Happy Birthday, Haruki Murakami!

Haruki Murakami turns 74 years old today! He is a prolific author, having written novels, short stories, nonfiction works, and essays that have consistently been published in The New Yorker. While Murakami remains mostly out of the public eye, the reader may get a general sense of who Murakami is when reading his books: a lover of jazz and music in general, a big baseball fan, a collector of random t-shirts, and a dedicated runner. His books incorporate magical realism, a unique brand of humor, and almost always a cat.  

If you’ve never read Murakami before, he has an extensive catalog to choose from! Whether you prefer nonfiction or short stories or hefty novels, he has something for everyone. (Of course, while he is a well-regarded author, his works might not appeal to all!) 

Short Story Collections 

The Elephant Vanishes (1993) 

Containing stories such as “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” “The Kangaroo Communiqué,” and “Lederhosen,” this is a great introduction to Murakami’s writing style. One of the short stories (“Barn Burning”) even became the basis for the 2018 South Korean psychological thriller Burning. 

After the Quake (2002) 

This collection was written after the 1995 Kobe earthquake. While each short story is independent of one another, they are all connected by the earthquake and its aftermath. 

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (2006) 

Quite a few of the short stories in this collection were featured in various English publications before being compiled into one book. Several were in The New Yorker, a few in Harper’s, and one in McSweeney’s. One short story, “Firefly,” was reused in Murakami’s well-known novel Norwegian Wood. 

Nonfiction 

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche (2000) 

In 1995, a religious cult attacked Tokyo subway stations with the toxic liquid sarin, injuring over 5,000 people and killing 14. Murakami interviewed over 60 people: witnesses, survivors, family of the victims, and even members of the cult that committed the act, Aum Shinrikyo.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2008) 

In this memoir, Murakami discusses his passion for running and how running goes hand in hand with writing. His discipline with the sport and examination of the relationship between running and writing are interesting to read about, even if you don’t run. Plus, reading about all the places he’s run marathons (Greece, Hawaii, Boston) is a treat. 

Murakami T: the T-Shirts I Love (2021) 

Pictures of t-shirts that Murakami has acquired over the years and their origin stories—what’s not to enjoy? 

Fiction 

Norwegian Wood (1989) 

Told from the perspective of Toru Watanabe, he is in his late 30s, reflecting on his days as a college student in 1960s Japan. A deeply emotional novel, the sense of nostalgia and longing are intimately felt throughout. This book helped catapult Murakami into more of a celebrity (to his dismay at the time). 

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1997) 

If you read the short story “The Wind-up Bird and Tuesday’s Women,” then you’ve already tackled the first chapter of the much-longer novel. Full of signature Murakami traits like cats, wells, unexpected phone calls, and mysterious disappearances, this is a great introduction to Murakami’s brand of humor. But forewarning—it is over 600 pages! 

Kafka on the Shore (2005) 

Intertwining narratives make up this magical tale: a 15-year-old boy who runs away to escape a curse and an old man who can talk to cats. Metaphysics, music, suspense, humor, and the mundane make up this brilliantly woven story. 

-Linnea 

Advertisement

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s