Happy (belated) birthday Haruki Murakami

11297I saw a tweet this morning wishing Haruki Murakami a happy birthday. I got excited because a) he is my favourite author and b) I have an excuse to write a blog post about him. When I verified the information, turns out his birthday was on January 12th. (womp womp) The thing is, I composed a blog post in my head on the subway ride to work this morning, and I am not letting that go to waste!

I first came across Murakami probably just shy of 10 or so years ago. I was on the hunt for new things to read, things that were outside of my usual genres. Someone (I don’t remember who) suggested Haruki Murakami. I was intrigued. I figured I didn’t have much to lose on this venture, so I picked up a copy of Norwegian Wood.

Wow. I was blown away. I had never read anything like that before. It was so….cool and weird and heartbreaking and sincere and poignant. I had no idea that a book could be so many things at once. I was hooked.

I have pretty much read all of his books (I haven’t got to the non-fiction books or some of the short story collections). And even after all that, it’s hard for me to pin down both what is so compelling about his stories and how to describe them. I have seen his work described as Magical Realism and I guess that’s sort of it.

At the end of the day, I think he just tells a darn good story.

He does have some common themes in his books: cats (sometimes who talk), girls with small ears, simple food, Cutty Sark Whiskey. After reading a few of his books, you start to look out for these things. It’s like a literary Where’s Waldo.

I can’t pick one of his books that is my favourite. They are all different and meaningful in their own way.

If you are interested in trying out his work, I would suggest starting off with something shorter like Norwegian Wood. It’s a fairly straightforward narrative and you get a good sense of his writing style. I would save The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84, and Kafka on the Shore for a little later. (Don’t get me wrong, they are really good. But they are on the long side and a little more magical than realistic.)

If you decide to check him out, let me know what you think!

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