My 8 Recommended Reads of 2017
A whole lotta books ended up on my desk in 2017. Some of them got read cover-to-cover, dog-eared and marked up considerably, others were skimmed through and tagged for revisiting, and the rest, well, they’ll most likely get donated to Goodwill the next time I clean out my office. Here are a select few (in no particular order) that will have a permanent home on my bookshelf for years to come:
Mindfulness is all the rage these days but can it improve your running? The short answer is yes and Mackenzie Havey explains how in this approachable guide. She combines the latest research with real-life examples from athletes such as Meb Keflezighi, Deena Kastor, Tim Olson, and others, as well as coaches, scientists, psychologists, and meditation experts to help you navigate your own mindful running path from focus all the way through to flow. I’ll be revisiting and referencing this book throughout 2018 as I work on being more present and strengthening the connection between my mind and body.
Peak Performance, Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness
Whether you’re an athlete, artist, business person, or someone who is just feeling burnt out in your current situation, I can’t recommend this book enough. There are no life hacks or quick fixes that will make you an instant winner within your domain—there are, however, real-life examples, legitimate research and actionable practices that will help you become more effective at whatever it is you do. Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness reveal all of those things and then some in this “performance playbook.” Read my full review here.
This is a relatively quick read about running, triathlon and friendship that will make you laugh, cry and reflect on what’s really important in your own life. Susan Lacke might not be a household name (yet, anyway) but she’s a hell of a writer and has a knack for using humor to tell stories that resonate on a deeply personal level. She’s been doing that since she began writing a regular column for me at Competitor magazine in 2010 and has carried that talent all the way through to this book about her relationship with the unlikely friend who turned her life around one mile, and mistake, at a time. I can’t recommend it enough.
Beverly wrote two books in 2017 and they’re both essential volumes on any runner’s bookshelf. His most recent, Run Strong, Stay Hungry, hit close to home as I found myself reexamining my own relationship to competitive running after 20 years of participating in the sport. It played a hugely influential role in my recent decision to go all-in on the marathon in 2018 and not hang up my road racing flats anytime soon. It will speak loudly to you too if you’re looking for a little extra inspiration—and oodles of experienced advice—to help you stay with it for the long run. (Also check out Beverly’s Your Best Stride, which I recommended in Issue 90.)
I bought Deep Work last year and my only regret is that I waited until a few months ago to read it. In short, it’s one of the most influential books I’ve ever owned and has completely transformed the way I work. Newport’s premise is that the ability to focus deeply in a distracted world is an increasingly rare—but also increasingly valuable—skill that can help you stand out amongst your peers, regardless of your profession. Considering the evidence, anecdotes and advice he presents throughout the book, and seeing the increased quality of my own work since learning to recognize—and minimize—common distractions in my own life, I think he’s onto something. If focus is something that you’re struggling to find, this book is absolutely worth the read.
Earlier this year I wrote about my evolution as a trail runner and why running off-road brings me so much enjoyment. If that piece resonated with you, Sarah Lavender Smith’s book, The Trail Runner’s Companion, an informative, practical and above all, approachable, guide to becoming a better trail runner, is right up your alley. Lavender Smith does a nice job blending her own personal narrative with tried, true and trusted information and insight, to form a sound resource that you’ll find yourself revisiting for years to come. It’s comprehensive and engaging: training, injury prevention, nutrition, gear and safety advice that will benefit any trail runner, whether you’re just getting started or finished multiple ultra-distance races, presented in a way that won’t bore you to bits.
Unwound, Ethan Senturia
This is not a running book but rather a real first-person reflection on lessons learned from a failed startup. That’s right, it’s not a success story, and that’s a big part of what makes Unwound so unique and valuable. It’s fresh—Senturia’s company, Dealstruck, shut down just over a year ago—and chock full of anecdotes about the challenges, uncertainties and other not-so-sexy realities of starting a business. It’s well-written, funny, insightful, introspective, and honest. As someone who currently works for himself—and was previously involved in a startup—I’d recommend this to anyone who wants an education in entrepreneurship.
Full disclosure: I had a hand in editing this book but I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t believe in it. Conscious Coaching is a necessary resource not just for strength and conditioning coaches but for anyone guiding others in the quest to become better versions of themselves. It should be required reading for ANY coach or leader, regardless of sport or area of interest. Using his own experience, input from other coaches, and the latest research, Bartholomew explains how to develop lasting coach-athlete relationships built around trust, knowledge and communication. As I was editing the book I was also taking notes on the many lessons I could apply to my own coaching practice.
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