Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

The 7 Best Running Books to Read For Every Kind of Runner

What’s the difference between someone in great shape who can sprint around the track at top speed, log miles and miles out on the road, or tear up and down trails in the backcountry, and someone who, well, can’t? What sets apart someone who has the motivation to run almost every day of the week from someone who heads for the couch instead? It’s not the body, not that at all — it’s the mind.

Running, whether on trails, tracks, or city streets is a sport open to all regardless of age, fitness level, or experience, because unlike with most other sporting activities, it’s mainly a solo experience. Whether you’re a beginner starting to run or you’re training for another half marathon knowing everything about running is essential. Stick with it, and the fitness, distance, and speed will follow. But how do you achieve that commitment to running, especially if you’ve long (or always) avoided it?

There are two ways to go about it: First, start slow. Take days, weeks, whatever you need to ease in, and walk, then jog, then run. Then repeat. Second, read a book. Or two or three. The runner and or writers featured below will help inspire the current non-runner to finally put on their best pair of running shoes and will be aspirational figures for current runners to push harder, faster, longer, and to take their running game to the next level.

Related Guides

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

You know why humans achieved such success as a species back 200,000 or so years ago, right? Largely, it was because of running. We weren’t faster than our prey that could veritably fly across the African savanna, but we could go for miles on end, eventually tiring out the ancient gazelles, impalas, or whatever else was on the menu. Some groups of humans never stopped running, like the Tarahumara tribe at the core of this bestselling book. McDougall studied (and ran with) the tribe, native to the Copper Canyons of Mexico, to see what made them such good runners and to figure out why they are so seldom injured while Western runners, like the author himself, so often get hurt out there. The book will inspire you to run, travel, and respect these seldom-seen natives. It’s great as a narrative read and as a motivator.

  • Paperback pages: 304

Training for the Uphill Athlete by Steve House, Scott Johnson, Killian Jornet

Training for the Uphill Athlete by Steve House, Scott Johnson, Killian Jornet

If you are just getting into running, don’t make this your first read. If you are already a somewhat accomplished runner comfortable on trails and mixed terrain and you want to take it up a notch or ten, then the men who wrote this book will become your new idols, especially Killian Jornet, widely regarded as the best trail runner (and sky runner and ski mountaineer) of all time. Along with countless races won, Jornet holds the fastest ascent and descent times for mountains including Denali, the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, and Mount Everest, which he summited twice in one week and during which he set a record for reaching the top in 26 hours — most climbers take four days. The book blends essays and reflections with actionable instructions and illustrations. This is the manual for the man who is ready for serious running.

  • Paperback pages: 368

Reborn On the Run by Catra Corbett (with Dan England)

Reborn On the Run by Catra Corbett

If you think starting to run is just too big of a challenge, put yourself in Catra Corbett’s shoes. Before she ever ran her first 10k, she was addicted to meth, arrested, and jailed. Fortunately, she managed to shake the drugs and train with a friend for that first 10-kilometer race. 10 kilometers is 6.21 miles. Not exactly an epic run. Now flash forward a few years, and Corbett is nailing hundred-mile-plus ultras and breaking records all over the place, including the fastest known double time for the John Muir Trail which saw her slog 425 miles up and down the route, (which crosses the 14,505-foot summit of Mount Whitney, FYI) in 12 days, five hours. That is insane. This isn’t a manual on technique or diet or anything like that; rather it’s a clarion call to anyone who needs to make a change in their life.

  • Hardcover pages: 240

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

Eat & Run by Scott Jurek

Scott Jurek is a rock star in the running world and has been featured in countless articles, interviews, and books, including, in fact, Born to Run. This book is part memoir and reflection on his own challenges, growth, and many successes, but it’s also highly informative and packed with actionable information, right down to recipes he recommends for optimal performance. Jurek grew up as a “meat and potatoes” guy but transitioned to veganism and is a passionate believer in the plant-based diet. Whether or not you eschew meat, there is much to learn from Jurek and plenty here to inspire you to get out there and run. For hundreds of miles.

  • Paperback pages: 288

26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi (with Scott Douglas)

26 Marathons by Meb Keflezighi

When Meb Keflezighi ran his first marathon, he quickly convinced himself it would be his last. And for many people, the first is the last — they check the box and never do the distance again. As the title of this book makes clear, Meb wasn’t going to stay in that column. Instead, he ran 26 marathons as a professional, and in the course of so doing, he became the only runner to win the Boston Marathon, New York Marathon, and an Olympic Marathon. What makes 26 Marathons so compelling is that despite all his success as a runner, Meb makes it clear how amazingly hard it was for him to achieve that success. He suffered, he ached, he doubted, and he considered quitting many times. But he didn’t. And that’s how you do it, gents.

  • Paperback pages: 256

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

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

You know Haruki Murakami as one of the greatest living writers, winner of countless awards, and with books in print in more than four dozen languages, to be sure. But did you know he is also an accomplished marathoner, triathlete, and ultramarathon runner? And according to this not surprisingly well-written memoir, without the running, his writing may never have hit the peaks it did. This book gives an intimate look into a brilliant mind that does some of its best thinking when the feet below it are logging mile after mile. Might be a way to shake your own writer’s block, eh?

  • Paperback pages: 192

Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas

Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas

If you are already comfortable with distance running but now you want to take your speed and endurance up to competition level, then this is your guidebook. Now in its third edition, Advanced Marathoning gives you a literal day-by-day training pal for getting into peak shape to perform on race day. It covers both 12- and 18-week training cycles includes tips catered for older runners, discusses nutrition, and more. You don’t read this book for fun, you read it because you want to run farther and faster than you ever have before.

  • Paperback pages: 296

Editors' Recommendations

Steven John
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven John is a writer and journalist living just outside New York City, by way of 12 years in Los Angeles, by way of…
The 10 best movie drinking games to play on Netflix
You'll love playing these movie drinking games

Watching something can be a great way to stave off the boredom that everyone faces from time to time. Whether it's a great show or movie available on Netflix, streaming services have ensured that we'll always have something to watch. Just having something to watch often isn't enough, though. In fact, what some people need is a game that goes alongside the latest thing on Netflix, which is why we've developed this list of drinking games that are perfect for Netflix subscribers.

You don't need to follow along with these games to get to a good drinking game with anything you're watching. What you might find, though, is that these drinking games have been carefully calibrated to ensure that you have as much fun as possible. Once you see a game that looks like fun, just grab a case of cheap beer or whatever your preferred drink might be and get started. You can also check out our guides for board games and card-drinking games if you're looking for a drinking game that doesn't involve a screen at all.
Monty Python and The Holy Grail
Monty Python and the Holy Grail Official Trailer - John Cleese Movie (1974)

Read more
The best Nicolas Cage movies (some of these are seriously underrated)
From The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent to Pig, these are the best Nicolas Cage movies to stream now
nicolas cage leaving las vegas

Since becoming a major movie star in the 1980s, Nicolas Cage's career has continued to shift and evolve. For a time, he was widely regarded as one of the most exciting and talented young actors in Hollywood. Then, his career fell off a cliff, and it suddenly felt like you couldn't turn a corner without someone making fun of him for his latest terrible performance in a direct-to-video release. While it's true that the actor has wracked up more than 100 acting credits over the course of his career, lately he's managed to choose some more interesting roles that have the public reevaluating him yet again. 
Being the nephew of the great Francis Ford Coppola, Cage had aspirations for greatness, hoping to create his own legacy after having changed his last name to Cage. Cage eventually broke into acting with Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and his career only blossomed further from there. He's one of the most divisive performers of our modern age, and that's what makes him such a legend. 
Related Guides

Best Keanu Reeves Movies
Best Movie Drinking Games

Read more
The 6 best ski movies and documentaries of all time
Enjoy winter sports indoors: The best ski movies
ski downhill mountain

While many justifiably associate skiing with the winter, dedicated skiers know that you can do it all year round if you have the means to travel. When you don't have those means, though, there are plenty of great ways to enjoy a ski adventure from the comfort of your couch. Whatever kind of skiing you most enjoy doing or watching, there is a ski film out there that’ll tickle your fancy. Over the years, there have been a few that mixed comedy with the occasional top-to-bottom race. Others take a much more serious look at the sport. Whatever you're looking for, burn some skis, praise Ullr, and give Chione a kiss, and then settle in to watch one of these great ski movies.

Aspen Extreme (1993)

Read more