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I have a lot of favorite books, and a lot of authors whose work I love, but if you ask me who my favorite author is, I will say without hesitation that it is Haruki Murakami.
I read my first Murakami book, 1Q84, in July of 2014. It took me the whole month of July and most of August to read it. I did not quite comprehend what a huge undertaking it would be when I decided to read it (it actually consists of three books, adding up to over a thousand pages). I had only vaguely heard of Murakami at that point, but boy am I grateful for the random circumstances that led to the discovery of his stories.
Oddly enough, it all started with the TV show Orphan Black. I had just binge-watched the first two seasons before learning it would be another year before the third season would be out. I immediately felt a void that needed to be filled by something weird and intense and wonderful. (Confession: Though I was totally obsessed with the first two seasons, I haven’t watched Orphan Black since early season 3… oops)
Enter Murakami. I ran a very specific Google search for “books to read if you like Orphan Black” and found exactly what I needed: this list titled “5 Books to Read if You Love Orphan Black” on the Barnes and Noble blog. Second on the list is Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. After reading the description, I decided that was the book I’d read…but the next day I started reading 1Q84 instead, purely out of convenience. My boyfriend had recently gifted me a Nook and shared his entire eBook library with me, which contained 1Q84. Since I already had it, I started reading.
I haven’t been the same person since. I wasn’t much of a reader at the time. I enjoyed reading, absolutely, but it took me months and months to get through a single book, and I often went months without picking up a book at all. Since beginning 1Q84, I haven’t gone a single week without picking up a book.
I’ve now read all of Murakami’s novels and am working my way through his short stories and nonfiction. He may be a best-selling author who has won a bunch of awards and whose books are read all over the world, but to me each story feels like a well-kept secret. While I’m reading, I feel as though I’ve escaped to a place that no one can find but me.
Upon the completion of a Murakami novel, I find myself craving more. I become so deeply involved with the characters and the worlds that Murakami has created that I don’t want to move on just yet. After finishing 1Q84, I felt such a strong sense of loss and sadness at parting with the novel and the characters I had spent two months with that I almost wanted to read it a second time through. Fortunately, I forced myself to begin Hard-Boiled Wonderland and learned that I love the rest of Murakami’s books almost as much as I love 1Q84 (though I think that will always be my favorite).
Murakami’s books are heavy, they are strange, they are sad, they are dark, they are complex, they can make you squeamish and uncomfortable and disoriented. But they are also beautiful, tender, heartwarming, and full of life.
In Murakami’s books, the mundane becomes complex and beautiful, like up until now you’ve never really looked at anything properly, and at the same time the strange doesn’t always seem so strange because you feel like you are in a world where anything can happen.
These are not books for passive readers who are looking for a quick, light read. These are books for those who want to read something that will change the way they feel and think and live.
Whatever it is you’re looking for in a story, you can probably find it in a Murakami book: love, lust, friendship, family, politics, humor, death, life, food, and cats, to name a few.
Check out more of Murakami’s books here.