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

Haruki Murakami , Philip Gabriel
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Aug 2008
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, not to mention triathlons and a slew of critically acclaimed books, 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 among young women who outpace him.Through this marvellous lens of sport emerges a cornucopia of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" is rich and revealing, both for fans of this masterful yet private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker; 1st Harvill Secker Edition edition (7 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846552206
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846552205
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 184,223 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.

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`It's quirky and wise' -- Evening Standard

`wonderfully written account' -- The Daily Mail Christmas Books

'...In its self-contained way, it's nothing less than an inspiration' -- Evening Standard, Book of the Week, David Sexton

`Likeable and often rewarding'
-- The Spectator

`The closest thing to a memoir that Haruki Murakami will ever write' -- Sunday Herald, Stephan Phelan

`[Murakami] says no-one can warm to a character like his, but ... we keep pace and pay rapt attention.'
-- The Times, Iain Finlayson

`comical, charming and philosophical...excellent memoir' -- GQ

`takes in views of all literature, sport and the uphill journey of ageing, all with a modest fluency' -- The Independent, Boyd Tonkin

`there's a wandering, digressive, free-form quality to the writing - like improvised jazz...and you finish the book charmed...'
-- The Observer, Jason Cowley

the reward is an utterly unique read
-- Kudos

Book Description

`The closest thing to a memoir that Haruki Murakami will ever write'

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
195 of 202 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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of a gentle jog 7 July 2009
I've not read any of Murakami's novels, nor have I seen him run, but this gentle philosophical jog gives a good impression of both his art and sport. He draws parallels between running and writing, often in a simple zen-like style, which is pleasing to read, but surprisingly slight. Although the long distance runner's sweaty battle between mind and body are engaging (the book is something of a running diary), I would have liked to read more about the parallel struggles of the long distance writer. Nonetheless Murakami's dogged example encourages this intermittent runner and occasional writer to try a wee bit harder at both.
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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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4 of 4 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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Writing and running at its best 17 Oct 2008
I enjoyed this book immensely, both as someone who has read all of Murakami's books available in English, and as someone who has just trained for and run a half marathon.

For the first time, Murakami publishes a unique insight into the man behind the vivid imagination that created all his legendary titles, explaining how he started running to stay fit while sitting at home writing, and how the discipline he attaches to writing is very much the same discipline it takes to run an average of 6 miles a day, every day, for the last 23 or 24 years.

Having just trained for a reasonbly long run for 4 months, and run "only" 3 to 4 times a week, I enjoyed finding that Murakami describes so well the thoughts of a runner - he sums up brilliantly how you overcome the fatigue and pain when running by stating: "pain is inevitable, suffering is not". Once you realise that, he explains it is a matter of how you manage your expectations when focussing on any task that requires stamina, dedication and a bit of pain, be it running, writing or anything else in life.

The other aspect of Murakami's personal life that comes out of this book is his sad realisation that you can not beat the ageing process; no matter how much he trains, he can not improve on his times any more, and he acknowledges with much pain the inevitability of getting older by the day. Alongside his diminishing running capabilities, he fears that his best writing years may be past him, though he takes comfort from knowing that a few writers produced their best works in their late years.

We will have to see what else Murakami has to offer - I certainly will continue to buy his books.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Different from most other Murakami works
OK, so I like Murakami's work - have most of them in either ebook or physical book form and I'm a runner too - though not to the levels that he obviously runs at - so it sort of... Read more
Published 19 days ago by JohnE
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting
this is more musing on life,writing and running than a guide to running,but found it of great interest. Read more
Published 1 month ago by m. dosa
4.0 out of 5 stars I loved this
Must have been difficult to write this, my mind is buzzing when I run but is completely blank afterwards. Very encouraging to read. Makes me want to run more.
Published 1 month ago by Sarahmania
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read.
Fascinating book, especially for writers I think. Interesting to see how he goes about his life and his craft. Useful information.
Published 2 months ago by Bruce Louis Dodson
5.0 out of 5 stars Murakami rules
I love Murakami, and I read all of his books, but I had no idea that he was a passionate runner. So a friend of mine recommended this book before my half marathon, and I am so glad... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Marija Vukotic
5.0 out of 5 stars good for those like me who are new to running
Very enjoyable and easy to read. Gives encouragement and supports motivation to new runners in an engaging and sometimes humorous way. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jeanette Pope
2.0 out of 5 stars Didn't resonate
A charming enough recollection of why the author runs and the build up to races they have competed in, but I just didn't identify with the author, their training or races at... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mr A J Frayling
4.0 out of 5 stars An honest look at running from an awesome writer
For a runner, this book is a refreshing look at the sport without ego. Add to it, it is by an author as incredible as Murakami, and it brings a whole other dimension to it...
Published 2 months ago by Katie
4.0 out of 5 stars Must read
Must read for murakami lovers, must read for runners, must read for people who practise sports, must read for everyone since it' s a book so nice, so sincere, so amusing and... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Lucia
1.0 out of 5 stars What I think when I think about Murakami
I had high hopes for this book, but it's absolutely terrible; a complete waste of time.

It may be partly down to the translation, but for someone who can write pretty... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Stegasauro B
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