m a r g i n a l i a

notes from a creative writing PhD candidate

if you like running (or just really inspiring, interesting books), read these.

More in-depth reviews of these books will be posted soon, but I just had to share my epic running reading list from the past month.  If you know of any other running/adventure-related books I should read, please let me know in the comments.


Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougallmcdougall

“Why does my foot hurt?”  The author, a recreational runner, uses this simple question to explore the history of running.  The book culminates in a race between ultramarathoners such as Scott Jurek (see below) and the Tarahumara of northern Mexico.  It’s fast-paced, well researched, and moving.  I’ve read it three times and will probably read it again sometime soon.


Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness by Scott Jurek


Scott Jurek’s book is part biography, part nutritional guide, part cookbook.  Every chapter concludes with one of his simple, protein-packed vegan recipes.  He believes it’s his diet that has helped him excel mentally and physically in long distance running, and he has lots of research to prove it.  I really liked his straightforward, down-to-earth writing style.  It’s not a very long book–I read it in about three days.


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


Murakami is a fairly famous novelist (I recommend The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle), yet few people outside of the running community have heard of this slim, aphoristic title.  A few reviewers complain that the writing is too repetitive, or too simplified, but keep in mind that it was translated from Japanese and the prose likely lost some of its meaning and elegance.  He’s honest in his approach to running, even questioning why he runs in the first place and puts himself annually through the suffering that is the marathon.  I love how his “inspiration” is the promise of a cold beer after the race.  Ha.


Running Like a Girl: Notes on Learning to Run by Alexandra Heminsley


This book was a random Amazon find; it wasn’t at my library or on any of the popular “books about running” lists I’ve bookmarked.  (But it should be.)  Maybe you’ve noticed that literature about running is almost always written by men; Heminsley is a refreshing respite from the male-dominated genre.  She’s a great couch-to-5k example, but takes it even further to running multiple marathons, ranging from London to San Francisco.


Marathon Man: My 26.2 Mile Journey from Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World by Bill Rodgers


If I could run with anybody, I would like to run with Bill Rodgers.  He seems like one of the coolest, kindest, happiest guys ever.  I can relate to his early running days–living simply, eating big hearty home cooked meals with friends in sparsely furnished apartments, trying to balance a hefty amount of miles with a 40-hour work week.  Chapters seamlessly alternate between the day he won the Boston Marathon in 1968 to bits of his biography.


Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner’s Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America by Marshall Ulrich


Honestly, I wasn’t the biggest fan of this book, but I put it on the list because it’s an incredible story.  The writing isn’t very good–I actually found a significant amount of typos and errors in the text, which is mildly annoying–and I wasn’t really that interested in Ulrich’s life.  Like Jurek, who lost his mom to cancer when he was in his early 20s, Ulrich’s first wife passed away early in his running career.  The book goes step-by-step through his cross-country journey, but I think it was a little too long.  I admire his drive to break the world record, but I wasn’t as captivated by his story as I was with Rodgers’ or McDougall’s.  Except for the part where he talks about having his toenails surgically removed.  That was pretty captivating.

 Happy reading (& running!)



4 comments on “if you like running (or just really inspiring, interesting books), read these.

  1. Lauren Keating
    July 7, 2014

    I LOVE Eat&Run. I read it in a few days and it inspired me to run my first half marathon! I am going to check out the others on this list! Awesome post =)

    • traci
      July 7, 2014

      thanks, lauren! i don’t think i’ll do the vegan switch anytime soon (i just love cheese way too much) but i’ve definitely started incorporating more plant-based foods into my diet. christopher mcdougall also talks about how he switched his diet to a more Tarahumara-like one; he eats salad for breakfast now. it does give you so much more energy!

      • Lauren Keating
        July 7, 2014

        I don’t think I can do a vegan switch either! After reading that book though I did start to incorporate more veggies in my diet. I’ve also made his guacamole recipe twice! I am going to check out the Christopher McDougall book.

  2. Pingback: The Blog Hop: The Writing Process | nylifesupply

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