The nine best sports books to read this summer

The Excelle Sports editors have picked some of their favorites for this ultimate summer reading list. Be inspired by stories of athletes overcoming challenges, winning races, and facing down defeat. There’s no better way to wile away your summer days whether you are by the beach, on the porch, or relaxing after work in the AC.

1. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall ($8.25): A national best seller that probes the concept of running without injury. Following the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, who can run hundreds of miles at a time without rest or injury, McDougall sets out to discover their secrets. He then brings a team of top ultra marathoners from the US to run against the Tarahumara Indians on their own turf. The results are fascinating. This book completely changed the way many people run.

2. Paper Lion by George Plimpton ($12.78): The classic in gonzo journalism, setting the bar for participatory sports journalism. Plimpton tells his story about going through training camp with the Detroit Lions. The book is hilarious and insightful, one that The Wall Street Journal calls “a continuous feast. . . the best book ever about football–or anything!”

3. “I Got This: To Go Gold and Beyond” by Laurie Hernandez ($12.58): Gold medal-winning Olympic gymnast and Dancing with the Stars champion Laurie Hernandez shares her story in her own words in this debut book for fans of all ages. At sixteen years old, Hernandez has already made many of her dreams come true and it’s only the beginning. Laurie’s story is about growing up with the dream of becoming an Olympian and what it took to win gold.

4. The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein ($11.91): The debate is as old as physical competition. Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?
In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. Through on-the-ground reporting from below the equator and above the Arctic Circle, revealing conversations with leading scientists and Olympic champions, and interviews with athletes who have rare genetic mutations or physical traits, Epstein forces us to rethink the very nature of athleticism.

5. The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership by John Wooden and Steve Jamison ($11.97): The Essential Wooden is the ultimate collection of Wooden’s opinions and observations on achieving exceptional leadership in any organization, with 200 invaluable lessons for inspiring championship performance. Coach Wooden offers his hard-won wisdom on building an organization that performs at its full potential under pressure, from preparing and training the team to instilling personal drive and dedication. He takes his famous Pyramid of Success to the next level, filling the entire book with his straight-shooting personality and keen insight on human nature. Wooden shares rarely seen preseason letters to his players, revealing how he instilled productive attitudes and winning ways. He also includes previously unpublished analyses from former players and managers, including Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. From Wooden’s earliest days as a leader through his legendary UCLA dynasty, The Essential Wooden distills a lifetime of learning into the leadership playbook for the twenty-first century.

6. Courage to Soar: A Body in Motion, A Life in Balance by Simone Biles ($12.49): Simone Biles’ entrance into the world of gymnastics may have started on a daycare field trip in her hometown of Spring, Texas, but her God-given talent, passion, and perseverance have made her one of the top gymnasts in the world, as well as a four-time winner of Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro. But there is more to Simone than the nineteen medals—fourteen of them gold—and the Olympic successes. Through years of hard work and determination, she has relied on her faith and family to stay focused and positive, while having fun competing at the highest level and doing what she loves. Here, in her own words, Simone takes you through the events, challenges, and trials that carried her from an early childhood in foster care to a coveted spot on the 2016 Olympic team. Along the way, Simone shares the details of her inspiring personal story—one filled with the kinds of daily acts of courage that led her, and can lead you, to even the most unlikely of dreams.

7. Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History by Molly Schiot ($16.05): Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History is based on the Instagram account @TheUnsungHeroines, a celebration of the pioneering, forgotten female athletes of the twentieth century that features rarely seen photos and new interviews with past and present game changers including Abby Wambach and Cari Champion.

8. When Nobody Was Watching by Carli Lloyd ($22.10):The new memoir from the USWNT star focuses on her sacrifices for the game and relationships with her family. Read her story.

9. Catch a Star by Tamika Catchings ($10.43): Catch a Star tells the overcoming story of the legendary WNBA superstar Tamika Catchings. Catchings was the WNBA’s 2011 MVP and is also a four-time Olympic gold medalist and ten-time WNBA All-Star. In college, she was a member of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols team when they won the national championship under coach Pat Summitt. But, all these accolades did not come easy. Her story inspires readers to face their doubts and fears, encouraging them to reach for their own stars, no matter what challenges come their way. She writes: “But so what if I was skinny and short and couldn’t hear much? What I did have was intensity. I had desire. And I had passion and a willingness to work hard for the game like no one else in my family.”

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