Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

As some of you may know, I am a runner. While I haven’t really been running for the last year, I still identify as one. I still plan on getting back into it and participating in races. This is pretty much the sole reason why I wanted to read and why I evenutally bought my own copy of Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

murakami running

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Another small reason has to do with Murakami’s name being well known in the literary world. This memoir of his about running (and how it intersects with his life and writing), as well as his preparation for the New York City Marathon, is the first book I’ve read of Murakami’s (even though I’ve owned his 1Q84 for a couple years now too).

While I obviously wanted to read this book because it came highly recommended from various sites for runners, I also read from some of the reviews that this book gives a good idea on Murakami’s writing. I figured it would be a good introduction to his style of writing while also getting insight into how/ why he writes.

“You have to wait until tomorrow to find out what tomorrow will bring.”

Murakami is definitely a great writer. Even in the simplicity of this memoir mostly about running, I can see how many people enjoy his writing style. Yes, I understand that writing for a memoir is probably a little different than a work of fiction, but I can still imagine what reading one of his books could be like. What I really enjoyed about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, was the the way everything flowed liked a conversation; I could imagine walking or sitting with him while he talked; it read like a perfected and slightly structured stream of consciousness. I hope that didn’t make the book sound unappealing.

I won’t lie, it took some time to get used to the flow of reading a memoir style book (I usually listen to the audio books of memoirs), but I’m glad I did because like running, I went my own pace.

“All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”

Being able to go my own pace turned out to work out in my favor since I was able to absorb most of the wisdom that he put in; I was also really glad to know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t really think when they run.

“I’m often asked what I think about as I run. Usually the people who ask this have never run long distances themselves. I always ponder the question. What exactly do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue. … The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky.”

It may not be the most inspiring book I’ve ever written, but it was very interesting and comforting to read about another runner’s journey to running and even his personal journey towards becoming a writer. He was just another guy who decided to start running one day and continued to do so regardless of the times he finished for races or how many races he’s run.

While I’m sure some of you have read some of his fictional work, have you ever read this nonfiction work of his?

4 thoughts on “Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

  1. Great review! I am a runner too – but surprisingly, I’ve never *read* a book about running. I’ll add this one to my TBR list, because it will be interesting to have 2 of my hobbies intersecting. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Happy reading then! I have 1Q84 sitting on my shelf waiting to be read – I’m hoping it will be one I’ll read here soon.


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