Recommended Summer Reads

By Mario Fraioli

It’s been a decent summer on the reading front and—surprise, surprise—many of the books I’ve cracked share a running-related theme. Here are a handful that I enjoyed and recommend checking out:

1. Your Best Stride, by Jonathan Beverly: Amongst recreational and injury-prone runners and triathletes, running form is a perpetually hot topic of conversation. I field stride-related questions every week in person, via email and on social media, and during my time at Competitor, any article we’d post to the website that had anything to do with running form would inevitably end up at the top of the “most read” widget that month. There isn’t a runner I’m aware of who doesn’t want to run better, faster, farther or with less injuries, and for many runners, understanding and improving their stride can go a long way toward achieving these goals. The problem is that there’s a lot of information available; sorting through myriad articles, courses and “certified” form specialists, knowing what to believe—and eventually implement—poses a monumental challenge (pun totally intended). Enter Your Best Stride by former Running Times editor-in-chief Jonathan Beverly, a practical, well-researched, no bullshit book on running technique. In it, Beverly shares what he’s learned from coaches, scientists and physicians about movement, busts common myths about “ideal” and “natural” form, identifies the most important universals every runner should pay attention to, gives it to you straight on shoe choice, and provides a number of drills, exercises and routines so that you can develop better habits, understand and improve your weaknesses, and work toward developing a better stride. I’ll be referencing—and recommending—it anytime form-related questions arise from here on out.

2. The Trail Runner’s Companion, by Sarah Lavender Smith: Last week 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 new 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.

3. Peak Performance, by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness: I reviewed this book rather thoroughly in Issue 82, so I won’t go on for much longer here, but if you’re interested in improving your performance as an athlete, businessperson, writer, employee, musician, coach—whatever it may be for you—it’s worth reading (and/or revisiting). In a self-improvement industry based on bro science and life hacks, Peak Performance presents actionable advice backed by refreshing real-life examples and research to help you improve performance in your desired domain. The book hasn’t even made it onto the bookshelf in my office yet because my wife and I keep going back to it.

4. Simple Rhythms, by Ray Charbonneau: I’m not typically one for poetry but Ray Charbonneau has put together a cool collection of a dozen poems that each capture the simplicity of running in a unique way. It’s an easy read and a nice change of pace that every runner can relate to on some level.

Note: None of the links to any of the aforementioned books are part of an affiliate program. When possible, I’ve tried to link to the book’s main website, and have only used Amazon pages as a last resort. (Not that there’s anything wrong with affiliate links, but these recommendations are purely because I believe the books will be of interest to you, my loyal readers.)

A version of this post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, writing, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.