5. Coaching: Thor Nilsen, Rowing’s Global Coach by Christopher Dodd
Written by rowing historian Christopher Dodd, this biography walks through the many anecdotes of Nilsen, a coach who brought about a new era to the sport of rowing. The book weaves a magnificent story of coaching, humour and the ultimate quest to develop the sport. Nilsen has influenced countless coaches and athletes both on and off the water, including the eight Olympic gold medallists he personally coached and the more than 40 World Champions. 

4. Personal development: Mind over water by Craig Lambert
This is not your typical rowing book. It does not tell the tale of elite athletes striving for Olympic gold, but it does paint an amateur’s view of the sport. Lambert uses thick descriptions and lengthy prose to describe his passion for all aspects of rowing. The book is sprinkled with inspirational quotes, making it fall into the ‘personal development’ category.  

3. Olympic: The Kiwi Pair by Eric Murray and Hamish Bond
The book is an insight into the personality, the determination, the teamwork and the sacrifice that are necessary to shape elite international rowers. Told in the first-person perspective from Bond and Murray themselves, it takes the reader along for the ride, making them feel as if they experienced these years alongside the duo. It divulges some of the mucky past, shines light on some of the cobwebs, but it also highlights the triumphs and the ultimate incredible bond between Bond and Murray – the Kiwi Pair.

2. Technical: Biomechanics of rowing, Valery Kleshnev
Written by one of the world’s top rowing scientists, this book uses data to discuss various technical theories in the sport of rowing. The book addresses measurements and technique as well as equipment and rigging. It offers a scientifically driven analysis of some of the most debated technical differences in the rowing stroke, with numbers to back up the theory.

1. Historical: The Boys in the Boat, Daniel Brown
This fabulously written non-fiction tells the story of the nine American boys who fought for gold at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany. It paints a vivid picture of the life of each member of the crew, focusing on their journey through the University of Washington through to the Olympic Games. It is intertwined with the story of Hitler’s rise to power and the unprecedented actions of the Nazis in the lead-up to the 1936 Games. The Boys in the Boat is one of the most popular rowing books of all time.

Have you read these top five? Here is an additional list of rowing books by category.


A Lifetime in a Race, Matthew Pinsent

Assault on Lake Casitas, Brad Alan Lewis

Olympic Obsession, Martin Cross

Chariots and Horses, Jason Dorland

Katherine Grainger: The Autobiography, Katherine Grainger

Four men in a boat, Tim Foster

If Not Now, When? Greg Searle

Gold Medal Flapjack, Silver Medal Life, Alison Mowbray

The Power of More, Marnie McBean

Unsinkable, Silken Laumann

The Four Year Olympian, Jeremiah Brown

La course à la faim, Jeremie Azou

The Amateurs, David Halberstam

Don’t Rock the Boat, Peter Wilkins

Inspired, Steve Redgrave

My Life on the Water, Fabiana Beltrame


Rowing and Sculling, Rosie Mayglothling

Nuts and Bolts of Rigging, Mike Davenport

Hanlan’s Spirit: Training for Flow, Jimmy Joy

Steve Fairbairn On Rowing, Steve Fairbairn

More Power: The Story of Jurgen Grobler, Hugh Matheson & Christopher Dodd

Training for the Complete Rower, Paul Thompson

Rowing and Sculling, Bill Sayer

Rowing Faster, Volker Nolte 


Thomi Keller: A Life in Sport, David Owen

A stroke in Time, Gerard Doran

Bonnie Brave Boat Rowers, Christopher Dodd

Red Rose Crew, Daniel J. Boyne

The Oarsman, Scott Patterson

Coastal/Open-water rowing

Tosende Stille, Janice Jakait

Rowing the Pacific, Mick Dawson

Four Mums in a Boat, Janette Benaddi

Stop Drifting, Start Rowing, Roz Savage

The Crossing, James Cracknell & Ben Fogle


Blood Over Water, James & David Livingston

Something in the Water (O’Donovans), Kieran McCarthy

Flat water Tuesday, Ron Irwin

Zweier Ohne, Dirk Kurbjuweit

Schlagmann, Evi Simeoni

The Shell Game, Stephen Kiesling

The Seven Seat, Daniel J. Boyne

Head of the River, Pip Harry 

True Blue: the Oxford Boat Race Mutiny, Daniel Topolski with Patrick Robinson

Course Correction, Ginny Gilder