Books for exploring movement

A reading list that will inspire you to put your book down and your running shoes on

As the temperature drops, it’s easy to wrap yourself up in a blanket and settle onto the couch with a good read—so we’ve compiled some books that may be just the motivation you need to stay active throughout the winter season. Explore the science behind putting one foot in front of the other, the best tips for biking anywhere and everywhere, the mechanics of how our bodies move, and even more below.

Running Smart: How Science Can Improve Your Endurance and Performance by Mariska van Sprundel

Conventional wisdom about running is passed down like folklore (and sometimes contradicts itself): the right kind of shoe prevents injury—or running barefoot, like our prehistoric ancestors, is best; eat a high-fat diet—and also carbo load before a race; running cures depression—but it might be addictive; running can save your life—although it can also destroy your knee cartilage. Often it’s hard to know what to believe. In Running Smart, Mariska van Sprundel, a science journalist and recreational runner who has had her fair share of injuries, sets out to explore the science behind such claims.

“Even if you don’t enjoy running, you’ll be enlightened and entertained by this fast-paced, informative, and comprehensive tour of the science of running and its effects on the body. You might also run farther and faster.” —Daniel E. Lieberman, author of Exercised

Effective Cycling by John Forester

Effective Cycling is an essential handbook for cyclists from beginner to expert, whether daily commuters or weekend pleasure trippers. This thoroughly updated seventh edition offers cyclists the information they need for riding a bicycle under all conditions: on congested city streets or winding mountain roads, day or night, rain or shine. It describes the sheer physical joy of cycling and provides the nuts-and-bolts details of how to choose a bicycle, maintain it, and use it in the most efficient manner.

“John Forester’s seminal, expansive, and tireless work in educating bicyclists and protecting the rights of bicyclists as drivers of vehicles has been incalculably valuable to me and countless thousands of others who pedal for fun and utility.” —Wayne Pein, Bicycling Matters

Surf Craft: Design and the Culture by Richard Kenvin

Surfboards were once made of wood and shaped by hand, objects of both cultural and recreational significance. Today most surfboards are mass-produced with fiberglass and a stew of petrochemicals, moving (or floating) billboards for athletes and their brands, emphasizing the commercial rather than the cultural. Surf Craft maps this evolution, examining surfboard design and craft with 150 color images and an insightful text. From the ancient Hawaiian alaia, the traditional board of the common people, to the unadorned boards designed with mathematical precision (but built by hand) by Bob Simmons, to the store-bought longboards popularized by the 1959 surf-exploitation movie Gidget, board design reflects both aesthetics and history. The decline of traditional alaia board riding is not only an example of a lost art but also a metaphor for the disintegration of traditional culture after the Republic of Hawaii was overthrown and annexed in the 1890s.

“In his gorgeous and learned new book, Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding, Richard Kenvin makes a strong case that surfboards should be considered works of art.” —John McMurtrie, San Francisco Chronicle

Dance edited by André Lepecki

This collection surveys the choreographic turn in the artistic imagination from the 1950s onwards, and in doing so outlines the philosophies of movement instrumental to the development of experimental dance. By introducing and discussing the concepts of embodiment and corporeality, choreopolitics, and the notion of dance in an expanded field, Dance establishes the aesthetics and politics of dance as a major impetus in contemporary culture. It offers testimonies and writings by influential visual artists whose work has taken inspiration from dance and choreography.

“As he states in the introduction, Lepecki is trying to diminish misperceptions of dance and dance-makers ‘as non-verbal artists creating a supposedly ‘visceral’ art whose sole purpose is to move gracefully, flawlessly, to the sound of music.’” —Publishers Weekly

Biomechanics of Movement: The Science of Sports, Robotics, and Rehabilitation by Thomas K. Uchida and Scott L. Delp

How do Olympic sprinters run so fast? Why do astronauts adopt a bounding gait on the moon? How do running shoes improve performance while preventing injuries? This engaging and generously illustrated book answers these questions by examining human and animal movement through the lens of mechanics. The authors present simple conceptual models to study walking and running and apply mechanical principles to a range of interesting examples. They explore the biology of how movement is produced, examining the structure of a muscle down to its microscopic force-generating motors. Drawing on their deep expertise, the authors describe how to create simulations that provide insight into muscle coordination during walking and running, suggest treatments to improve function following injury, and help design devices that enhance human performance.

Motion and Representation: The Language of Human Movement by Nicolás Salazar Sutil

In Motion and Representation, Nicolás Salazar Sutil considers the representation of human motion through languages of movement and technological mediation. He argues that technology transforms the representation of movement and that representation in turn transforms the way we move and what we understand to be movement. Humans communicate through movement, physically and mentally. To record and capture integrated movement (both bodily and mental), by means of formal language and technological media, produces a material record and cultural expression of our evolving kinetic minds and identities.

“Bringing together movement and mind, thought and gesture, Salazar Sutil shows us that these languages have both inventive and disturbing capacities for the way we live our lives.” —Celia Lury, University of Warwick

Explore new books from the Press