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Nonfiction Monday: What I Talk about when I Talk about Running

Memoir of Haruki Murakami

Iphigene here.

Nonfiction Monday is being hosted this week by Amy O’Quinn.

“I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run…I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change…all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative, often self-centered nature that still doubts itself—that, when troubles occurs tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny about the situation…”

I’m a Haruki Murakami reader. Though I haven’t read all his works, I’ve read most of them. When this book came out, I was dying to get myself a copy. I surfed the web for book reviews, some were so-so, and others were critical. According to a few reviews the book was too discordant, informal and less superior to his works of fiction. But I think some of the reviews missed the mark and read the book with a misguided expectation.

I have to agree it isn’t like his novels. This doesn’t swoon you over or tickle your brain. It’s a straightforward journal-like compilation of a book. But if you really read the book, at the prologue the author explains what the book really is. It’s a journal. It’s supposed to capture his thoughts and insights as they came. What must be appreciated about this seemingly disjointed book is that it opens the reader to the inner workings of the author’s mind. If you are a fan, then it makes you understand him more.

Another review I read said something about it being useless, snidely commenting that no one cares to know about the thoughts of the author on running. Murakami called it a memoir and any memoir is slightly self-indulgent; but whether one admits it or not the fact you picked up his memoir speaks of how you care to know about his life and his thoughts. As a reader, I enjoyed the parts wherein he veers away from talking about running to other insights and or thoughts. It was at these points that I could relate to his work and his life. Like any book, a good book to a reader isn’t in the technicalities, but in the author’s ability to involve the reader.

This book isn’t for everyone. It is first and foremost for people who know Murakami and who want to understand the man behind the fiction. It is also for runners. I have a feeling that runners could relate to his experiences—the challenges and pleasure in the sport. It is for loners, for those who seek to be understood. This book resonated with me, as I am all three. It is an incredible experience to able to read something and feel as if you are looking in the mirror.

The Author

I applaud Murakami for his stubbornness and his unbending will to challenge himself. I envy him for it. I have yet to be able to say that I do things because I want to, not because someone told me to. That will be the day. Until then, I will have to satisfy myself with reading Murakami’s work. This book’s strong points are its candor, humor, insight and wisdom. We can criticize it for its technicalities or literary-worthiness, but that would be a waste of time. Murakami was never for that and he wouldn’t care about it. All that matters to him is his reader connects to his work. I suggest that the skeptic pick up this book and read it for what is it—-a journal written by a rather famous author. If it doesn’t work for you, then I suppose we can’t force the issue.

Reading Challenge Update: 2 of 7

13 comments on “Nonfiction Monday: What I Talk about when I Talk about Running

  1. I have not read Murakami’s fiction, but I read this book in June and loved it. As a person who is a runner and teaches writing, I could absolutely relate to it. I think your review does a terrific job of sharing the strengths of the book. One of my favorite parts is when he runs the marathon in Greece. It is a fascinating read.


    • Its great to hear that someone who isn’t familiar with Murakami enjoyed this book. I think a lot of the reviews on this book were making a very unfair comparison between a work of nonfiction from a work of fiction.
      Yes, the part on Greece we indeed wonderful, next to that I liked his discussion on learning how to swim right. Thanks for dropping by Jeff.


  2. Thanks for the recommendation. This is a new author for me. I’ll likely look for his fiction first.
    Apples with Many Seeds


    • Hi Tammy,
      You’re welcome. If you ever try his fiction and you want to break into his ‘world’ gently i suggest Norwegian Wood, Wind Up Bird Chronicles and maybe Kafka on the Shore. His short stories are available on line if you do a Google search it might get you a better idea of his writing.
      thanks for the visit and the read. 🙂


  3. I’ve never read Murakami. What novel would you suggest I start with?


    • Hi Doret,
      It all depends on how open you are in terms of ‘strangeness’ in fiction. Start with Norwegian Wood its what made him immensely popular. Critics love Wind Up Bird Chronicles. His most recent works Kafka on the Shore and After Dark are also interesting to look into.
      I often do author sampling by reading their short-fiction/stories. You might want to check online for some of his stories to get a feel of his style and see if its your cup of tea.

      Hope you enjoy his work.


  4. I’ve not read this book, but it sounds very interesting. I’ve enjoyed hosting Nonfiction Monday today, and I look forward to seeing everyone’s posts. Have a wonderful day!


    • Hi Amy,
      It is an interesting book. I think it all depends on how the reader approaches the book. I liked it while some felt it fell short. Thanks for hosting!!!!


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  7. I was encouraged to read that you are a runner and that you recommended the book to other runners. To me running and writing are very similar in their attraction. They are both individual efforts requiring dedication and focus and a willingness to experience the moment. Yet oddly, they can work at cross purposes because they can both be so consuming. If I am really in the writing zone, I can barely tear myself away to go for a run even though I know I need to. Then again, running often clears my head and inspires my thoughts to be captured later when I am writing again.

    By the way, I have written a running poem that is published on the Blackwood Press website at . There is one spelling error in the poem that is bugging me. But I enjoyed writing the poem.


    • Hi Bill,
      Reading your comment….I do recommend you pick up the book. I think you and Murakami share the same experience in term so of the relationship between running and writing.
      Thanks for digging out this post. Do let me know how you found the book once you’ve read it.
      Will check the poem in a while. thanks much.


  8. Pingback: Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami | Alex In Leeds

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