Dec 12, 2011

Books || What I Talk About When I Talk About Running ~ Haruki Murakami

If you are a runner, or hope to take up running sometime in your life, you must read this book. If you are a writer, or hope to become one, you must read this book. If you plan to do neither, you must still, read this book.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir, by Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer.

Photo Credit: Upton (Creative Commons)


This is the word that best describes Murakami. The manner in which he describes how he sold his jazz bar to take up writing, and eventually running, makes you feel like he did nothing big or great, and yet he did. The book made me feel thankful and hopeful that there are still such people in this world.

The man is in his 60s now, he was in his late 50s when he wrote the book. He took up marathon running in the later part of his life, middle-age. The way he’s trained his body to adapt to such a rigourous lifestyle is simply amazing. 

The book could inspire you to run. Write too, perhaps. But more importantly, it opens you to a certain way of life, a certain attitude towards it. Like this, for instance:

My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance - all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what's really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson. (It's got to be concrete, no matter how small it is.) And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I'll reach a place I'm content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it. (Yes, that's a more appropriate way of putting it.)

He talks at length about his experiences with running, participating in different marathons, losing the passion to run, and then gaining it all back again. Of his reasons for taking up running, he writes:

People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life - and for me, for writing as a whole. I believe many runners would agree. 

He also talks a lot about his writing.

Writing novels, to me, is basically a kind of manual labor. Writing itself is mental labor, but finishing an entire book is closer to manual labor. It doesn't involve heavy lifting, running fast or leaping high. Most people, though, only see the surface reality of writing and think of writers as involved in quiet, intellectual work done in their study. If you have the strength to lift a coffee cup, they figure, you can write a novel. But once you try your hand at it, you soon find that it isn't as peaceful a job as it seems.

Murakami says that he writes one word at a time. Like he runs, one step at a time. And that’s all it takes.
The beauty of the book is that there is something quotable in almost every page. But this is the one that stuck with me the most:

Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

Try it!

Purchase from Flipkart: here
Purchase from Amazon: here

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  1. Sounds very interesting and inspirational... must try it out!

  2. @TGAFA: Thanks for stopping by, do try out the book some time!

  3. WOW! Nothing more, Nothing less! I have been writing small and medium length posts now and then and it was just in the peace of an intellectual moment that I accomplished it. The books seems to give an idea of how it to write an entire book - I definitely agree!

    Thanks Sumitra - for bringing such books into our view.

  4. @Vikas: Yup, this book gives a good idea of what writing novels entails. You're welcome, glad you find this useful!

  5. @Phatichar: Please do! And why haven't you commented on the Giveaway post? Don't you want to win? :D

  6. Good question. As much as I love Calvin, I'm too much of a lazy person to be actually doing all that's required to win that prize! :(

    I know, I know, I know....(don't frown, please)..

    Ok, will try to, yeah?