Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas - book cover
Death & Grief
  • Publisher : Dial Press Trade Paperback
  • Published : 04 Jan 2022
  • Pages : 352
  • ISBN-10 : 1984801147
  • ISBN-13 : 9781984801142
  • Language : English

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, and Other Big Ideas

The Olympic runner, actress, filmmaker and writer Alexi Pappas shares what she's learned about confidence, self-reliance, mental health, embracing pain, and achieving your dreams.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY REAL SIMPLE • "Heartbreaking and hilarious."-Mindy Kaling • "A beautiful read."-Ruth Reichl • "Essential guidance to anyone dreaming big dreams."-Shalane Flanagan • "I couldn't put it down."-Adam Grant

run like a bravey
sleep like a baby
dream like a crazy
replace can't with maybe

When "Renaissance runner" (New York Times) Alexi Pappas-Olympic athlete, actress, filmmaker, and writer-was four years old, her mother died by suicide, drastically altering the course of Pappas's life and setting her on a search for female role models. When her father signed his bereaved daughter up for sports teams as a way to keep her busy, female athletes became the first women Pappas looked up to, and her Olympic dream was born. At the same time, Pappas had big creative dreams, too: She wanted to make movies, write, and act. Despite setbacks and hardships, Pappas refused to pick just one lane. She put in a tremendous amount of hard work and wouldn't let anything stand in her way until she achieved all of her dreams, however unrelated they may seem to outsiders. In a single year, 2016, she made her Olympic debut as a distance runner and wrote, directed, and starred in her first feature film. 

But great highs are often accompanied by deep lows; with joy comes sorrow. In Bravey, Pappas fearlessly and honestly shares her battle with post-Olympic depression and describes how she emerged on the other side as a thriving and self-actualized woman. Unflinching, exuberant, and always entertaining, Bravey showcases Pappas's signature, charming voice as she reflects upon the touchstone moments in her life and the lessons that have powered her career as both an athlete and an artist-foremost among them, how to be brave. 

Pappas's experiences reveal how we can all overcome hardship, befriend pain, celebrate victory, relish the loyalty found in teammates, and claim joy. In short: how every one of us can become a bravey.

Editorial Reviews

"Inspiring . . . delightful . . . a wise blueprint for all the rest of us to become bravey too."-People

"Movingly honest . . . an engaging portrayal of resilience, proving challenges limit you only if you let them."-Real Simple

"A thoughtful, beautiful read; breathtakingly honest and poignantly insightful."-Refinery29

"[Pappas] writes with a poet's economy of word and a filmmaker's grasp of narrative."-Runner's World

"Vulnerable, real, motivating."-A Cup of Jo

"Bravey will make you laugh, while also inspiring readers to reject the limitations society seeks to impose on us."-PopSugar

"Wise and beautiful . . . After surviving a gritty, jaw-clenching 2020, Bravey feels like a giant exhale."-Women's Running

"[A] cross-domain talent . . . Pappas incisively recounts emotional highs and lows."-Psychology Today

"Pappas's extraordinary tale is skillfully told and profoundly inspiring."-Publishers Weekly

"Inspiring, yes, but more to the point: genuinely empowering. An utterly winning collection of personal essays."-Kirkus (starred review)

"If you need a shot of courage, resilience, and motivation, look no further than Bravey."-Tara Schuster

"This is not only an inspiring look inside the mind of a gifted athlete-it's an arresting debut by a gifted writer. Alexi Pappas reveals how we can find the courage to face our fears, the grit to achieve our goals, and the resilience to bounce forward after failure and heartbreak. I couldn't put it down."-Adam Grant

"Alexi Pappas is a genuine and vulnerable narrator, and as she fledges from nest after nest, she makes plenty of falls. Like any story about real human growth, hers is not linear or neat. But through it all she stays open to what comes next-as good a description of what it means to be brave as I've ever heard."-Alison Bechdel

"I've always believed that your greatest tragedy can become be your greatest strength, and Alexi is living proof. Be brave, read Bravey, be a Bravey."-Jay Duplass

"Bravey is at once a memoir of an inspiring young life-in-progress, and also a practical how-to manual of willpower and overcoming. Wish I could have read it as a younger person!"-Richard Linklater

"Pappas not only has a powerful way with words, but also uses the stories and lessons in this beautiful book as an intimate view into who she is. If you read this book, then you know Alexi, and knowing Alexi is truly a gift."-Mary Cain

"Bravey heralds the debut of a s...

Readers Top Reviews

Erica & Jeff Coviell
Starting in a dark place, Alexi describes how SHE found her way to where she is now. An easy read with just enough honesty and humor to make you feel like she's telling you this story from your kitchen table. Anyone who has goals, whether you have experienced trauma in your life or not, should read this book.
Nina Freitas
I have never written an Amazon review before but when something is so poetically beautiful and yet filled with tragedy, when something makes you giggle and laugh, while making your heart ache with sadness and your eyes well with tears ... well then you have to. Alexi Pappas' Bravey transports you from your couch into the most intimate moments in her life and her vulnerability teaches you so much about both her life and a lens to reflect on your own. This is a MUST READ! You will not want to put it down. And as a PT, this is my newest recommendation to all my youth athletes (whether that means your age or your mental age)! Thank you Alexi Pappas for this treasure
Being from Eugene, OR where Alexi Pappas ran for the University of Oregon I was excited to read this book. I loved her movies Tracktown and Olympic Dreams, and I love this book even more. The book allows her to go more into depth about how she navigates through life. Although she writes about struggles and sad topics (mental illness, losing her mom), the over all theme of the book is one of resiliency and grit. Humor infuses her story and some of her sentences make me laugh out loud, they are so well crafted. It is a special treat to read about running and the Olympics and to have an insider's view into that world. I hope to read more from this author.
Caitlin M.
A refreshingly sober account of an extraordinary life that is both aspirational and, somehow, endlessly relatable. Alexi has managed to translate remarkable loss, pain and achievement into a language we all understand. With a good sense of humor and a self-awareness atypical of many celebrities, she's whittled from her own life a set of tools for each of us to use in ours--at work, at home, in our relationships and even in the kitchen! (Pot roast!) This book will remind you that even the sourest lemons can make sweet, sweet lemonade; or better yet, something brand new, dreamed up by you. It'll make you want to muster the courage to dream, and live, bigger--your own way.
Caroline C.
I finished Bravey last week – in about two days because I couldn't put it down – and it's still on my mind. I'm neither a runner nor a creative, but I found Alexi's writing, reflections and lessons touching, relatable and haunting. Bravey is made up of a series of varying length personal essays, with titles like "Dad-Sad", "The Mentor Buffet", and "Four Memories of My Mother" (a few of my favorites). Some of the content is extremely difficult, like the fractured memories of her mentally ill mother and Alexi's vivid recollections of her own battle with depression many years later. There's also lots of pragmatic life advice embedded throughout that I've already adopted, like understanding that willpower is a finite resource, which must be managed to accomplish our biggest goals. But mostly, this book is filled with wisdom and beauty and optimism and compassion and love – for her family, for braveys, for the mentors who guided her along the way and for her younger self. All in all, I highly, highly recommend this book and feel grateful for having read it. (I listened to Bravey on Audible & also ordered a copy of the physical book to have on my bookshelf; both are highly recommended!)

Short Excerpt Teaser

Four Memories of My Mother

I used to feed the ducks that lived in the lagoon behind our house. My dad went with me sometimes, but most often I went alone-the lagoon bordered our backyard and it was easy for me to slip away undetected. My favorite day to feed the ducks was Saturday, which was when moms and daughters were out in force. I'm sure other people were out there, too, but I have always cared most about moms and daughters.

Moms were aliens to me, foreign creatures I could only see outside of my home. I'd observe them from my vantage point atop a pile of wood chips as they walked down the bike path along the lagoon's edge. Obsessively watching those women was a compulsion stronger than being glued to Saturday-morning cartoons.

The moms would always walk with a bag of stale bread in one hand and their daughter's small hand in the other. I so badly wanted to experience that feeling of having my hand held by a woman who was walking half a step ahead of me. Wherever she was going, we'd head there together.

The mom-daughter duos all blend together in my mind: the daughter watching as the mom separates pieces of stale bread for her to throw into the water, as if the child can't tear up bread on her own. If the ducks ever got too close for comfort, the mom would swoop in, a protector shielding her precious youngling from the squawking assailants. She'd shoo the scary ducks away and then crouch down and look at her little girl closely, their faces in a vacuum away from the rest of the world, and tell her that everything was okay. She'd wipe the tears off her daughter's cheeks and brush the wood chips off her daughter's ankles as if to make her whole again. It didn't even seem like it was a special occasion that the daughter was being comforted by her mother; it was as natural and innocuous as breathing. In those moments I wanted very badly to climb into the bubble they created, to feel the warm air inside. I felt resentful but still curious, unable to look away, like when you're little and you have to watch your brother open presents on his birthday.

I liked to watch how the moms talked to other moms, acting as translators if their kids wanted to add anything to the conversation, always so understanding of each other, nodding and smiling and laughing. I thought maybe my mom didn't realize she could have gone to the park to find people to talk to.

I liked how the moms would listen to their children's overly descriptive monologues as if they were sharing critical information before the mom would tactfully decide whether or not to insert her own wisdom. One of the most common exchanges was when a kid would tell their mom they were hungry, but when the mom would offer healthy snacks like apple slices or celery sticks, the kid would say NO to all of these options so the mom would counter with, "Well then, you must not be very hungry after all!" Then a negotiation would ensue, and the kid and the mom would come to an agreement on the ratio of apple slices to gummy worms the child was allowed to eat. I never negotiated with my dad for anything and I had no idea how these kids could negotiate with their mothers--what leverage could a child possibly have? I would have gladly eaten those apples with the cores already cut out!

Every little girl watches and looks up to the older women in her orbit. There's an innate desire to admire them and to want to be like them. I know this because my cousin and I used to spy on my aunt while she was getting ready to go out to dinner, imitating her with our fingers as she strapped on her bra. Little girls linger while their mom is on the phone with her friends, soaking in the gossip that they'll most definitely misinterpret and regurgitate to their friends. Little girls stand very close and watch their moms in the bathroom stall at the airport. They look closely at their moms while their moms clean them up. These are looks of deep need, as if their mothers always make everything okay.

I imagine all little girls as potatoes, wondrous nuggets of raw potential just waiting to be shaped by their mom-chefs. Whether your mom tenderly styles you into a Hasselback dish, tosses you in the microwave, or is totally absent, she is going to affect you. My mother took her own life before there was much time for her to shape me into anything. I was four years old, almost five. The greatest legacy she left me was her suicide. I try to imagine what it feels like to be washed, dried, peeled--to be turned over under warm water, then pushed gently into an oven and basted every now and again. But it is another thing entirely to never be touched at all; to be left alone in the cabinet to sprout eyes and fend for yourself.

Before she died, my mother was in and out of my life like a ja...