Search

See More Results
Home > Books > Books Interesting Articles > A Handful of Haruki Murakami Books to Read. And Read Again
Image source: images-amazon

A Handful of Haruki Murakami Books to Read. And Read Again

Japanese author Haruki Murakami broke onto the mainstream scene in 1987 with his novel Norwegian Wood; but prior to this he had been receiving critical acclaim ever since his first novel Hear the Wind Sing in 1987. Having published 12 novels and numerous short stories to date, Murakami is clearly a prolific author and has an impressive back catalogue.

So let me try to tell you which are the Haruki Murakami books to read.

Murakami is clearly a prolific author and has an impressive back catalogue

It can be daunting knowing where to start with any new author; with no previous knowledge of Murakami’s extensive work, it is hard to know whether it will be worth investing your time and effort in his novels.

First and foremost, you will want to know what his work is about; then, it will be useful to know which are the must read Haruki Murakami books… finally, you might want to find a good starting point for your Murakami adventure.

This article will aim to answer those three questions and introduce you to the man recently dubbed as “among the world’s greatest living novelists” by the Guardian.

***

What are Haruki Murakami Books about?

Well, Murakami has written on a wide variety of subjects, so it is hard to pigeonhole him in one area.

However, he often revisits similar themes and tropes, which will become instantly recognisable to regular readers.

For starters, the novels are almost invariably narrated in the third person and feature an introverted, sometimes bookish male character as their protagonist.

He often revisits similar themes and tropes, which will become instantly recognisable to regular readers

This character is usually a shy, reticent but ultimately amiable and benevolent person, who due to his own insecurities and inability to find his place within the world around him, withdraws inside himself.

Furthermore, this protagonist will inevitably meet with several women throughout the book, and more than likely, much of the novel’s content will focus on his struggle to forge a relationship with them.

The women often take on unorthodox and quirky personas, as well as downright strange ones.

Much of the novel’s content will focus on his struggle to forge a relationship

And don’t be too surprised if the story itself takes a surreal turn; for example, if certain characters start to exhibit supernatural abilities, or, say, two moons appear in the sky.

Keep calm, and keep reading.

In a nutshell, the novels are basically about humans; human problems, human insecurities, human relationships; though often they have a tendency to explore these themes in a supernatural or surreal context.

Still interested?

Okay; here is an idea of where to begin.

***

Best Haruki Murakami Book to Start with

Norwegian Wood
Image source: wikipedia

As previously mentioned, Murakami achieved his breakthrough success with Norwegian Wood; and for the same reason that it won over Japanese and international audiences, it will probably win over you.

The least supernatural and the most accessible of his works, the book is a gentle examination of one man’s struggle to come to terms with the depression of his close college friends and how this affects his own mentality.

In Toru Watanabe, Murakami creates a thoughtful and introspective character to which the reader can readily relate and which serves as a blueprint for many future Murakami protagonists.

The least supernatural and the most accessible of his works

It also casually discusses student protests and uprisings, though skilfully treads the tightrope of tacit disapproval without becoming overtly political.

And it makes you want to listen to the Beatles, which can surely only be a good thing.

***

What are the must Read Haruki Murakami Books?

So if you read Norwegian Wood and liked it, chances are you’ll like his other work.

Although later works are more heavily surreal and often blur the lines between this world and possible alternative ones, they share a basic writing style and plot construction that fans of his breakthrough success will love finding throughout his writing.

If you read Norwegian Wood and liked it, chances are you’ll like his other work

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles
Image source: bookcoverarchive

From Norwegian Wood, I would advise checking out The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, the story of a man whose wife leaves him and who encounters some very strange characters in his battle to win her back.

Despite the ostensibly depressing storyline, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles manages to maintain a light and uplifting feel, largely due to the presence of characters with such outlandish names as Malta Kano, Creta Kano, Nutmeg and Cinnamon, as well as an errant cat alternately named Noboru Wataya and Mackerel.

The most vibrant character by far, however, is young May Kasahara, a sassy teenager who reveals her troubled existence to the main character through a series of entertaining anecdotes.

A sassy teenager who reveals her troubled existence to the main character through a series of entertaining anecdotes

Kafka on the Shore
Image source: teamliquid

Another interesting read is Kafka on the Shore, which in addition to featuring ghosts, talking cats, mystical stones and a bizarrely satanic figure named Johnnie Walker, also has a gripping storyline and Murakami’s trademark humour.

Alternatively, there is the lengthy 1Q84, divided into three books and following Tengo, an aspiring author who becomes embroiled in a parallel universe when he ghost-writes the book of a seemingly supernaturally gifted teenage girl.

Retains an endearing and reassuring quality that will keep you turning the pages and itching to know the fates of the characters

All of the familiar Murakami tropes run through these books: the shy protagonist; the quest for meaning; unorthodox sex scenes; as well as the consistently “simple meals” prepared by each of his central characters.

The writing can be almost a little repetitive at times, but retains an endearing and reassuring quality that will keep you turning the pages and itching to know the fates of the characters.

If you enjoy off-beat writing that engages, amuses and intrigues, then Murakami is certainly an author for you.

***

Whare Your Thoughts …

For those who have read his work, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on my observations.Please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

 

I′m Jonny, an English Literature graduate who decided careers and mortgages were too mundane, and travelling, film, music and books were much more enticing. I have recently made a very comfortable nest for myself in Santiago de Chile, and on itcher Mag where I regularly contribute eloquent waffle on all manner of media.
[thrive_leads id="105464"]

Find out what the community are loving on the itcher app right now.