“You run like a girl” isn’t the insult you think it is. Female athletes have been dominating their respective fields for the past century, paving the way for millions of young women to excel in sports. You’ve probably seen some of these athletes at a recent Olympic Games, and now you can read about their stories too!
1. Courage to Soar — Simone Biles
At just 4’ 8”, don’t be fooled by Simone Biles’ tiny stature. She’s an absolute powerhouse in gymnastics with dozens of World Championship medals to her name. Her story is both moving and inspirational, and her book is a must-read.
2. Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team — Elise Hooper
The 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin will always remain a historic event that stood at the intersectionality of politics, race and sports. Fast Girls is a gripping novel on the untold story of three women who defied the odds and created history without even knowing it.
3. We Ride Upon Sticks — Quann Barry
Get ready for a funky throwback to the 1980’s with this hilarious book encapsulating friendship, sportsmanship, and the determination to succeed.
4. Fierce — Aly Raisman
Bringing you another iconic gymnast— Aly Raisman. Captain of the 2012 “Fierce Five” and 2016 “Final Five” U.S. women’s Olympics gymnast teams, Aly Raisman shares her story from humble beginnings (starting gymnastics at just 18 months old) to world-renowned success.
5. My Olympic Life — Anita L. DeFrantz
From civil rights activism to attending a high school with no sports for girls and then being on the first women’s U.S. Olympic team for rowing, DeFrantz is a trailblazer in every aspect of her life. Her story chronicles African-American excellence in the face of segregation and at a time when women did not have equal opportunities in sports.
6. Good for a Girl — Lauren Fleshman
Like DeFrantz and pretty much every female athlete, Fleshman advocates for a better future for young female athletes caught in the vicious cycle of a sports system designed for men. This book chronicles her personal journey as a runner and her activism for much-needed change in the male-dominated sports industry.
7. A Team of Their Own — Seth Berkman
The Olympics are known for being the platform where athletes come together to beat the odds, and that’s exactly what the Korean women’s hockey team did at the 2018 Winter Olympics. This book encapsulates another moment in history that stands at the crossroads of politics, identity, sports and kinship in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
8. Young Woman and the Sea — Glenn Stout
Nearly 100 years later, the feat of Gertrude (Trudy) Ederle is as remarkable as ever. This book chronicles her incredible journey as the first woman to swim across the English Channel, defying all the naysayers who insisted a woman can never achieve something of this magnitude.
9. Tigerbelle: The Wyomia Tyus Story — Wyomia Tyus
Wyomia Tyus was the living definition of Black Excellence when in 1968 she became the first person ever to win Gold in the 100-meter sprint at two consecutive Olympic Games. From her early years to Olympic success and beyond, this book is a story that needed to be told.
10. I Am a Promise — ShellyAnn Fraser Pryce
This illustrated picture book is excellent for young athletes to understand the complex journey to success. From underdog at the 2008 Beijing Olympics to becoming one of the greatest sprinters of all time, ShellyAnn Fraser Pryce is an unstoppable force in the track & field world.
11. Game Changers — Lisa Cline-Ransome
One of the greatest female athletes of our time, Serena Williams is a force to be reckoned with. Beyond being an incredibly decorated athlete, the mental strength and determination of Serena, along with sister Venus, is what propelled the two to an unmatched legacy in the sporting world.
12. Proud — Ibtihaj Muhammad
The story of Ibtihaj Muhammad is one of perseverance, diversity and shattering the glass ceiling. In addition to Olympic glory, Muhammad is best known as the first female athlete to compete for the U.S. Olympic team while wearing a hijab. She wants her story to inspire young Muslim women to compete in sports while wearing the hijab, an accomplishment enhanced by Mattel’s decision to model a Barbie doll after her.
In a world where women are continuously denied the opportunity to excel, it’s important to showcase those who have paved the way for future generations. The past century has produced some iconic female athletes, and the ones to come will only be faster, stronger and more determined to succeed.
Here’s more on incredible female trailblazers!