Book gifts for runners

If you're struggling for the perfect gift for the runner in your life, you might consider a running book. I've stumbled upon a few books -- all available on Amazon - that I've enjoyed and shared with my running sons:

Once a Runner - John L. Parker - Over the years, I've searched high and low for running books. This is simply the best running best I've ever read. It's a fictional book about Quenton Cassidy, a miler at a southeastern college. The author was a miler at the University of Florida, and some of the events in the book are rumored to be based on real events at Florida. Parker completely nails the psyche of a competitive runner, but his sense of humor and gifted writing elevates this book above others. A few brief and minor references to sex, which are less offensive than most songs on pop radio, probably makes this is a high school book, although I let my kids read it during junior high. One Runners' World editor called the book a 'performing enhancing drug.' I've re-read this book at least ten times, as has one of my boys.

Again to Carthage - John L. Parker - The sequel to Once a Runner, this book follows Quenton Cassidy once he's out of college but contemplating a return to competitive running. Parker displays the same humor and writing skills as he did in his first book, but this may be a little less inspiring since adults are, well, boring compared to college kids.

Racing in the Rain - John L. Parker - Parker's third book, intended to be a prequel to Once a Runner, focuses less on running and more on how Quenton Cassidy's childhood formed him into a runner. It's not particularly focused on running but, if you like Parker's writing, you may want to read his final book.

Born to Run - Christopher McDougall - McDougall introduced the US to the Tarahumara Native Mexican tribe that has made long-distance running a part of their way of life. While some of his assertions has since been disproved, McDougall helped propel the minimalist running shoe industry with his description of how the Tarahumara tribesmen ran on thin homemade sandals but rarely got injured. This is an excellent book about a side of running most of us will never see.

The Perfect Mile - Neal Bascomb - Bascomb's effort is the best detail of the international intrigue that unfolded as a handful of amateur runners attempted to become the first runner to break the 4:00 mile barrier. While we all know that England's Roger Bannister was the first runner to do so, this doesn't diminish the competition between Bannister, Wes Santee of Kansas and John Landy of Australia. This may not be a 'read it again and again' book, but it's definitely worth sharing with others once you've finished it.

Duel in the Sun - John Brant - Brant tells an excellent story of the 1982 Boston Marathon duel between Alberto Salazar and Dick Beardsley.

Running with the Buffaloes - Chris Lear - Lear takes us behind the scenes with the University of Colorado men's cross country team during their entire 1998 season. Colorado has long been a force in college cross country, and this gives readers a good taste of the high-level collegiate experience.

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