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Reading for pleasure is a special kind of training for your brain. Brain scans show that reading physically strengthens connections in the brain. It also makes it easier to empathize, builds your vocabulary, and keeps age-related cognitive decline at bay for longer.
For college students, studies found that recreational reading reduces psychological distress. Another study found that 30 minutes of reading can lower blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress as effectively as yoga.
It also makes for a great post-run recovery activity. Just kick those weary legs up and let your mind wander away.
Here are 40 favorite books runners are reading right now.
15 Memoirs for Inspiration
When we asked runners on Instagram and Facebook what they were reading at the moment, the overwhelming responses came in the form of memoirs. It makes sense. There is so much to learn from reading other people’s experiences. And while there are obvious things runners can take away from the life stories of other runners, there is still plenty to be gained from reading about other admirable people like poets, musicians, and leaders.
- Out and Back: A Runner’s Story of Survival Against All Odds by Hillary Allen—
our latest book club pick!
- Bravey: Chasing Dream, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas by Alexi Pappas
- A Promised Land by Barack Obama
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Older, Faster, Stronger: What Women Runners Can Teach Us All About Living Younger, Longer by Margaret Webb
- Running Home: A Memoir by Katie Arnold
- 26 Marathons: What I Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life from My Marathon Career by Meb Keflezighi
- Runner: A short Story About a Long Run by Lizzy Hawker
- The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice—Crossing Antarctica Alone by Colin O’Brady
- A Beautiful Work in Progress by Mirna Valerio
- Running Man: A Memoir by Charlie Engle
- Let Love Rule by Lenny Kravitz
- Life’s Too Short To Go So F*cking Slow by Susan Lacke
- Spirit Run: A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land by Noe Alvarez
8 Works of Fiction to Get Lost In
After a really draining effort you might want to simply go down the rabbit hole into a completely made up world. Like binging a good TV show, it’s easy to fly through a well-written novel. Here are some favorite books from authors with keen imaginations.
- The Girl With the Louding Voice by Abi Dare
- Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
- The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
- The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
- The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
- Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team by Elise Hooper
Boost Your Performance With These 5 Reads
It’s no surprise that our readers are also reading about training and other aspects of performance. Keep your body and mind functioning in tip top shape with these performance-minded books. Learn from experts how to keep your training healthy so you can keep running for years to come.
- Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance by Alex Hutchinson
- The Happy Runner: Love the Process, Get Faster, Run Longer by David Roche and Megan Roche
- The Mind-Gut Connection: How the Hidden Conversation Within Our Bodies Impacts Our Mood, Our Choices, and Our Overall Health by Emeran Mayer
- 80/20 Running: Run Stronger and Race Faster By Training Slower by Matt Fitzgerald
- Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor
5 Favorite Books That Will Teach You Something New in Nonfiction
The writers of these books dedicated time to learning about unique moments in history (whether that be recent or far in the past) to understand phenomena that people are experiencing today, specifically when it comes to women’s issues. There was a distinct theme in recommended nonfiction books that had to do with empowering women in one aspect or another.
- Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
- Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
- Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are Storytellers, the Human Story Changes by Elizabeth Lesser
- The Rise of the Ultra Runners by Adharanand Finn
- Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain by Abby Norman
5 Favorite Books That Focus on Psychology and Mental Health
Psychology books are also among the favorite books of runners. You may be a master at recovering physically, but when was the last time you focused on letting your mind recover from all the hard work of being a person. This collection of books can help you understand self-care in a deeper way, setting boundaries, re-connecting with people who deserve your energy, building mental resilience, and more.
- The Lonely Century: How to Restore Human Connection in a World That’s Pulling Apart by Noreena Hertz
- Adventures in Opting Out: A Field Guide to Leading and Intentional Life by Cait Flanders
- Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- Buy Yourself the F*cking Lilies: And Other Rituals to Fix Your Life by Tara Schuster
- Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker
2 Creative Collections
If you want something a little breezier, our readers recommended these two collections of poetry and short essays.
Interested in talking all things books and running? Join the Women’s Running book club for access to our private Facebook group, author discussions, and book giveaways.