55+ Best Books for Athletes (Complete List)

Athletes are constantly seeking ways to improve their performance, both physically and mentally.

While training and practice are essential, there is another valuable resource that can provide athletes with valuable insights and inspiration – books.

The right book can offer guidance, motivation, and a fresh perspective on the challenges and triumphs of athletic endeavors.

Here we look at some of the best books for athletes, covering a range of topics from sports psychology to memoirs of legendary athletes.

The Power of the Mind: Sports Psychology Books

Athletes often face mental hurdles that can impact their performance.

Sports psychology books delve into the psychological aspects of sports, providing athletes with strategies to overcome mental barriers and enhance their focus, confidence, and resilience.

Here are some highly recommended books in this genre:

1. “Mind Gym: An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence” by Gary Mack

“Mind Gym” is a popular book that explores the mental game of sports.

It offers practical techniques and exercises to help athletes develop mental toughness, improve concentration, and handle pressure effectively.

The book draws on the author’s experience working with professional athletes, providing valuable insights into the mindset required for success.

2. “The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train, and Thrive” by Jim Afremow

Written by a renowned sports psychologist, “The Champion’s Mind” offers a comprehensive guide to developing a winning mindset.

The book covers various aspects of mental preparation, including goal setting, visualization, self-talk, and managing setbacks.

It includes real-life examples from successful athletes, making it relatable and inspiring.

Books from Legendary Athletes

Reading about the experiences and journeys of legendary athletes can be incredibly motivating for aspiring athletes.

These books provide insights into the dedication, perseverance, and sacrifices required to reach the pinnacle of success.

Here are a few notable titles:

1. “Open” by Andre Agassi

In this candid memoir, tennis legend Andre Agassi shares his personal journey, including the highs and lows of his career.

“Open” offers a raw and honest account of Agassi’s struggles with fame, his battles with self-doubt, and his ultimate triumphs.

The book provides valuable lessons on resilience and the importance of finding one’s passion.

2. “Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike” by Phil Knight

Phil Knight, the co-founder of Nike, takes readers on a captivating journey through the early days of the iconic sports brand.

“Shoe Dog” offers a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges and triumphs Knight faced while building Nike from scratch.

The book is a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and unwavering belief in one’s vision.

Unlocking Physical Potential: Training and Nutrition Books

Physical training and proper nutrition are crucial for athletes looking to optimize their performance.

These books provide valuable insights into effective training methods, injury prevention, and nutrition strategies:

1. “Becoming a Supple Leopard: The Ultimate Guide to Resolving Pain, Preventing Injury, and Optimizing Athletic Performance” by Kelly Starrett

Kelly Starrett, a renowned physical therapist and coach, offers a comprehensive guide to improving athletic performance and preventing injuries.

“Becoming a Supple Leopard” provides practical advice on mobility exercises, movement mechanics, and recovery techniques.

The book is highly regarded among athletes and coaches for its actionable insights.

2. “The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance” by David Epstein

“The Sports Gene” explores the science behind athletic performance, debunking common myths and shedding light on the role of genetics and training in achieving excellence.

David Epstein delves into the stories of elite athletes and examines the factors that contribute to their success.

The book offers valuable insights for athletes looking to optimize their training and reach their full potential.

The Best of the Rest – 50 Great Sports Books

Here’s a list of 50 notable sports books, spanning various sports and themes, along with a one-sentence summary for each:

  1. “Friday Night Lights” by H.G. Bissinger – An intimate look at the social and cultural impact of high school football in a small Texas town.
  2. “Moneyball” by Michael Lewis – Chronicles the Oakland Athletics’ revolutionary approach to baseball using sabermetrics.
  3. “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown – The story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their quest for Olympic gold.
  4. “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand – The life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner turned WWII hero.
  5. “Open” by Andre Agassi – Included again (because it’s that good), the candid autobiography of tennis legend Andre Agassi.
  6. “The Sweet Science” by A.J. Liebling – A classic collection of essays on the world of boxing.
  7. “Seabiscuit” by Laura Hillenbrand – The true story of the undersized Depression-era racehorse who became a champion.
  8. “A Sense of Where You Are” by John McPhee – A profile of basketball player Bill Bradley during his Princeton days.
  9. “The Fight” by Norman Mailer – A detailed account of the 1974 Ali-Foreman Rumble in the Jungle.
  10. “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall – Explores the secrets of the Tarahumara Indians and the world of ultra-running.
  11. “Ball Four” by Jim Bouton – A groundbreaking and controversial behind-the-scenes look at life in Major League Baseball.
  12. “The Game” by Ken Dryden – A thoughtful reflection on hockey by the legendary Montreal Canadiens goaltender.
  13. “The Breaks of the Game” by David Halberstam – A deep dive into the 1979 Portland Trail Blazers and the world of professional basketball.
  14. “Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby – A memoir about the author’s obsession with English football and Arsenal FC.
  15. “The Blind Side” by Michael Lewis – The story of Michael Oher and the evolution of the left tackle position in football.
  16. “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach – A novel about baseball, love, and the challenges of life at a small college.
  17. “The Miracle of Castel di Sangro” by Joe McGinniss – Chronicles a season with a small-town Italian soccer team that made it to the second highest league.
  18. “Paper Lion” by George Plimpton – The author’s humorous account of his time trying out as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions.
  19. “The Punch” by John Feinstein – Examines the on-court fight between NBA players Kermit Washington and Rudy Tomjanovich.
  20. “The Match” by Mark Frost – Recounts the legendary golf match between pros Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson and amateurs Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi.
  21. “A Life Too Short” by Ronald Reng – The tragic story of German soccer goalkeeper Robert Enke.
  22. “The Damned Utd” by David Peace – A fictionalized account of Brian Clough’s turbulent 44 days as manager of Leeds United.
  23. “The Jordan Rules” by Sam Smith – An inside look at Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls during their first championship season.
  24. “End Zone” by Don DeLillo – A novel that combines football and nuclear warfare as metaphors for modern life.
  25. “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle – Investigates hotbeds of talent around the world to understand how greatness is grown.
  26. “The Last Season” by Phil Jackson – The legendary NBA coach’s reflections on his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers.
  27. “The Outsider” by Jimmy Connors – The autobiography of tennis great Jimmy Connors.
  28. “The Death of Ayrton Senna” by Richard Williams – A biography of the legendary Formula One driver.
  29. “The Big Fight” by Sugar Ray Leonard – The boxing legend’s candid memoir about his life in and out of the ring.
  30. “The Harder They Fall” by Budd Schulberg – A novel about the dark side of the boxing world.
  31. “The Inner Game of Tennis” by W. Timothy Gallwey – A guide to the mental side of peak performance in tennis.
  32. “Soccernomics” by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski – Uses data analysis to challenge conventional soccer wisdom.
  33. “The Secret Race” by Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle – An insider’s look at the world of professional cycling and doping.
  34. “Levels of the Game” by John McPhee – A detailed account of a single tennis match between Arthur Ashe and Clark Graebner.
  35. “The Amateurs” by David Halberstam – Chronicles the world of amateur rowing and the quest for Olympic gold.
  36. “The Second Mark” by Joy Goodwin – The story of the controversial figure skating competition at the 2002 Winter Olympics.
  37. “The Majors” by John Feinstein – An inside look at golf’s four major championships.
  38. “The Glory Game” by Frank Gifford and Peter Richmond – A look back at the 1958 NFL Championship game.
  39. “When Pride Still Mattered” by David Maraniss – A biography of legendary football coach Vince Lombardi.
  40. “The Long Season” by Jim Brosnan – A pitcher’s diary of a season in Major League Baseball.
  41. “The Hockey Stick Illusion” by A.W. Montford – Delves into the controversy surrounding climate change and the “hockey stick” graph.
  42. “The Man Watching” by Tim Crothers – A biography of Anson Dorrance, the legendary coach of the University of North Carolina women’s soccer team.
  43. “The Sports Gene” by David Epstein – Explores the science of extraordinary athletic performance.
  44. “The Last Shot” by Darcy Frey – Chronicles the dreams and realities of high school basketball players in inner-city Brooklyn.
  45. “The Proving Ground” by G. Bruce Knecht – The story of the tragic 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
  46. “The Miracle of St. Anthony” by Adrian Wojnarowski – A season with coach Bob Hurley and his high school basketball team.
  47. “A Season on the Brink” by John Feinstein – A year with the Indiana Hoosiers and their volatile coach, Bob Knight.
  48. “The Big Miss” by Hank Haney – Tiger Woods’ former coach provides an inside look at the golfing legend.
  49. “The Noble Hustle” by Colson Whitehead – The author’s humorous account of his experience in the World Series of Poker.
  50. “The Haymaker” by Adam Schefter – A deep dive into the world of professional boxing.

FAQs – Best Books for Athletes

1. Can reading books really improve an athlete’s performance?

Yes, reading books can have a significant impact on an athlete’s performance.

Books on sports psychology, training methods, and the experiences of successful athletes can provide valuable insights, motivation, and strategies for improvement.

2. Are there any books specifically for young athletes?

Yes, there are several books tailored to young athletes.

“The Young Champion’s Mind: How to Think, Train, and Thrive Like an Elite Athlete” by Jim Afremow is a recommended read for young athletes looking to develop a winning mindset.

3. Are there any books that focus on mental resilience?

“The Resilience Project: Finding Happiness Through Gratitude, Empathy, and Mindfulness” by Hugh van Cuylenburg is a book that explores the power of resilience and provides practical strategies for developing mental toughness.

4. Are there any books that cover nutrition for athletes?

Yes, “The Athlete’s Cookbook: A Nutritional Program to Fuel the Body for Peak Performance and Rapid Recovery” by Corey Irwin is a comprehensive guide to nutrition for athletes.

It offers recipes, meal plans, and advice on fueling the body for optimal performance.

5. Can books on sports psychology help with overcoming performance anxiety?

Yes, books on sports psychology often provide strategies for managing performance anxiety.

“The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance” by W. Timothy Gallwey is a highly recommended book that explores techniques for overcoming anxiety and improving focus.

6. Are there any books that focus on the mental aspects of team sports?

Yes, “The Captain Class: The Hidden Force That Creates the World’s Greatest Teams” by Sam Walker is a book that analyzes the traits of successful team captains and the impact they have on team dynamics. It offers valuable insights into leadership and teamwork.

7. Are there any books that explore the psychology of winning?

Yes, “Winning: The Psychology of Competition” by Stuart Walker is a book that delves into the psychology of winning and the mindset required for success. It offers practical advice for athletes looking to develop a winning mentality.

8. Are there any books that focus on the mental aspects of endurance sports?

Yes, “Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance” by Alex Hutchinson is a book that explores the mental and physical limits of endurance sports. It offers insights into the power of the mind in pushing through physical barriers.

9. Are there any books that provide insights into the training methods of elite athletes?

Yes, “The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.” by Daniel Coyle is a book that examines the training methods of successful athletes and explores the concept of deliberate practice. It offers valuable lessons for athletes looking to optimize their training.

10. Are there any books that focus on the mental aspects of recovery from injury?

Yes, “Mind Over Matter: The Epic Crossing of the Antarctic Ice” by Ranulph Fiennes is a book that chronicles the author’s journey of recovery from a severe heart attack and his subsequent expedition to Antarctica. It offers insights into the mental resilience required to overcome physical setbacks.


Books can be a valuable resource for athletes, offering guidance, inspiration, and practical strategies for improvement.

Whether it’s exploring the power of the mind through sports psychology books, gaining insights from the experiences of legendary athletes, or learning about effective training methods and nutrition, there is a wealth of knowledge available to athletes through books.

By incorporating the recommended titles into their reading list, athletes can gain a competitive edge and enhance their overall performance.

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