stories, light-hearted observations (humor!), and occasional nonsense (more humor!). There are plenty of training books out there, but this book provides the human element that seems to be missing from many others.

Why We Run: A Natural History by Bernd Heinrich. This book is fascinating and so hard to describe. The author describes how he started to run as a child (part biography) with his perspectives on human evolution, ultraendurance, and man’s primal drive to win. I’ve reread this book three times and highly recommend it for everyone.

Running History & Elites

Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon’s Legendary Coach and Nike’s Cofounder by Kenny Moore. This is another book for the running history enthusiast. Bill Bowerman was the legendary University of Oregon head track coach, cofounder of Nike, and inventor of the modern running shoe. Learn how Nike was started and about the career of American icon Steve Prefontaine.

Run with the Champions: Training Programs and Secrets of America’s 50 Greatest Runners by Marc Bloom. From Steve Prefontaine who captured a nation to Gerry Lindgren who ran more than 200 miles a week, the training secrets of America’s top runners are profiled here. Read about Alberto Salazar’s 40 mile long runs and Jim Ryun’s 40×440 yard workout. This book is a must-have for anybody interested in the training of elite athletes (and for motivation).

Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men’s Cross-Country Team by Chris Lear. If you know somebody on a college cross country team, this book is for you (or them). Running with the Buffaloes showed me what hard training looks like and the value of being on a team. It’s so well written that it reads like a fiction novel.

The Last Pick: The Boston Marathon Race Director’s Road to Success by David J. McGillivray. This book was a recent gift and not one that I’ve read yet. I think it will be an interesting read for people with an interest in how marathons work. The book has a clear message of hope, commitment, and ambitious drive – it should be quite inspirational.

These running books are only the ones that I own myself. Which ones do you have that should be on the list? Let me know in the comments and I may do another giveaway!

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  1. I just bought Run Faster and Meb Keflezighi’s book Run To Overcome but haven’t read either yet. Excited to dig into them though. I have some of the same ones as you and really enjoyed Born to Run and Why We Run. I also have…

    For Training Guides:

    Matt Fitzgerald’s Run: The Mind-Body Method of Running by Feel
    I am trying to apply principles from this book right now. I think you would like it since he talks about not being a slave to a plan or a pace.

    And for Inspiration:
    Bart Yasso’s My Life on the Run
    Some funny and adventurous running stories (love the running with a donkey one and the Bare Buns one).

    Neal Jamison & Don Allison’s Running Thru the Wall: Personal Encounters with the Ultramarathon
    Great stories from ultrarunners about their experiences in ultras. Great to read about every day people doing incredible things.

    Dean Karnazes’ 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days.
    I enjoyed this one too. Fascinating to see what the human body is capable of. He really loves running and tries to inspire that in the reader.

  2. Great list Fitz, thanks for the suggestions. I have actually never read a book about running, but am working on Daniels Running Formula now (and have Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning teed up next on the Kindle). I like Daniels thus far, as it is technical enough to have credibility yet understandable enough that one can picture using the information to better understand or design a suitable training program hitting all aspects necessary for a successful race performance. I’m looking forward to reviewing both of them on Predawn Runner in the next few weeks (hoping to finish at least Daniels on my trip to Portland early next week).

    • Definitely check out Hudson’s “Run Faster” too; it’s not as scientific but it’s one of the best “whole training” philosophies I’ve ever read. If you read it, you’ll probably see a lot of his principles at work in my own training. – hill sprints, surges, progressions at the end of long runs, lots of variability, high (for me) volume, etc.

  3. No Noakes? It’s dense and technical, and I’ve been trying to push my way through it for some time now, but the chapters I have read have been full of useful information, all thoroughly referenced to supporting research.

    • Fran – I only included books that I own, but I’m sure you’re referencing Noakes’ “Lore of Running.” Of course that book is a classic. I’ll get to reading it some day!

  4. Wow, that is quite an extensive book list! I’ve had Born to Run siting on my shelf for months now. I need to start it. Haven’t made it past chapter two yet.

  5. I’ve recently read a book written by John L. Parker Jr. Once A Runner. Pretty nice. More of a novel than a technical book. There’s also a sequel titled Again To Carthage, which is in my library, wainting its turn…

    I second Fitz about Born to Run. Quite hard to put down. I’ve read it twice, actually… 😉

  6. My book, “Chasing the Runner’s High” is only $12.99 for the trade paperback or $2.99 for the ebook! I hope you can give it a try.

    “Chasing the Runner’s High: My Sixty Million-Step Program” is the story of how I pushed my addiction to running up to, and then past, my limits. I share what I’ve learned, what I should have learned, and what I still have to learn from running.

    Marshall Ulrich, 4 time winner of the Badwater Ultramarathon (and clearly a really nice guy) says my book “provides a hard look into the mind of a runner, offering advice that can only be had with experience and hard fought miles underfoot.” Adena Schulzberg, winner of the 2006 Arkansas Marathon, writes, “these are brutally honest tales, told with candor and frankness about strength, courage, obsession, desire and hard won understanding of self and sport.”

    It’s on Amazon, so if you like it, you can post a note here and get your affiliate credit 🙂


  7. I don’t see Dr. George Sheehan anywhere on that list. Yes, his stuff is old, but it’s philosophical, meditative, inspiring, and spiritual. I have got so much out of his work. “Running and Being” is one of my favourites.

  8. I have to say the Brain Training for Runners is a very good read. Really gets into how the body and brain work together. The science behind it is informative but not too technical. You will notice how it goes hand in hand along with the Strength Running message, Jason provides all of us. I highly recommend it for everyone who strives to run more efficient, with less effort. Also a great section on how to embrace the suffering to run faster.

  9. Nice to see Donald’s “The Running Life” on your list. It’s a great book – fun to read! I’ve been meaning to buy Ross and Jonathan’s book because I love their blog so much but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I usually have trouble making it all the way through technical books. You make “Explosive Running” sound interesting though. I’m a big fan of dynamic warm-ups. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to read both of those.

    Oh, and “Once a Runner” is my favorite of all time, but I also love “The Four Minute Mile.”

    • What I love about Explosive Running is that there is a LOT of pictures from slow motion cameras on barefoot running. Really neat stuff. Plus images of how to do a lot of exercises.

  10. Well, pretty nice list.
    Personally I really like Daniels book as far as training manual, also big thumb up for Pfitz Avanced Marathoning. Also got Hudson’s book but still have to go through it.
    For what concerns other running genres, I really loved Why we run, Born to run (of course) and the less famous yet very enjoyable “A little run around the world”. Also found interesting Paula Radcliffe book, but enjoyed other as Halls Running with joy, a biography about olympian Bilkila.
    As far as strength running is considered I suggest to give a look at Beck’s Run Strong.
    Currently going through Ulrich’s book Running on empty, seems good so far – and ave me insight into a next read called “The bunion derby”.
    Next I’ll give a shot at Meb’s biography (“so far” I would say, as Paula used to do) and Bart Yasso’s too if I’ll find them in Amazon italy or uk.


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