Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Haruki Murakami: Where to Begin? 5 Best Bets to Start

Where to begin ? It's not like with Salinger where the answer would of course be The Catcher in the Rye (with the critical addition of not letting the reader stop there, forcing them on to the "Nine Stories" of course and then "Franny and Zooey" and last but certainly not least "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters - bar none the least inviting title to a fucking brilliant story.) With Murakami it depends on the person reading. Is this reader a lovelorn romantic, or more the type to need a meaty, weighty book? Do fantasy and wonder appeal? Or is it just a straight but rather surreal adventure that is the order of the day?

The following is an attempt to help solve the problem:

Norwegian Wood
--For melancholy love and what seems so simple a story, but that carriers a similar mystique magic to J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
--For the adult reader who doesn't believe there are fantasy books for adults, books that can take you into your imagination the way they did when you were a kid, but that are actually written for people who've outgrown George Lucas (more or less).

Dance, Dance, Dance
--For the utter fun pleasure of a magical mystery kind of tour - this is a thrill ride for the literary reader. [For a wee review follow me.]

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
--For what many consider to be his first masterpiece, and what I have to call the best opening to a book I can think of.

Kafka on the Shore
--To confuse everything this may well be my favourite Murakami book of all, but it comes last and gets no real descriptor because I don't think it's the way to start if you're not familiar with the author. Start with the very good, warm your way to the great.


  1. I was lost in NORWEGIAN WOOD, and life is no longer the same.

  2. (This is a totally irrelevant question: what is the reason behind the constant order-changing of these pictures on the left?)

  3. I think I mentioned it on my desert island piece on NW, but in case I didn't or you didn't know, I read that book after I'd been in Japan about 3 months. I got to the last page and was so devastated, distraught, unwilling to come to an end, to have to leave that world that I went right back to the first page and started the thing all over again, reading it twice through without pause. I'd never done that before.

  4. (About the picture thing: just an anal symmetry issue I have that only truly regular visitors like you might notice)

  5. (Also, I'd put up more pics if I wasn't so technophobically restrained - ie. if I could find the bloody cord that connects my camera to my computer. it's been gone for months! argh!)

  6. Hey buddy!
    About "The wind-up bird chronicle", I prefer Alfred Birnbaum translation:
    I'm in the kitchen cooking spaghetti when the woman calls. Another moment until the spaghetti is done; there I am, whistling the prelude to Rossini's La Gazza Ladra along with the FM radio. Perfect spaghetti-cooking music...
    The story is just awesome. You can never say it's surreal BUT it is surreal! In the same time, you would not say it's real BUT it is real!
    That's the art of Murakami, you bet.
    (BTW I'm Persian and I live in Canada, Edmonton, nice to meet you bro)

  7. And you, fellow Murakami lover. Will have to check out Birnbaum's translation for sure.

  8. Anonymous9:26 p.m.

    Thanks for this. It was exactly what I was looking for.


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