The books that shaped Lauren Steadman

Posted by for Books

The Paralympian shares the stories she raced through.

Lauren Steadman was just 14 when she qualified as a swimmer for her first Paralympics in Beijing in 2008: “I had to drop seven seconds and it was a tall order. I remember touching the wall and seeing my parents jumping in the stands.”

Lauren, now 27, went on to compete as a swimmer in two Paralympics before switching to the paratriathlon at Rio 2016 – where she won silver. She’s also studied psychology and has a master’s in business, not to mention being one of Strictly Come Dancing’s most delightful contestants ever, making it to the semi-finals in 2018. Next up is Tokyo…

However, it’s books that remain one of Lauren’s biggest passions: “I like reading when I’m really stressed or have a lot on my mind,” she says. “But, once I’ve read and enjoyed something, I won’t read it again. I’m like… next!” Here, she shares her favourite finds.

  • HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE BY JK ROWLING

    Harry Potter
    Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling

    “The Harry Potter series is such an escape from reality. What I loved about them is that when Harry chooses to be friends with Ron and Hermione over Malfoy, it reminded me that it doesn’t matter where people are from; it’s all about heart. I was never picked on at school because I loved sport so much. Kids thought, ‘Well, we need Lauren on our team and one arm isn’t stopping her.’ It was the same with Strictly – there was no, ‘She’s got one arm’ and I thought if that’s one thing this show does, then that’s cool.” 

    £5.99, Bloomsbury

  • THE FEAR BUBBLE BY ANT MIDDLETON

    The Fear Bubble
    The Fear Bubble by Ant Middleton

    “About five years ago, nerves were consuming me. I’d worry whether I was doing enough training, what everyone else was doing and I’d feel physically sick. Then I realised the only thing I can control in a race is myself. I was sceptical about this book by the SAS: Who Dares Wins presenter, but his concept is: it doesn’t matter what you’re dealing with, there’s no point worrying until you’re in the moment as you’ll just be wasting energy. That’s what I’d learned to do.” 

    £20, HarperCollins

  • NOUGHTS AND CROSSES BY MALORIE BLACKMAN

    Noughts and Crosses
    Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman

    “This series really made me question things when I was 10 years old. It’s set in a world where black people (Crosses) and white people (Noughts) aren’t allowed to be together and it made me realise these things are still going on and how important it is for a person to have their own voice. My dad will say, ‘I’ll give you an opinion but whether you use it or not is your decision’. It’s really helped me trust myself.” 

    £6.49, Penguin

  • BLACK, WHITE AND GOLD BY KELLY HOLMES

    Black, White and Gold
    Black, White And Gold by Kelly Holmes

    “I took part in a swimming competition when I was 12 and the retired British disability swimming head coach was there and she said, ‘I think you’ve really got something.’ I’d never dreamt of becoming an athlete but I do remember watching Dame Kelly Holmes do the double gold in 2004, and thinking ‘How cool is that?’ Now she’s a friend and I love her determination and passion for mental health. You can get to some dark places as an athlete and she has been so open about her own self-harming.”

    £10.99, Ebury

  • THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ BY HEATHER MORRIS

    The Tattooist of Auschwitz
    The Tattooist Of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

    “This is based on a true story of a man at Auschwitz who tattoos numbers on all of the inmates. When he falls in love with a beautiful woman he begins to realise what’s actually taking place around him. It’s easy to think, ‘This didn’t happen in my time’ but it’s a reminder of how privileged we are. It’s made me want to visit the camps, even though it will be heart-wrenching.” 

    £6.99, Zaffre

  • ME BEFORE YOU BY JOJO MOYES

    Me Before You Jojo Moyes
    Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

    “I love this, partly because of the disability connection. It’s about a guy who gets hit by a motorbike and is paralysed from the neck down. He becomes resentful and bitter but falls in love with his carer. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t have a happy ending. I like that she treats him as an equal.” 

    £6.99, Penguin

  • SAPIENS BY YUVAL NOAH HARARI

    Sapiens Yuval Noah Harari
    Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

    “It explores how humans have been able to do things no other species has done because we’re able to handle abstract ideas such as religion and politics, and how 25% of our energy powers the brain. You need to train your socks off to reach the Olympics, but it’s also down to thinking, ‘I’ve got this’.” 

    £6.99, Vintage

  • THE FAULT IN OUR STARS BY JOHN GREEN

    The Fault InOur Stars
    The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

    “This is about a boy and girl who meet at a cancer support group and start dating. My grandma and grandad passed away from cancer. Getting support is a weight off your shoulders. I’ve learned to not push myself to do things. We’re not just here to work, there are so many things to see and do.” 

    £7.99, Penguin

A three-time Paralympian and Rio 2016 silver medallist, Lauren is the current paratriathlon world champion – a title she’s won three times. When she’s at home in Portsmouth she can often be found cooking Jamie Oliver recipes for friends – ever competitive, she makes them rate her meals out of 10.


Image Credits: Publishers

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Francesca Brown

Francesca Brown is books editor for Stylist magazine and Stylist Loves; she also compiles the Style List on a weekly basis. She is a self-confessed HBO abuser and has a wide selection of grey sweatshirts. Honestly, you just can’t have enough. @franabouttown

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