Wednesday 27 August 2014

Haruki Murakami

I only 'discovered' Murakami last year when I finally got around to reading 1Q84.

If I wanted to be picky, there were some niggles about translation, length and plot developments. But these were details...and as time has gone by, I've come to view Murakami as a bigger picture, all encompassing, get under your skin & into your psyche kind of writer.

1Q84 certainly infected my psyche...I wanted more.

Over the past year I have been slowly accumulating Murakami's backlist. And this year I found myself caught up in the excitement surrounding the worldwide release of his English translation of Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage.

Although I use the word English loosely, since for some unknown reason, the worldwide publication has gone with the American spelling of colorless. For many of us in England and Australia this is annoying, offensive and/or just mildly irritating depending on how much of a purist you are!

Perhaps that's why the UK & Aussie editions came with stickers - a consolation prize in the trans-Atlantic spelling bee!

As a book collector who likes her editions to match when possible, the cover chosen for our edition is to be applauded for it's attempt to match the Random Vintage covers for Murakami's backlist (below).

The cover reflects the colours of the characters & their overlapping connections.

The stickers represent Tsukuru - they allow us to make/build/create our own covers.

A couple of days after starting the book, I spotted the Japanese Literature Challenge and their month long readalong for CTTAHYOP.


Except I am now struggling to put together my review for Colourless Tsukuru, so I thought I'd play around with a few lists and Lizst instead!

Since I'm still a Murakami novice, I've been wondering which one I should read next.

Goodreads top 5 Murakami books are:

1. Kafka on the Shore
2. Norwegian Wood
3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
4. 1Q84
5. Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World

Refinery29 suggests:

1. Norwegian Wood
2. Dance Dance Dance
3. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman
4. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
5. After Dark
6. South of the Border, West of the Sun

Priyanko Sarkar at Mensxp recommends:

1. Norwegian Wood
2. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
3. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
4.Kafka on the Shore
5. 1Q84

Matthew C Strecher at Publishers Weekly lists:

1. A Wild Sheep Chase
2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
3. Hard-Boiled Wonderland & the End of the World
4. 1Q84
5. Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
6. Kafka on the Shore
7. Hear the Wind Sing
8. Pinball, 1973
9. Norwegian Wood
10. Dance Dance Dance

Which one should I read next?
I'd love to hear what you think is Murakami's best book to date and why.

While you're pondering your responses, you might like to listen to Liszt's "Le mal du pays" from his Years of Pilgrimage suite Year 1: Switzerland.

We're enjoying a 2 week long rain-fest in Sydney at the moment (with no immediate end in sight)! The visual (below) feels like it was made for my mood right now.


  1. Anonymous27/8/14

    Ha, as an editor who cringes every time "colourless" is spelled with a "u," I can understand your irritation with the American spelling. But stickers are a great consolation, I think. I can't recommend which book to read next, because I've only read Norwegian Wood so far. But both 1Q84 and this one are on my list...

    1. Ha I'm the same when editing my stepson's homework but I insist he puts the 'u' in! I suspect it's actually a pronunciation thing - we actually say cul-ler (& flav-er & fav-er), whereas according to The Simpsons you guys say cul-lor (& flav-or & fav-or). So the difference in spelling makes sense when viewed that way :-)

      I've actually decided to start Dance, Dance, Dance as I wanted to explore a bit or the Murakami magic realism.

  2. I have several books still unread from the backlist, but have really liked all the ones I read. I was irritated by 1Q84 (in 900+ pages he could only resolve one plot line? really?!?) As far as which book to read I think it depends on what you like about the book you read. If the magical realism aspects of it were what appealed to you then Kafka on the Shore is the way to go. If a straightforward story works better for you then Nor. Wood or Colourless (spelled that way just for you) would be good choices. If you want to understand how M's brain works I highly recommend What I think About When I Think About Running. I don't run, but I still found the book fascinating.

    1. Curiously I liked the magic realism in books 1 & 2 of 1Q84, but felt it got too bizarre for me by book 3 (I say curiously, because I have been known to baulk at magic realism in the past).

      I enjoyed the more straight forward style of Pilgrimage, but because of 1Q84 I kept waiting for the little people to make an appearance!

      I loved how both books got under my skin, despite their flaws (or maybe because of?)

    2. I think you would enjoy Kafka on the Shore. It has a reasonably straightforward plot with lots of magical realism mixed in. It was the first M. I read and it got me hooked.

  3. Anonymous27/8/14

    funny, French being actually my native language, it does not bother me if it's color or colour, anyway it's from a language with a totally different alphabet, so I just think about the idea. the stickers are cool, but I have to say I'm in awe at the American book cover. some designer did some serious homework reading the book before launching into creativity. I also enjoyed After Dark and Sputnik Sweetheart, to add to your list, but my favorite is definitely 1Q84

  4. I really want to read Murakami but have not done so yet. Your post has certainly whetted my appetite even more.

    I was planning to begin with 1Q84. It is interesting that Goodreads rated Kafka on the Shore as number one.

  5. My favorite of his is Kafka on The Shore. But, After Dark is quick, and Norwegian Wood is what launched him into such great fame. It's also a more realistic novel, like Colorless Tsukuru, than many of his others.

    Of course, don't forget the ones he wrote which are nonfiction: What I Talk When I Talk About Running and Underground are so interesting. And real!

  6. Anonymous17/9/14

    I've only read After Dark and enjoyed it. I think I have hesitated reading more in case I don't enjoy Murakami as much as I thought I did from this one novel! He really divides opinion!


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