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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running [Paperback]

Haruki Murakami , Philip Gabriel
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 April 2009

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he'd completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing.

Equal parts travelogue, training log, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and settings ranging from Tokyo's Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston.

By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, this is a must-read for fans of this masterful yet private writer as well as for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099526158
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099526155
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (127 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949. Following the publication of his first novel in Japanese in 1979, he sold the jazz bar he ran with his wife and became a full-time writer. It was with the publication of Norwegian Wood - which has to date sold more than 4 million copies in Japan alone - that the author was truly catapulted into the limelight. Known for his surrealistic world of mysterious (and often disappearing) women, cats, earlobes, wells, Western culture, music and quirky first-person narratives, he is now Japan's best-known novelist abroad.

Product Description


"There's a wandering, digressive, free-form quality to the writing - like improvised jazz - familiar to anyone who has read the novels, with their labyrinth plots, perplexed, solitary male protagonists, meaningful coincidences and dream-like sequences. The narrative voice here is as persuasive as in any of the novels, candid and jaunty, and you finish the book charmed by the simple, unaffected grace of Murakami"--The Observer

"Comical, charming and philosophical... an excellent memoir"--GQ

"[Murakami] says no-one can warm to a character like his, but when he talks like this, on the run, we keep pace and pay rapt attention"--The Times

"Murakami manages to set a course that takes in views of all literature, sport and the uphill journey of ageing, all with a modest fluency that covers the ground without raising a sweat"--The Independent

Book Description

The first, fascinating insight into the life of this internationally bestselling writer

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
196 of 203 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen running, Zen writing 10 Aug 2008
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Haruki Murakami has run for his entire writing life, taking it up when he realised that the sedentary existence of a novelist was making him fat; he has eventually tackled more than twenty-five marathons, half-marathons aplenty, and even one gruelling 100 kilometre "ultra-marathon" whose odd spiritual benefits are described here in satisfying detail.

His simple approach to running is set down on the page with great skill and grace. But is it a hobby? An obsession? A way to keep fit? Or something more spiritual and meaningful? You can't help plumping for the latter when you read this book, so evocative and powerful are his thoughts on the way in which running requires tenacity, persistence, and a willingness to make the mind and body do things they don't really want to do. Running becomes a way of talking about all the difficulties of life - self-discipline, lack of willpower, the need for consistency.

On the other hand, he's also fantastic on the joys and delights of running: a "very attractive" young Japanese runner who smiles at him everyday on his Tokyo circuit; the mists of the wintry Charles river in Boston; a quick turn around Central Park reservoir in the company of fellow novelist John Irving.

If you aren't even slightly interested in running the book still has something to offer. It goes into detail about his philosophy of life, and he gives his thoughts about being a writer, which is intriguing for anyone who's read his strange and delightful fiction. But in the end I kept thinking about Zen buddhism - not a subject he directly touches upon.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Paul Bowes TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is a strange little book, novella length, half memoir and half meditation on the act of writing, using running as an extended metaphor. The title is an allusion to a Raymond Carver short story (Murakami is, among other things, the Japanese translator of Carver) and, like a Carver character, Murakami has a knack of addressing his real concerns indirectly in the act of talking about something else.

Murakami insists that he is a rather physical and unreflective person, built for the long haul rather than speedy brilliance. As such, he finds in long distance running - marathon and triathlon - an analogy for his writing career. This isn't a technical manual for runners: written episodically over a period of two years as an exercise in self-knowledge, it's aimed at readers who want to know something about the man behind the writing of the novels. But Murakami is clearly uneasy with theory. He'd rather talk about the routines he follows in his life, the patterns and rhythms dictated by his parallel writing and running lives.

He's quite clear about the running as physical conditioning for the writer. Coming to the sport relatively late in life, and not conspicuously talented, he thrives on internal goals rather than external competition. A portrait emerges of a man in his fifties who is slowing down, pacing himself, learning to accept the limits that his ageing body sets while harvesting what he can from his self-imposed discipline.

An English reader who is familiar with Murakami's fiction will recognise his distinctive voice in these musings. It's the voice of a man who, as he says, has no problem with being alone: self-involved and rather dry, but unpretentious.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
I found this book very inspiring and charming. When I started reading it, I found it hard to stop, literally read it from cover to cover ...not many books do that to me.
This book is very thought provoking, it makes you think about yourself, goals, its about achievement as well as doing something to live life to the fullest!! Its also about passion and lessons to be learned,and overcoming failure
I love running and this book has motivated me to keep going and set new goals not just in running but also helped drive my motivation to learn new skills and avoid procastination
He talks about how ''if something is worth doing, its worth giving it your best, even more than your best'' !!
I highly recommend this book to people who love running , and other sports. Even for the non-sporty, there is a lot to be learned from this book !!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By Denis Vukosav TOP 50 REVIEWER
The symbolic title 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running', derived from Raymond Carver’s work ‘What We Talk About When We Talk About Love’, is a unique Murakami's work which will be truly enjoyed by his real fans. Others, that for the first time encounter with Murakami's novels, could feel bored and is therefore advisable before reading this book to get familiar with other works of this great Japanese author.

Haruki Murakami is a writer whose novels are enjoyed by audiences from around the world. This artist, besides with his books, manages to interest readers with his unordinary biography that runs through many of his works.

'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running'' is evidently one of those books which writer, after years of writing for audience and compromises made to the editors and the market, decides to write exclusively for himself. The little things that will not seem important to the general readers will draw his real fans further close to the writer who besides music and writing has a third love – long distance running.

This book is a sort of travelogue and diary jogging which tracks his preparation for the New York marathon, while Murakami introduces us to the world of professional runners noting a number of technical details that at times become annoying to those who expected profound reflections on life, love, art and others which can be found in other Murakami works.

Many will approach to this book expecting an intimate confession of favorite author, but will be surprised by the fact that the author during the run is very little thinking about anything, except on the running.

However, it is worth withstanding a small number of uninteresting information on running to come to the recognizable Murakami writings.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Like
Published 4 days ago by Jucke
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring, honest and thought-provoking.
Inspiring, honest and thought-provoking, this was a great short read to get this coach potato up on her feet again.
Published 22 days ago by sabina bonnici
1.0 out of 5 stars I hate writing negative long reviews but i feel a need ...
I hate writing negative long reviews but i feel a need to on this book. I found this book a bit of a chore so gave up on page 70 thinking it would get better but it didn't... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Abbi G
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Really enjoyed reading this as it was quite different.
Published 2 months ago by Dannoakes
5.0 out of 5 stars Those running shoes
Murikami speaks modestly, runs at a reasonable pace and portrays simple life's prides.
Physicality and creativity run side by side
Published 3 months ago by edward vernon little
3.0 out of 5 stars He does talk about writing as well as running which is good. As a book...
As a huge fan of Murakami's fiction I wanted to read this to find out more about the man. He does talk about writing as well as running which is good. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Anthony T.
3.0 out of 5 stars For runners (and/or) writers!
Probably most intruiging for those that fall into the above categories but probably wouldn't really interest many other folks. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Kelly Rose
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable musings.
Murakami is very dedicated to his running and it quickly becomes apparent that the exercise and discipline required is a metaphor for the artistic process.
Published 4 months ago by Melissa
5.0 out of 5 stars Running as a philosophy for life
For me, running has always been a time for thinking and reflecting. That's why this book really struck a chord with me because Murakami's succinct and clear prose makes me think... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Abdie
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended to me as I would recommend to you!
A truly inspiring read!
I have finished the book with a broad smile and thought of my next run tomorrow......
Published 5 months ago by Fraser Pearson
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