10 Haruki Murakami Books You Need to Read
A Murakami book in your hand is a gateway to Japan.
Photos Haruki Murakami official website
Ask any bookworm to list their favorite novelists -- chances are, more than one will mention Haruki Murakami. A world-renowned Japanese writer whose works are translated into 50 languages, Murakami is known for writing stories that mix realist and absurdist fiction. He has won literary prizes such as the World Fantasy Award, the Hans Christian Anderson Literature Award, and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, to name a few.
The theme of his novels, though far from simple, resonate with fans from around the globe, earning him a long list of bestsellers and personal awards like the Franz Kafka and Jerusalem Prizes. If you’ve read one of his books or you’ve just skimmed through one, you’ll be familiar with his use of confessional, realistic, and first-person narrative. Each novel has an air of mystery, like something is waiting to be discovered in the last chapter. Murakami’s works make you think long after you’ve put the book back on the shelf. Did the characters get the ending they deserve or is the conclusion good enough? If you’re curious about the thrill and mind-boggling goodness a Murakami novel brings, you can pick up one of his novels the next time you visit a bookstore. Enter the world of the Japanese literary icon and savor every page of the Murakami experience with these 10 picks:
Can you still remember your first love? It’s a delight to read coming-of-age stories as these inspire us to look back on our own growing up years. While Norwegian Wood tells a story of first love, it also has hints of nostalgia and tragedy -- creating one unforgettable story. Grab a copy and join the protagonist, Toru Watanabe in reminiscing about his college days and the roles of two completely different women in his life.
A Wild Sheep Chase
A Wild Sheep Chase is equal parts mystery and magical realism, with an interesting twist. As the title suggests, it tells the story of an advertising executive who is on the hunt for a special sheep with a star-shaped mark on its back. With only two months to find the sheep, the main character and his girlfriend go on a quest that brings them to Tokyo and northern Japan. Of course, the adventure is not without surprising twists, turns, and characters that make you read a line twice.
South of the Border, West of the Sun
What if someone from your past shows up one night and you end up questioning whatever it is you have at the present? South of the Border, West of the Sun centers on the story of Hajime, a married man with two children, and Shimamoto, a girl from his past. While it doesn’t have the mysterious elements of the other Murakami novels, it is equally compelling and relatable, too.
An enchanting story that takes place between dreams and reality, After Dark looks into the different encounters that happen in the hours between midnight and dawn. Fusing humor and insights, Murakami introduces us to a group of memorable characters -- Mari Asai, a 19-year-old student, Takahashi Tetsuya, a student who plays the trombone, and Mari’s sister, Eri, who is in a deep sleep.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
One of the longest Murakami novels, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle tells the story of Toru Okada, who just quit his job. His adventures (or misadventures, depending on how you see it) begins when his wife asks him to look for their missing cat. What follows is a series for strange encounters involving a medium, a lieutenant, and a teenager who works in a wig company.
A story about loneliness and unrequited love, the story revolves around “K,” the narrator, Sumire, an aspiring writer, and Miu, a married businesswoman. When Sumire and Miu disappear while on vacation, K joins the search party which draws him back to Sumire’s world. If you can’t get enough of love stories and detective mysteries, this novel is worth your while.
Kafka on the Shore
One of the 10 best books of 2005 according to The New York Times, Kafka on the Shore follows Kafka, a teenage boy who ran away from home, and Nakata, an old man who never recovered from an event related to World War II. The book has two interrelated plots -- with the chapters going back and forth each. The odd-numbered chapters follow Kafka’s story, while the even-chaptered ones focuses on Nakata. Like other Murakami novels, its themes include magical realism, suspense, and humor while emphasizing Japanese religious traditions.
Dance Dance Dance
A sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase, Dance Dance Dance follows an unnamed protagonist who is searching for a girl he once loved who vanished. Along the way, he encounters call girls and a teenage psychic. In his dreams, a mysterious Sheep Man gives him instructions and leads him to two mysteries. The novel centers on gender, abandonment, and the discovery of human connection.
Men Without Women
If you want to take things slow, reading a collection of short stories by Murakami can be a great initiation. Men Without Women, as the title suggests, features seven stories of seven men who are alone. Doctors, ex-boyfriends, and actors -- to name a few -- share unforgettable stories that many of us can relate to.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Did you know that Murakami joined marathons and an ultramarathon before? Get to know the man behind the novels with What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir. It tackles the writer’s participation in long-distance running, and how it’s related to writing. Go on an epic adventure and feel like you’re running with the author as he prepares for running events and runs around Japan, Greece, and New York.