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199 of 207 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zen running, Zen writing
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...
Published on 10 Aug. 2008 by emma who reads a lot

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting short memoir of the novelist as runner
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...
Published on 19 Nov. 2010 by Paul Bowes


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199 of 207 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 (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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. But there is something Zen about the simplicity with which he is determined to live his life, eliminating people he doesn't really want to see, pursuing single-mindedly his time and distance goals as a running, admitting that he really prefers just being on his own. The book is charming, completely thought-provoking, and I think very profound. You might even put on your trainers and go for a run after you read it. I have to admit, I did.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting short memoir of the novelist as runner, 19 Nov. 2010
By 
Paul Bowes (Wales, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Paperback)
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. If the book fails it's because Murakami can't decide how much significance to extract from his preoccupations and in the end errs on the side of caution - if it isn't a training diary, it isn't 'Zen and the Art of Running', either. But on balance it is worth reading. There is plenty of insight to be gleaned about the character of a man who decided one day, out of the blue, to write a novel, and through steady application - the kind a distance runner needs - has become Japan's most celebrated contemporary writer.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unique Murakami's work which will be truly enjoyed by his real fans, 30 April 2014
By 
Denis Vukosav - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Paperback)
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. The author intermittently expresses his desires, fears and compares the writing with running. Both these activities are sharing solitude. For him, the loneliness is extremely important, both for the writer and for the runners, while he compares its devastating and liberating effect. In the run as well as in writing there is no competition, and it is more important to test own limits and beat yourself than someone else.

Murakami fans will perceive this book as an intimate record of a writer, whose life has been marked by high-quality music, running a jazz club and a host of everyday little things that have significantly impacted his work. Exactly in that way this book should be approached, not expecting another 'Norwegian Wood' or ‘Kafka on the Shore'.

If you still didn’t, but plan to take a peek at Murakami's prodigious literary world, this book should not be first on the list. For true enjoyment in his diary, you should be familiar with the writer, but also to appreciate him, in order to really pull up all the wisdom and beauty that can be found within its covers.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Material for runner even non runners can benefit from it !! Very Inspiring !!, 10 Sept. 2008
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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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably easy to read., 20 Nov. 2009
By 
Amazon Customer - See all my reviews
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This review is from: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Paperback)
Murakami is surely one of the most likable authors around and this deft and heartfelt little book about running entertained me throughout.

This is not a book for people who are looking to learn about running techniques, nutrition, or time improvement. It is simply a series of essays by Murakami about his running experiences, loosely structured around his training for the New York marathon. Long distance runners will understand and empathise with his tales of grueling training and motivations for running. Writers will find the comparisons he draws between running and writing fascinating.

Those who are active in measured sports like distance running are more likely to see the marching of the years add onto their times than most, and Murakami is no exception. Some of the most interesting and poignant passages are about his aknowledgement and acceptance of encroaching old age.

Definitely one for both runners and fans of Murakami.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much of a gentle jog, 7 July 2009
This review is from: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Paperback)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars deeply engaging, 23 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Paperback)
This is a beautifully written (and sensitively, skilfully translated) set of essays on the physical and mental disciplines of running and writing daily. The charm of Murakami's writing for me has always been his scrupulous wording and exact, methodical investigation of his thoughts. Whether they are philosophical questions or mundane decisions, he attends to them all with equal respect and precision.
The essay on running an ultra marathon is drily witty as he tries to martial his tantrumming limbs into behaving so he can complete the run. It then shifts from this physical focus into an absorbing analysis of the trance-like state he reached during the race's final stages.
Every would-be novelist should read this book. I learned more about writing long narrative from the essay that connects running with writing than from any book that specialises in writing alone.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars None, 3 Sept. 2013
I think it was never meant to inspire, it's more therapeutic than anything. The book has a unique flow to it. Meditative, honest and very human. A warm autumn book to enjoy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Digging deep, 19 Feb. 2015
By 
Adam "Say something about yourself!" (Dunton, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This is a series of reflections of living a life shaped by writing and long distance running.
Mr Murakami writes in a clear and calm way about how the disciplines of writing and running, for him, inform each other. Writing a novel involves sustained effort and calling on reserves of concentration. Running involves a focus and concentration and a delving down into reserves of energy that is not dissimilar. And of course for both, practice/ training is essential.
The writer is quick to point out that is not a training manual for writing or running, or a series of steps for others to follow. Rather it is an attempt through writing to understand himself better, and in doing so, share what he has learnt along the way. And so he recounts how he sold his jazz bar to begin writing and how he later began running, and how the disciplines informed both. The book is a series of chapters that have been written between longer jobs at various places, and as he says in his Afterword, therefore took a long time to write. And so it has a purposefully disjointed to and fro feel, reflecting someone rifling through their memories, and finding linkages. And so we find ourselves training in Tokyo gardens, then participating in New York marathons, then Japanese Ultrathons, then jogging by the Charles River whilst lecturing in Harvard.
As someone training for their first marathon I found the book both scary and helpful. Marukami’s account of his first marathon, following the same route as the very first in Athens, is a vivid and memorable sequence. He ran in incredible heat, the salt of his sweat drying in the heat. He describes the various stages, the long busy motorway at the start, the segue into the country, and recounts his mood of irritation and anger with everything towards the end.
The other stand out chapter is the ultrathon. This is terrifying, even for a marathon a year runner like him. He describes in scary detail the physical symptoms of knotting muscles, swelling limbs, legs going dead. He pumps his arms so hard to keep moving his wrists swell!
There are also vivid insights into the writing process, the hard work and ultimate satisfaction of writing, especially a novel. He also writes on the peculiar psychology of writing, how he has learnt to deal with the morbidity, he calls it the toxicity that occurs in the mental health of writers. And he writes on the no small matter on dealing with the human condition, of looking to the sky for kindness and seeing only clouds, of ageing and accepting its rigors and demands.
In short it’s a rich and rewarding read, not to be confined to the sports shelves alone.
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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (Paperback - 2 April 2009)
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