What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: Book Review

I love Haruki Murakami's writing. I first read Kafka on the Shore in college, and since then, I've read at least one of his novels every year or every other year. His stories are a mind trip and his writing style is compelling, simple, yet sophisticated and whimsical. He is a master of description and his use of similes is incomparable. While known for his fiction, I borrowed an e-book version of What I Talk About When I Talk About Running because of my fondness of Murakami's writing and because it's not super long and something I could finish in less than a month.


What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir that literally talks about Murakami's long-distance running. While running and training for the New York marathon is the main theme, there are several complementary side-stories: how he wrote his acclaimed novels, life in Japan compared to Hawaii and Cambridge, and lecturing to college students. He discusses details of his personal life from such as the state of his life prior to running marathons, and then ponders larger philosophies such as the meaning of existence.

The first person perspective makes it super easy to get into Murakami's mind and follow his thoughts along his running journey, and there are several stream-of-consciousness moments that make this novel immersive and allow a reader to reflect and experience their own mini-epiphany reaction. The book is generally light-hearted, with some humor and WTF moments like many Murakami novels. Some unexpected highlights for me where when he discusses running the original Marathon course in Greece mirroring the Olympics, and just his motivational messages such as running being a metaphor for life in "exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits" and "the most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can't be learned at school."

Overall, I appreciated this book as a reader of his other novels since it gave a lot of insight into his writing style, and also because I previously ran a marathon (#humblebrag, but #neveragain.) I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who hasn't read any of his novels, but runners might find it amusing and relatable. It's a quick read and there are several moments of pure brilliance that allow for introspection, reaction, and self-improvement.

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