The Best Running Books for Adventure Lovers

Trail & Kale The best running & adventure books

Our ever-growing list of what we consider to be the BEST running books for adventure lovers… EVER.

We’ve been compiling this list based on books we have read and also books that our trusted community of running and adventure lovers rate very highly.

Finding Gobi – Dion Leonard

Read our Book Review / Read our Author Interview

Finding Gobi - Trail & Kale Best Running & Adventure Books List

Finding Gobi is the miraculous tale of Dion Leonard, a seasoned ultramarathon runner who crosses paths with a stray dog while competing in a 155-mile race through the Gobi Desert in China. The lovable pup, who would later earn the name Gobi, proved that what she lacked in size, she more than made up for in heart, as she went step for step with Dion over the Tian Shan Mountains, across massive sand dunes, through yurt villages and the black sands of the Gobi Desert, keeping pace with him for 77 miles.

Ultra Marathon Man – Dean Karnazes

Ultrarunning legend Dean Karnazes has run 262 miles-the equivalent of ten marathons-without rest. He has run over mountains, across Death Valley, and to the South Pole-and is probably the first person to eat an entire pizza while running. With an insight, candor, and humor rarely seen in sports memoirs (and written without the aid of a ghostwriter or cowriter), Ultramarathon Man has inspired thousands of people-nonrunners and runners alike-to push themselves beyond their comfort zones and be reminded of “what it feels like to be truly alive,” says Sam Fussell, author of Muscle.

The Road to Sparta – Dean Karnazes

The Road to Sparta is the story of the 153-mile run from Athens to Sparta that inspired the marathon and saved democracy, as told―and experienced―by ultramarathoner and New York Times bestselling author Dean Karnazes.

 

 

Grand Trail – Frederic Berg & Alexis Berg

Grand Trail offers an enchanting encounter with the people, places, and emotions that make ultrarunning so special, including:

Intimate interviews: Kilian Jornet, Emelie Forsberg, Anna Frost, Anton Krupicka, Stephanie Howe, Scott Jurek, and eight ultramarathoners from around the world.

13 iconic courses: Western States, Hardrock, Marathon de Sables, Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc, Transgrancanaria and races in Asia, Australia, and Europe.


Stirring photography: Breathtaking landscapes of the world’s most beautiful trails, moving portraits of ultrarunners, and remarkable scenes from races.

Vignettes on trail running: Culture, history, training, night running, nutrition, and how the body bends to the miles

Eat & Run – Scott Jurek

In Eat and Run, Jurek opens up about his life and career as a champion athlete with a plant-based diet and inspires runners at every level. From his Midwestern childhood hunting, fishing, and cooking for his meat-and-potatoes family to his slow transition to ultrarunning and veganism, Scott’s story shows the power of an iron will and blows apart the stereotypes of what athletes should eat to fuel optimal performance. Full of stories of competition as well as science and practical advice—including his own recipes—Eat and Run will motivate readers and expand their food horizons.

Born to Run – Christopher McDougall

Isolated by Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons, the blissful Tarahumara Indians have honed the ability to run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. In a riveting narrative, award-winning journalist and often-injured runner Christopher McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. In the process, he takes his readers from science labs at Harvard to the sun-baked valleys and freezing peaks across North America, where ever-growing numbers of ultra-runners are pushing their bodies to the limit, and, finally, to a climactic race in the Copper Canyons that pits America’s best ultra-runners against the tribe. McDougall’s incredible story will not only engage your mind but inspire your body when you realize that you, indeed all of us, were born to run.

Related Post:
Megan Hine: 'Mind of a Survivor' Book Review

Run or Die – Kilian Jornet

An exceptional athlete. A dominating force. An extraordinary person. Kilian Jornet has conquered some of the toughest physical tests on the planet. He has run up and down Mt. Kilimanjaro faster than any other human being, and struck down world records in every challenge that has been proposed, all before the age of 25. Redefining what is possible, Jornet continually pushes the limits of human ability, astonishing competitors with his near-superhuman fitness and ability.

Finding Ultra – Rich Roll

On the eve of his 40th birthday, Rich Roll was in bad shape. His days were filled with work, stress, and junk food, and his nights were spent on the couch, remote in hand. Taking out the trash was the closest he came to exercise, and, at 50 pounds overweight, a walk up the stairs left him winded. He decided it was time to make a change.  After undergoing a diet detox, adopting a vegan lifestyle, and pushing his fitness regimen to undreamed-of heights, he was profiled by Men’s Fitness as one of the world’s 25 fittest men. Among Roll’s many jaw-dropping athletic feats: he completed the unprecedented “Epic 5”–five back-to-back Ironman-distance triathlons on five different Hawaiian islands in under a week–an achievement many said was impossible. This is the story of that remarkable transformation, a complete physical and spiritual rejuvenation that proves that anyone can “find ultra” if they know how.

Alone on the Wall – Alex Honnold

The life and death-defying feats of Alex Honnold, a visionary climber of the sort that comes along only once in a generation. Free solo climbing is a high-stakes sport: if you fall, you die. Expert free soloist Alex Honnold isn’t afraid to push the limit; one of the most famous adventure athletes in the world, he has pioneered new routes, won awards, and shattered records. Alone on the Wall recounts the seven most astonishing achievements of Honnold’s extraordinary life and career, brimming with lessons on living fearlessly, taking risks, and maintaining focus even in the face of extreme danger.

Into the Wild – Jon Krakauer

In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter.  How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Once a Runner – John L. Parker Jr.

Originally self-published in 1978, Once a Runner captures the essence of competitive running—and of athletic competition in general—and has become one of the most beloved sports novels ever published. Inspired by the author’s experience as a collegiate champion, the story focuses on Quenton Cassidy, a competitive runner at fictional Southeastern University whose lifelong dream is to run a four-minute mile. He is less than a second away when the turmoil of the Vietnam War era intrudes into the staid recesses of his school’s athletic department. After he becomes involved in an athletes’ protest, Cassidy is suspended from his track team. Under the tutelage of his friend and mentor, Bruce Denton, a graduate student and former Olympic gold medalist, Cassidy gives up his scholarship, his girlfriend, and possibly his future to withdraw to a monastic retreat in the countryside and begin training for the race of his life against the greatest miler in history.

Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that “suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down.” He was wrong. The storm, which claimed five lives and left countless more–including Krakauer’s–in guilt-ridden disarray, would also provide the impetus for Into Thin Air, Krakauer’s epic account of the May 1996 disaster.

Related Post:
Finding Gobi Book Review

 

Touching the Void – Joe Simpson

Joe Simpson and his climbing partner, Simon Yates, had just reached the top of a 21,000-foot peak in the Andes when disaster struck. Simpson plunged off the vertical face of an ice ledge, breaking his leg. In the hours that followed, darkness fell and a blizzard raged as Yates tried to lower his friend to safety. Finally, Yates was forced to cut the rope, moments before he would have been pulled to his own death.

 

Eiger Dreams – Jon Krakauer

No one writes about mountaineering and its attendant hardships and victories more brilliantly than critically acclaimed author Jon Krakauer. In this collection of his finest work from such magazines as Outside and Smithsonian, he explores the subject from the unique and memorable perspective of one who has battled peaks like K2, Denali, Everest, and, of course, the Eiger. Always with a keen eye, an open heart, and a hunger for the ultimate experience, he gives us unerring portraits of the mountaineering experience.

Yet Eiger Dreams is more about people than about rock and ice―people with that odd, sometimes maniacal obsession with mountain summits that sets them apart from other men and women.

Natural Born Heroes – Christopher McDougall

Christopher McDougall’s journey begins with a story of remarkable athletic prowess: On the treacherous mountains of Crete, a motley band of World War II Resistance fighters—an artist, a shepherd, and a poet—abducted a German commander from the heart of the Axis occupation. To understand how, McDougall retraces their steps across the island that birthed Herakles and Odysseus, and discovers ancient techniques for endurance, sustenance, and natural movement that have been preserved in unique communities around the world.

Fat Man to Green Man – Ira Rainey

Despite believing he was bionic as a child, Ira Rainey was far from an elite athlete with superhuman running abilities like the ones he read about in books. He was in fact an overweight and unfit slacker who felt a bit sorry for himself because he had sore feet. Sure he ran a bit, but he also sat around a lot and ate and drank too much. Why? Because he could, and because he was a delusional optimist who thought everything would always be just fine. That was until a friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given months to live. It was an event that would push Ira to tackle his apathy towards life and take on the challenge of becoming an ultramarathon runner, pushing himself to go further than he had ever gone before.

Trail Blazer – Ryan Sandes

Written with best-selling author and journalist Steve Smith, “Trail Blazer – My Life as an Ultra-distance Trail Runner” recounts the life story of this intrepid sportsman, from his experiences as a rudderless party animal to becoming a world-class athlete, and includes details on his training regimes, race strategies and aspirations for future sporting endeavors. Sports enthusiasts will enjoy the adrenaline-inducing trials and tribulations of one of South Africa’s most awe-inspiring athletes, while endurance-sport participants – from beginners to aspirant pros – will benefit from his insights and advice.

A Life Without Limits – Chrissie Wellington

In 2007, Chrissie Wellington shocked the triathlon world by winning the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii. As a newcomer to the sport and a complete unknown to the press, Chrissie’s win shook up the sport. A LIFE WITHOUT LIMITS is the story of her rise to the top, a journey that has taken her around the world, from a childhood in England, to the mountains of Nepal, to the oceans of New Zealand, and the trails of Argentina, and first across the finish line. Wellington’s first-hand, inspiring story includes all the incredible challenges she has faced–from anorexia to near–drowning to training with a controversial coach. But to Wellington, the drama of the sports also presents an opportunity to use sports to improve people’s lives.

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Lizzy Hawker 'Runner' - Book Review

ChiRunning – Danny Dreyer

The revised edition of the bestselling ChiRunning, a groundbreaking program from ultra-marathoner and nationally-known coach Danny Dreyer, that teaches you how to run faster and farther with less effort, and to prevent and heal injuries for runners of any age or fitness level.

In ChiRunning, Danny and Katherine Dreyer, well-known walking and running coaches, provide powerful insight that transforms running from a high-injury sport to a body-friendly, injury-free fitness phenomenon. ChiRunning employs the deep power reserves in the core muscles, an approach found in disciplines such as yoga, Pilates, and T’ai Chi.

Unbroken – Laura Hillenbrand

In boyhood, Louis Zamperini was an incorrigible delinquent. As a teenager, he channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics. But when World War II began, the athlete became an airman, embarking on a journey that led to a doomed flight on a May afternoon in 1943. When his Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean, against all odds, Zamperini survived, adrift on a foundering life raft. Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

Runner – Lizzy Hawker

From a school girl running the streets of London to a world record-breaking athlete racing on mountains, long-distance runner Lizzy Hawker is an inspiration to anyone who would like to see how far they can go, running or not. This is the complete story of Lizzy’s journey, uncovering the physical, mental and emotional challenges that runners go through at the edge of human endurance.

Scared witless and surrounded by a sea of people, Lizzy Hawker stands in the church square at the centre of Chamonix on a late August evening, waiting for the start of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. The mountains towering over the pack of runners promise a grueling 8,600 metres of ascent and descent over 158 kilometres of challenging terrain that will test the feet, legs, heart and mind. These nervous moments before the race signal not just the beginning of nearly twenty-seven hours of effort that saw Lizzy finish as first woman, but the start of the career of one of Britain’s most successful endurance athletes.

Mind of a Survivor – Megan Hine

Megan Hine is a British adventurer, wilderness expedition leader and survival expert. Many people have heard of her because she is also one of the world’s leading survival consultants for TV shows such as Bear Grylls’ ‘Running Wild’ and ‘Mission Survive’.

Megan’s book focuses on this very thing: the mental, rather than physical, aspects, by examining the human ability and instinct for survival.

There are plenty of ‘how-to’ survival books out there. What makes Mind of a Survivor different and why I enjoyed it so much is that it is more of an inspirational book full of advice on how to handle certain situations, as well as true stories, rather than a book of instructions. To some extent, instructions are of limited value, when you realise it’s mental attributes such as adaptability, creativity and resilience which are more likely to make a difference to the outcome of a survival situation.

 

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What a tremendous list. I have read a few, others just might end up on Santa’s list! 🙂