What I Talk About When I Talk About Running written by Haruki Murakami and read by Ray Porter Publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2008 Length: 4 hours and 25 minutes Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Where I Got It: Downloaded it from Audible Why I Read It: I wanted to “introduce” myself to Murakami before attempting his fiction My Rating: 4 stars
Written over the course of several months in 2005 as Murakami prepared for the New York City Marathon, this memoir is about more than just running—though it is most certainly about the mindset of a long-distance runner and the type of commitment and life a dedicated runner leads. The book is just as much about aging, being a novelist and Murakami himself. Providing an insight into the kind of person Murakami is while also sharing his particular worldview, this memoir is a must-read for his fans and runners alike.
After being unjustly accused of stealing this book from my brother, I downloaded the audio version from Audible, and I’m actually glad I did. I listened to it while walking my dog, and it was a perfect fit. The memoir unfolds in a meandering, stream of consciousness way that was fulfilling and gave me much food for thought as I walked. Listening to it while outside and active seemed like the ideal way to fully appreciate the book—giving me a view into the experience of running as I simulated it on a much slower and less punishing level.
I liked that the book wasn’t just focused on running. Many times, Murakami asserts that running and being a novelist are two similar activities. In fact, he began long-distance running when he decided to become a novelist, and the two have gone hand-in-hand ever since. As Murakami says, you have to be a certain type of person to be a novelist and a long-distance runner—one who has the stamina and endurance to go the distance, whether in a marathon or in a long-form novel. The process for both is often punishing and requires significant training and preparation. Both require a significant amount of pain.
In addition, since Murakami wrote the book later in life, it often muses on the process of aging—when you realize that no matter what you do, your body is just not going to respond as well as it once did. Coming to terms with this is one of the main themes of the book, and I think Murakami’s attitude of acceptance but unwillingness to stop pushing himself is one that we should all consider.
For people searching for a narrative about running, the memoir also provides detailed information about Murakami’s extensive running experiences—from his participation in an ultramarathon (which ended up becoming an almost out-of-body experience) to his recent decision to do triathalons. He also discusses the rhythms, pleasures, pain, and solitary nature of long-distance running.
About the Narration: Ray Porter was an excellent narrator. He read with a commitment that made it seem as if he had written these words himself. In fact, it felt like someone talking to you rather than someone reading another person’s book. The translation from Japanese must have been top-notch too as I found the language to be wonderfully lucid and flowing. After hearing so much about the strangeness and weirdness of Murakami’s fiction, I feel relieved that he was so accessible in this book. Hopefully this is the start of a beautiful relationship between the two of us.
Recommended for: Murakami fans, runners and those who appreciate well-written memoirs.
Find out what other bloggers think about this book at the Book Blogs Search Engine.