12 Books for Athletes on Gaining a Competitive Edge

Athletes don’t always have a great reputation for hitting the books.

This is an unfair bias, albeit one that persists, despite several studies demonstrating that athletes have higher GPAs than non-athletes.

A Kansas University Study even found that athletes had higher graduation rates, better attendance at school, lower dropout rates, and higher scores on assessment tests.

Truly competitive athletes will stop at nothing to be among the elite – but even the best trainers and coaches can’t know everything.

So what should these athletes be reading that isn’t a part of the school curriculum?

Or better still, why should athletes be reading books designed to make them better?

The answer is simple.

Most coaches and trainers are looking at their athletes from a specific perspective.

Some coaches are very technical, some are about drill work, and some are about pushing your limit.

Many coaches and trainers know little about nutrition or the mental side of performance.

Even if you are lucky enough to have a coach or trainer who knows about these things, chances are, they are coming from a very specific philosophy that may or may not be suited to your individual needs.

If you are a competitive athlete and are not out there reading this information and learning what might work best for you to improve, guess what?

Your competition is.

If you are a recreational athlete and don’t care so much about competition, you still need to do your proverbial homework to ensure you have good form, don’t get hurt, and improve your mental game.

So let’s discuss some amazing books for athletes and why they foster exceptional development.

Below are the top books for athletes to develop an elite mindset.

1. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Ever heard of myelination?

Didn’t think so.

Yet this process has so much to do with how we develop the skills necessary to become an elite athlete or, basically to become good at anything at all. 

The Talent Code describes the process by which people become “prodigies” (spoiler alert: it involves thousands upon thousands of hours of correct repetition).

Daniel Coyle breaks down this complex process into something that is easy to understand.

Best Books for Athletes about Sports and Life

I request that the parents of the athletes I consult for read this book so that they understand what we are trying to accomplish.

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Athletes will finish this book with the feeling that they can do anything by putting in the work.

It is inspiring in a very realistic way.

There are no shortcuts here.

You have to do the work to be great.

2. Thrive by Brendan Brazier

Would you like to know the secrets of an Ironman Triathlete?

This is the book for you.

Brendan Brazier has smoked the competition in Ironman’s and is also the founder of Vega Sports Performance Products.

That is a pretty impressive resume.

Even finishing one Ironman is a grueling undertaking and Brazier did it as a career for a long time.

That means he was training about 40 hours a week.

This book personally changed my perspective about nutrition and a lot of other things.

You will learn how Brendan went from someone whom he felt was an ‘average’ athlete to a polished professional.

Best Books for Athletes about Sports and Life

He explains how to use clean eating to ensure maximum performance and recovery.

He also introduces a lot of foods that you might not have heard of, but are extremely helpful because of their ability to help you perform and recover.

Ever since reading this book and following its principles, I have stopped feeling run down and sore. 

I am also now a Vega fan for life.

This is indeed, one of the best books for athletes.

3. When The Past is Always Present by Dr. Ronald Ruden

As a certified hypnotist and Havening Practitioner, I work with a lot of athletes who are physically doing everything they should be doing but can’t break through the mental barriers to get to the next level.

As Tori Nyberg would say, “We train our bodies every day, but when was the last time you trained your mind?”

This is ultimately a very important point.

I am a proactive person, so I think you should destroy any little gremlins that might be hiding in your sports locker by doing some Havening or Hypnosis sooner rather than later.

Best Books for Athletes about Sports and Life

But, of course, it is sometimes tough convincing others of that.

So, this doctor, who is the founder of Havening, will explain to you some ways in which the mind works and how to get it back on track.

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In over 16 years of working with athletes, I have found it is those who are mentally tough that really make it to the next level.

Don’t wait!

4. Unleash Your True Athletic Potential by Julianne Soviero

Okay, so I am the author, but I can’t think of a more important book for all athletes.

The information in it has come from being a lifelong athlete, certified personal trainer, hypnotist, Havening Practitioner, and someone who is addicted to continuing education.

I have shadowed some of the best trainers, athletes, social workers, and physical therapists in the world over the last decade.

I became obsessed with ways to improve athletic performance after an injury nearly destroyed my pitching career, and the information in the book reflects that.

Best Books for Athletes about Sports and Life

Not only that, but it is the only book for athletes that I know of that looks at all of the components of performing your best, as opposed to just focusing on one small piece.

It discusses nutrition, training, injury prevention, optimal recovery, hydration, the mental component of performance, and so much more!

It is a guide for every athlete of every level to maximize performance.

5. Waterski Girl Wonder: A Journey of Perseverance by Shellie Blum

The first female freestyle waterski ramp jumper in the world, Shellie Blum has endured her share of grueling setbacks.

In this inspiring book, she takes you through her journey of perseverance.

Whether or not you’re a waterskier, you’re bound to enjoy this inspiring true story.

waterski girl wonder


6. The Pursuit of Endurance: Harnessing the Record-Breaking Power of Strength and Resilience, by Jennifer Pharr Davis

In Pursuit of Endurance, Jennifer Davis reveals what it takes to maximize endurance and leverage the power of strength and resilience.

She also documents her remarkable achievements in the field of endurance hiking, backpacking, and trail running.

the pursuit of endurance


Donny Mateaki is an athlete who played football, basketball, and track.

In Building Indestructible Athletes, he teaches how to improve athletic performance, and hip and shoulder mobility.

The book seeks to help athletes discover how to lower the risk of injury.

building indestructible athletes

8. Unthinkable, by Scott Rigsby

Scott Rigsby is an inspiration to many people the world over.

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Despite losing both his legs at age 18 and battling depression and addiction, he became the first double-leg amputee ever to cross the finish line in the Ironman Triathlon.

Unthinkable is an account of his extraordinary journey.


9. Functional Training, by Juan Carlos “JC” Santana

In Functional Training, author Juan Carlos Santana presents his revolutionary approach to training and conditioning methods that will help take your performance to the next level.

The book is designed to help you achieve optimal results no matter what your sport.

functional training

10. Running with Raven: The Amazing Story of One Man, His Passion, and the Community He Inspired, by Laura Lee Huttenbach

Inspired by Robert “Raven” Kraft, a legend of the running world, this book explores the stories of the dozens of people who came to run with Raven and had their lives changed.

Anyone will be inspired by Raven’s tale of perseverance, understanding, and courage.

running with raven

11. Fast-Track Triathlete: Balancing a Big Life with Big Performance in Long-Course Triathlon, by Matt Dixon MSc

Written by elite triathlon coach Matt Dixon, this book offers a laser-focused, effective approach to workouts, recovery, strength, and mobility.

Designed for the busy professional, the book will guide you on how to create a successful sport and life performance recipe.

fast-track triathlete

12. Champion Minded: Achieving Excellence in Sports and Life,  by Allistair McCaw

In Champion Minded, Allistair McCaw, a world-renowned Sports Performance and Mindset coach, teaches the mindset, habits, and discipline of a champion.

The book will help you learn how to think, act, look, prepare, communicate, compete, commit, and live like a champion.

champion minded

Which of these top books for athletes would you read first?

Now that you are aware of some of the best books for athletes, what are you waiting for?

Go get your inner nerd on and start reading these books to expand your mental and physical capacity for top performance.

I guarantee that you will learn things about how to maximize your potential at any level.

Which one of these books interested you most?

Do you have any other books for athletes to add to this list?

Let us know in the comment section!

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  1. Rafael

    November 27, 2018 at 12:49 PM

    reading all of them now. one book per month. see you in a year!

    • Brett D Grayson

      November 29, 2019 at 5:30 PM

      Rafael, anything to report back?

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