Murakami Books

Murakami books I've read and some short thoughts.

see all the books I've read.

The Strange Library

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Ted Goossen

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 2017 time read: January 9th 2021

Not the first book I started in 2021, but the first I finished. A refreshing illustrated take on Murakami!

Killing Commendatore

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 2017 time read: December 2020

And with that, I finish all of Murakami's fiction novels. Admittedly, Killing Commendatore is long - and at times, it almost feels drawn out - but I'm never bored. I'm no painter, but I loved the exploration of art and an artists psyche. Murakami effortlessly blends historical flashbacks with a slightly surrealist world à la The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or A Wild Sheep Chase. I'm also more drawn to our unnamed hero more than the typical Murakami protagonist. All-around, a book worth the lengthy buy-in, though it's not the first Murakami book I'd recommend you.

Pinball, 1973

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Ted Goossen

genre: Realist Fiction published: 1980 time read: December 20th 2020

What a strange book. Compared to Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball really develops the Murakami eccentricity: unnaturally lonely men, mysterious women, and hyperfixation on the most normal, strange parts of life. It's also a very jumpy, loose book - this is the start of the dual narrative that Murakami uses so frequently in his later works. Reflecting on reading the Trilogy of the Rat + Dance Dance Dance, it's interesting to see just how stylistically different each of these books are.

Hear the Wind Sing

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Ted Goossen

genre: Realist Fiction published: 1979 time read: December 19th 2020

Murakami's first novel reminds me of Americana literature, in the best way. Our narrator meanders through life, aimlessly - but briefly - interacting with an ensemble of unique characters. An enjoyable ennui, if you will.

After Dark

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Jay Rubin

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 2004 time read: December 2020

Another curiously unique Murakami piece. Instead of a grand narrative epic, we have the happenings of just one night in Tokyo. There's a startingly different, but equally inquisitive omniscient-ish narrator. The tone and environment is masterfully set. Yet, as much as I loved the writing, I think the ending is a bit vague - even for a Murakami book. The narrative strings are just a little too loose to be intertwined. Still quite enjoyable, but not my most enthusiastic recommendation.

Dance Dance Dance

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Alfred Birnbaum

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 1988 time read: December 2020

A unique Murakami piece. Even though it's a "sequel" to A Wild Sheep Chase, the difference in tone and story direction is palpable. This is the most American our narrator gets - I can easily see why Murakami had fun writing this book. The prototypical Murakami protagonist is further developed, with a somewhat unique ensemble cast of supporting characters. The book is also more anti-capitalist than I expected! Mostly a strong recommend from me. I will say - not the largest fan of adults dating 13 year-old girls, even in literature - but maybe that's just me.

After the Quake

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Jay Rubin

genre: Short Stories published: 2000 time read: November 26th 2020

Another great set of short stories. I can't say I'll ever understand how devastating the Kobe earthquakes were. But, beyond that, each story has some deep sadness within it. Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every short story - but my favourites would have to be 'super-frog saves tokyo' and 'honey pie'.

Sputnik Sweetheart

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Philip Gabriel

genre: Romance published: 1999 time read: November 20th 2020

Murakami keeps the formula without making it too repetitive. Sputnik Sweetheart is a story about sweethearts, but not in the conventional blend of romantic fantasy or tension. Murakami mixes in his elements of surrealism, nihilism, and esoteric pop culture. K and Sumire are an especially memorable pair of characters, toeing the line of brazenly unique and easily relatable. Quite an enjoyable late-night read.

South of the Border, West of the Sun

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Philip Gabriel

genre: Romance published: 1992 time read: November 17th 2020

Another rollercoaster romance novel from Murakami. I've definitely settled into his writing style and pattern, yet each new book is still a page-turner. South of the Border, West of the Sun mostly abandons the mystical to explore a damaged lonely man. The book manfiests most of Murakami's archetypal characters, but still finds nuance in our protagonist. In some senses, this book reads very similarly to Norwegian Wood, but it also shines in its own way.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Alfred Birnbaum

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 1985 time read: October 2020

It's absolutely delightful reading another one of Murakami's split-narrative stories; I can see the lead up to 1Q84 or Kafka in full technicolor. I also really the worlds that Murakami effortlessly juggles: a mundane protagonist, science fiction, detective thriller, and Kafkaesque surrealism have never looked better. The investigation of consciousness, mind, and identity are certainly intriguing. A definite recommendation on my end.

Men Without Women

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen

genre: Short Stories published: 2014 time read: October 2020

As with The Elephant Vanishes, Murakami writes another enjoyable set of short stories. The overarching motif - men, who for some reason or another, are lonely and without women - is by no means new, but Murakami applies it in a very intriguing and exciting way. Still, short stories from Murakami always leave more to be desired - I want more exploration, more world-building, more twists and turns. And of course, the stories get a bit weird sometimes. I still enjoyed reading this compilation; Yesterday and Kino are definitely my favourites.

A Wild Sheep Chase

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Alfred Birnbaum

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 1982 time read: September 2020

Working my way through the Murakami catalogue, I'm still in awe how innovative (and sometimes, just weird) each of his surrealist stories is. A Wild Sheep Chase is no exception: I was once again immediately transported to his slightly magical rendition of Japan, seamlessly exploring the world through the narrator's eyes. Compared to some of his other works, I think this book is a bit more open-ended and tangled - in a charming, page-turning way.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Philip Gabriel

genre: Realist Fiction published: 2013 time read: September 2nd 2020

Murakami does it again, trapping me within the confines of his narrative world: I finished the entire book in just one night! Yet in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, Murakami isn't exploring a surrealist or fantastical world: we follow a normal person - someone almost too mediocre - as they go through a muted mid-life crisis. There is a strong sense of intimacy as Murakami delves deep into pain, protection, and human psychology. I'm left feeling both introspectively pleased and depressed, in a light-and-dark sort of way - but certainly with colour.

The Elephant Vanishes

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Alfred Birnbaum and Jay Rubin

genre: Short Stories published: 1993 time read: May 2020

The Elephant Vanishes is an intriguing set of short stories, combining seemingly banal life stories and environments with a deep dive into surrealism, loneliness, and trauma. As with most short story compilations, some stories hit harder than others, but every story was memorable in a very unique, Murakami way. Favourite stories are probably Sleep, Barn Burning, and The Silence.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Jay Rubin

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 1997 time read: May 2020

To many, this is Murakami's magnum opus, and I wouldn't disagree. From an extremely mundane and typical man and environment, Murakami conjures yet another fantastical story: one that touches on Japanese suburbia, war crimes in World War II, and a set of relationships set around existentialism and death. As magical as this book is, it's definitely in the "odd reads" category; but still, it has my complete recommendation.

Norwegian Wood

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Jay Rubin

genre: Coming of Age published: 1987 time read: April/May 2020

The novel that really shot Murakami into national and international fame is beautiful, nuanced, and emotional. Granted, I haven't read many coming-of-age books, but Norwegian Wood is amazing regardless of genre: our protagonist's journey is as much of a whirlwind as it is a slow burn, as the book explores the process of trauma and its long-lasting impacts on life.

1Q84

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 2009 time read: February 2020

Fresh off of Kafka on the Shore, I was motivated to binge some Murakami, and 1Q84 received a strong recommendation from a friend. Murakami dips you head-first into a truly entrancing literary universe, with amazingly elegant world-building and one of my favourite set of leads. Yet, I can't also help but feel that the plot is a bit unfocused compared to his other, more concise books, and that the book gets... a little disturbing. Still, for fans of Murakami or surrealist fiction, I'd definitely recommend 1Q84.

Kafka on the Shore

by Haruki Murakami | translated by Philip Gabriel

genre: Surrealist Fiction published: 2002 time read: January 2020

Kafka on the Shore was my first Murakami venture, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The world that Murakami weaves is immaculate; I feel at home in a place that I've never been in. Kafka's ensemble of characters bring just enough to the table to make every chapter a page-turner, but leave plenty to the imagination - and something that makes this coming-of-age story easily and eerily relatable.