My Thoughts on Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It's the same with our lives. Just because there's an end doesn't mean existence has meaning.

 I'm not a runner.  I ran for a short period of time when I was in graduate school in Tucson, Arizona.  I had recently lost a bunch of weight and wanted to lose more, and the only thing I could think to do that would really, surely challenge my body was to run.  So I did.  At first I could only run like half a block.  Then, all the way around the block. I started in the winter, and by the time it started to get too hot to run in Tucson, I was running three miles a day.  I was the kid that always had a note to excuse me from the mile in gym class, so this was quite an accomplishment.  And then I stopped, and now I can't run around the block again.  So it goes...

Murakami's book tells stories kind of like the one I just told, but his are better, and he runs a lot, and has for many years.  The first half of the book ruminates on running, but it is also a memoir. I enjoyed learning a little about how Murakami came to be a novelist in this section.  In the second half of the book,  the focus on running, and in particular, on preparation for specific races, really increases. It is a short book, a little under two hundred pages, and the pacing is remarkably different than Murakami's twisting, turning fiction.

Some of my favorite passages in the book were those that made comparisons between Murakami's life as a runner and his life as a novelist.  My least favorite where those in which Murakami discusses at length his insecurities and the reasons he is unlikeable (according to him anyway).  I think that this book painted for me a very different picture of Murakami than I had imagined.  There are some really curmudgeon-y passages here guys.  I have read a few of his novels, and I have loved them.  I didn't love this like I loved his fiction, but I am glad that I picked this up for the Murakami Challenge.  I wasn't blown away by it, but I wanted something different, which is what I got. 

Title: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Author: Haruki Murakami
 Publisher: Vintage
Date: 2009
Genre: Memoir, Sports

179 pages.
Where I got it: Bought for Kindle
 Challenges: Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge


  1. I've had this sitting on my TBR pile since I picked it up for a dollar during the Borders liquidation. I'm a fan of Murakami, but the thought of reading a book about running has been a bit... I dunno, meh-inducing. I'm glad you liked it and maybe that's the bit of inspiration I need to pick it up and go. It's not like it's that long either :)

  2. Murakami is a secret curmudgeon?! Interesting! I feel like 'one day!' I'll take up running, and then I'll read this and be like 'Yes Murakami! You know everything!' but erm, until then? I'm not all that enthralled by the thought of this, which is odd because I love Murakami so SO much.

  3. I have had this on my shelf for a few months and have been saving it for when I need some exercise motivation. Glad you liked it!

  4. Like you, I found this very interesting because he painted himself in a different light from what I expected. I really enjoyed the book, partly because I'm not a runner and it gave me insight into people who love to run. I'm also a fan of Murakami. Good review.

  5. I have been looking forward to reading this one. I've read most of his fiction so I'd like to have some insight into the man behind the prose.I'm not a runner either but I'd like to read Murakami's take on it.

  6. I enjoyed this one too -- especially how he ties together running and being a novelist. Plus the ultramarathon was interesting -- albeit totally insane.

    I've started to explore his fiction but haven't gotten to the really weird stuff yet.

    And I see you are reading the husband-wife team of Chabon and Waldman now. Can you imagine that much talent in one household?

  7. I loved how he likened running and being a novelist ... that was one of the best parts of the book for me. Also his experience with the insanity of a running an ultramarathon.

    I read this before reading any of his fiction books, which I then dipped a toe into. I still haven't found the complete weirdness that everyone talks about but I'm going to find it soon.

    And I see you are reading Bad Mother -- that was a thought-provoking read. Oh ... and you're reading her husband too! : )


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