Monday, August 15, 2011

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Note (which I will repeat as long as I'm on a roll): I am currently in the mood to write and am attempting a little catch-up reviewing. I'm planning to go to weekly reading updates on Tuesday, August 23.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami was on my wish list for at least 2 years and it seemed like I was finally getting close to acquiring a copy from Paperback Swap, but when I found a copy at Borders I snatched it up so fast you'd think I was trying to save it from death by bus or dog-chewing or something.

Nah, I just really, really wanted to read it. And, I whipped through it pretty much as soon as I carried it through the door.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is writings about Murakami's many years as a runner (which he wrote within the span of a single year), his experiences and feelings about running and how his running connects to his writing. Although I haven't been able to run in recent years, I guess you never lose that feeling of being a runner at heart. I found myself nodding a lot, thinking how cool it was to read similar thoughts to my own.

Do I think non-runners would enjoy What I Talk About, etc.? Well . . . to be honest, not unless you're truly curious about his thoughts on writing -- and even then, he doesn't talk about the process he personally goes through in any detail, although he does mention the elements he thinks writers need in order to be successful and how he organizes his time. Still, even if you're a writer, you might find yourself shaking your head if you really hate running because that's mostly what the book is about -- and running seems to be a love/hate activity. Near as I can tell, you're either on one side of the spectrum or the other. I'm on the "love" end.

Although I've never been as obsessed as Murakami (he has run many marathons, a number of triathlons and even an ultra-marathon), I get his thoughts, for the most part, and I don't think anyone can help but be impressed by his total commitment to whatever he does. Dedicated fans of Murakami may enjoy the book for the peek into his life, but I specifically recommend What I Talk About When I Talk About Running to runners, past and present.

Update: Former blogger Kookie is not a runner and she had this to say about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

"I hate running, but I loved this book. I think his experiences in his sport of choice carry over nicely to other sports. Plus, he has such a pleasant, conversational style. I really enjoy his work a lot."

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kookie!

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  1. Hmm, I have enjoyed Murakami's books but as I'm not a runner I don't know that this one would hold my attention much. I think I'll stick with his novels instead :)

  2. Um, okie dokie, I guess I missed the part of you being a running enthusiast, huh. Good to know. ( I will pass on this...)

  3. I've seen this one around. Since I've taken up running, maybe I should read it.

  4. Iliana,

    I really can't say whether people who dislike running would like this particular book, but I have a strong feeling that it would bore most to tears. I loved it. But, at times, even though I used to run and still have the desire, I was mentally shaking my head at his obsession. I think he said an ultra marathon is 60 miles?!!!! Goodness.


    Really? Did I neglect to tell you that I used to run and nearly died of low potassium? Huh. Well, now you know. I still want to get back to running, but so far I haven't succeeded. I'm not giving up, though. I don't think you ever lose the desire to run if you love it. Yep, might be a skipster for you. :)


    I didn't know you've taken up running. Cool! I'm doing other exercise, at the moment, but I keep hoping that once I lose some weight I'll be able to get back to it. Yeah, if you enjoy running, give it a go. It's fascinating to read what he's done, over the years and how running and writing connect, for this particular author.

  5. I hate running, but I loved this book. I think his experiences in his sport of choice carry over nicely to other sports. Plus, he has such a pleasant, conversational style. I really enjoy his work a lot.

  6. Kookie,

    I know you hate running! I'm so glad you spoke up. I'm going to tack on your comment at the end of my review because I really felt kind of clueless as to whether or not anyone who truly dislikes running would enjoy reading it. Good to know!!

  7. I have heard good things about this book. I was going to stick with his novels, but since the library doesn't seem to carry many of his novels I should read this book... They do have it... I just haven't got around to it yet.

  8. Kelly,

    Oh, you lucky stiff. You have such a great library. I've been slowly collecting Murakami's books and the Borders closing has really helped me out.

  9. I wish I was a runner but I don't know if it's every going to happen. I don't mind a short easy jog now and then but I've always hated long distance.

  10. Alyce,

    There's nothing wrong with jogging a little if that's what you like. I never ran huge distances. I think 8 miles was about my top mileage in a day. That was partly because of our heat, though. Some people can handle running long distance in our dangerous heat. I am not one of them.

  11. I really miss being able to run. Every time I feel like my knees can handle it, I run a few miles and the next thing you know, I can barely hobble up and down the stairs for weeks afterward! I used to run 5 miles a day, 5 days a week. I've run 2 half marathons and dozens of 10ks. Now I either bike or walk, but it's just not the same. I'd like to read this book, but I wonder if it will only make me more unhappy that I can't get that runner's high again. ;)

  12. Les,

    I have the same problem -- knee trouble that keeps me from getting back to running regularly. Reading the book didn't make me sad, although I do miss running (yes, that runner's high -- how can anyone not love that?!). I really enjoyed it for the sake of reading similar thoughts to my own about running. I think you'd like it.


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