Book review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami

Right, I am calling it now. I didn’t really enjoy this much. And I know everyone is meant to be in awe of Murakami’s treatise on running, ageing and his life as a writer but I personally found it, well, boring and littered with fairly erroneous views on running as well as being a tad self-indulgent.

Before I started reading it I was excited about the book. I’d heard many good things and Murakami is of course an excellent writer with a reputation to match. Quickly I got into it as it starts with some nice anecdotes and stories. His journey to run Marathon for example is good.

However, the deeper into the book I got the more it felt like a side project of rushed journal entries and flashbacks to races Murakami had experienced. It was as if he wanted (or was asked to) write a book on running and he pulled together a series of scraps and threw them at his publisher. I’d liken it to when a band has to release an album to meet contractual obligations and we get ‘b-sides and rarities’, that’s how What I Talk About When I Talk About Running comes across to me.

Clearly Murakami is a passionate runner, he has his views and they appear to have aged like him – and have become entrenched. His is habitual (“I run 6 miles every day”) and blinkered (he is particularly scathing about walking in races no matter the length).

Last criticism (honest) is that I didn’t find the book that well-written, it had a few good points and some interesting sections, especially on his views on life as a runner/writer but in the main, either the translation was poor or the book was simply just not that interesting.

I could go on, but I imagine you get the point.



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