Book Review: What I talk about when I talk about running – Haruki Murakami

First up in what I hope will be a regular review feature is ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Haruki Murakami.

This isn’t a new release but something I’ve been meaning to read for a long time, and at a thrifty 179 pages I really don’t have any excuse for leaving it this long.

I found this book nestled firmly on the sports shelf of my local bookstore; but it isn’t so easy to categorize. Part memoir and part treatise on running I was originally recommended this book by a few fitness mad friends who’d found this to be an inspirational training aid.

Now I should make it clear from the start that I’m not a keen runner, it’s never been one of my hobbies, running to me has always just been a neccessary evil to get fit. So as I began to read I really wondered if I’d gain anything from this book; but I had been advised the story alone warranted it.

One thing that surprised me about this book, whilst the individual recollections were stark in their brevity (possibly a side effect of the translation – granted), the narrrative assumed an almost meandering tone. Progression of time in the book seemed to be a loose concept and set piece memories flitted between Haruki’s early life as a night club/bar owner to his epiphany, choosing to try writing and finally to the present day. Does it detract from the story – no. Did it take some getting used to – yes.

A prevailing theme of the book is Haruki’s late adoption of running; he didn’t really take it up until 33 as a means initially to combat the sedentary lifestyle of the writer. Interestingly Haruki does tackle some of the cultural preconceptions regarding writers, especially in his culture where it’s seen that in fact to write you must be possesed of bad spirit and poor health.

For me the most prominent and thought provoking theme is that running isn’t something that he just does, but that it defines him. He could not write without running, and not just in a purely physical sense, Haruki seeems to draw a inner spiritual strength from running.

A couple of people have mentioned that they found this book helped them from a productivity point of view, that Haruki extols a number of productivity tennets in this book. To be honest I didn’t really take that away from the text.

In conclusion this book is definitely worth a read, especially for Haruki’s life story, which even in it’s brevity is extremely interesting. Is it a life changer – not for me, but ardent runners may get more out of it.

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