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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Hardcover – July 29, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 353 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Murakami's latest is a nonfiction work mostly concerned with his thoughts on the long-distance running he has engaged in for much of his adult life. Through a mix of adapted diary entries, old essays, reminiscences and life advice, Murakami crafts a charming little volume notable for its good-natured and intimate tone. While the subject matter is radically different from the fabulous and surreal fiction that Murakami (The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle) most often produces, longtime readers will recognize the source of the isolated, journeying protagonists of the author's novels in the formative running experiences recounted. Murakami's insistence on focusing almost exclusively on running can grow somewhat tedious over the course of the book, but discrete, absorbing episodes, such as a will-breaking 62-mile ultramarathon and a solo re-creation of the historic first marathon in Greece serve as dynamic and well-rendered highlights. Murakami offers precious little insight into much of his life as a writer, but what he does provide should be of value to those trying to understand the author's long and fruitful career. An early section recounting Murakami's transition from nightclub owner to novelist offers a particularly vivid picture of an artist soaring into flight for the first time. (Aug.)
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From Bookmarks Magazine

Haruki Murakami has established himself as one of the most interesting and innovative novelists of the last two decades, combining pop culture with a magic-realistic sensibility that has garnered the author a faithful following. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running couldn’t differ more from the rest of Murakami’s work. This slender volume catalogs the author’s love for that most solitary of athletic endeavors, though even Murakami’s prodigious talent as a writer can’t quite bridge the gap between the cultish world of hard-core running and a broader audience. This hit-and-miss effort—with something, literally, lost in the translation and some lazy writing—will be welcomed by a small (probably athletic) audience, but may not reach readers who aren’t already on board with Murakami or running.
Copyright 2008 Bookmarks Publishing LLC

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (July 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307269191
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307269195
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (353 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A unique departure for Murakami, whose fans are invested in his truly renowned works of fiction. (The Beatlemaniac in me led me to Norwegian Wood years ago) This book is a memoir-style piece that offers a look inside the writer's head, and offers a perspective on the question, "How do marathon runners do it?" I was excited to pick up this book, because while there are many books on training methods and advice, I was looking for something that was more about the mental process.

In "What I Talk about when I Talk About Running", Murakami shares his philosophy of running and life! Something while I was reading his book turned me on to the culture of running in Japan, and I have since read and reveled The Marathon Monks of Mount Hiei. I think these two book are great readers for the runner who is gearing up for marathons or looking to maintain their stride. Murakami fans will especially appreciate the deeper insight into his true self.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Murakami, 58, authored 15+ novels, many highly acclaimed. He has received many literary awards and honorary doctorates. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed most of his best selling works (including my favorites: Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood and A Wild Sheep Chase). In reading this book, I had come to learn that Murakami had completed 25+ marathons, 1 ultra marathon (60+miles) and 5+ triathlons - this is a truly extraordinary accomplishment.

Murakami is humble, candid and straightforward exposing his mistakes, flaws and shortcomings - - one passage: "But this wretched story of feeling I had as I stood in front of the mirror at sixteen, listing all of my physical shortcomings, is still sort of touchstone for me even now. The sad spreadsheet of my life reveals how my debts outweigh my assets."

You get into his mind and his incredible determination to complete marathons and triathlons - feeling the sun baking his skin and the water filling his lungs - yet he keeps his feet and arms moving despite his mind and body telling him to stop.

You also learn about the impact that advancing middle age has on his performance times and that they are no longer improving despite a rigorous training regimen - "even if, seen from the outside, or from some higher vantage point, this sort of life looks pointless or futile, or even extremely efficient, it doesn't bother me. Maybe it's a pointless act like as I've said before, pouring water into an old pan that has a hole in the bottom, but at least the effort you put into it remains. Whether it's good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what's most important is what you can't see but can feel in your heart.
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Format: Hardcover
Like the author, I am both a novelist and a runner -- but he's far better at both than I will ever be. Murakami has run more than 30 marathons -- me just one. He's written numerous novels -- me just three (and two of those still to be published). So it was with great anticipation that I began this book.
I found it clearly written and engaging but disappointingly slight -- the kind of book an author writes to make a few extra bucks when he's become well-known and successful enough to sell just about anything on the strength of his past record and reputation.
There are a few nice observations about life and running and the connection between them and some mild philosophizing on encroaching old age and how to approach it. But in general, I had the sense that the author was as much hiding his true self as revealing it.
His description of writing his first novel is fairly typical. He's watching a baseball game (he gives the exact date) and it's the top of the second inning and someone gets a hit and at that precise moment, Murakami decides it would be fun to write a novel. A few months later, it's written; a few months after that, it's won a prize. Just like that, easy as pie.
Running is much the same. Occasionally there's some pain but mostly it comes easy, mile after mile after mile. He gives his muscles their marching orders and usually they obey. A couple of times, there are relative failures (in running but not in writing) and the legs seize up. But in general, no challenge is too great that it cannot be overcome.
As the book wore on, my general envy passed. One can't be jealous of Superman. At the end, I found myself regarding Murakami, not as a fellow runner and writer, but more of a phenomenon whose brain and body are constructed of different materials from mine.
And I found myself, while admiring him, also somehow disbelieving him.
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Format: Hardcover
I have not read any of Murakami's novels (this may change soon), but in his short stories he often employs subtle nostalgia for his characters' pasts. Often this nostalgia blurs the line with philosophy, and after reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, it became apparent why Murakami enjoys crafting his fiction this way: his style of writing mirrors his perspective on life. After traveling the world, training for and participating in marathons and triathlons, Murakami wants to share his runner's experiences and how they have molded him and his perspective on life. He presents us with a thought-provoking and entertaining narrative (some of it culled from journal entries and old magazines articles he wrote years ago, but most of it original stuff).

The book is 1/3 travelogue, 1/3 self-help, and 1/3 runners guide. We read about the running environments and typical weather patterns where Murakami has trained: New York, Boston, Japan, Greece. We read about the mental discipline and courage it takes to be a long-distance runner. But, most of all, subtly emerging on each page, we read about Murakami the philosopher. His favorite topic is the merciless and stubborn passage of time and its effects on the body and mind. He writes candidly about his thoughts on training as he grows older (Murakami was in his late 50s when he wrote much of the book). He writes about what he thinks about as he runs (ususally nothing); he writes about discipline. To paraphrase one of Murakami's favorite quotes (I forget the source): "...pain is inevitable; suffering is optional."

Murakami tells us that he was neither a natural novelist nor runner. He has had to work hard at both, but both are things which require a steady effort, skills with which Murakami prides himself.
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