Where To Start With Haruki Murakami

Where To Start With Haruki Murakami

Which book should you start with?

When it comes to the author Haruki Murakami, finding a book to start with can seem like a bit of a daunting task. Over the course of his career as an author he has written 14 novels, 4 short story collections, a novella, and several nonfiction works. He is one of the most internationally well-known authors from Japan, with The Guardian’s Steven Poole writing that Murakami is, “among the world’s greatest living novelists.”

Murakami's works live and breathe surrealism. The worlds he creates are populated by talking cats, labyrinthine libraries, strange disappearances, and casual "end of the world" conversations. He fits into a genre called "magical realism" where mundane life finds itself interlocked with the strange and absurd, where the supernatural and sci-fi creep into the everyday world, and where things are almost never what they seem. So with all of that being said it can be difficult to find a book to start with that is both palatable to the average reader and nicely representative of Murakami’s overall tone and style.

Whether you're just starting with Murakami or trying to get somebody else into his works it can be tempting to go for his less bizarre and magical books such as “Hear the Wind Sing,” “Pinball, 1973,” or “Norwegian Wood." Alternatively some might feel that diving headfirst into his most surreal stories might be the best idea with “Kafka on the Shore” or "Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World."

Though many of these books share common themes and shared elements (just check out this always hilarious Murakami Bingo picture or this drinking game that will kill you) starting with the wrong one can easily turn a reader off from his works, which is a real shame. In my personal opinion the best approach to Haruki Murakami's novels is the middle-of-the-road. When suggesting Murakami to people I tend to start with one of two books: 1999's "Sputnik Sweetheart" or 2004's "After Dark."

"Sputnik Sweetheart" was one of my first encounters with Murakami's novels, before that I'd mostly read his short stories from "The Elephant Vanishes" and "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman" in class. To me "Sputnik Sweetheart" is a perfect entry point because of its balance of Murakami's go-to themes. The surreal is present here, but never quite as overbearing as some of his other works, it gives the book an atmosphere that is palatable without losing that cigarette choked style he is known for. The story of Sumire's strange disappearance after a romance with an older woman is fascinating from start to finish and does a great job of making the surreal feel, well, real. There is a mundanity to Murakami's writing that makes even the most absurd events easy to swallow. For me "Sputnik Sweetheart" was the perfect introduction to the world of Haruki Murakami.

"After Dark," in all honesty, is one of my favorites. I own it as an ebook, an audiobook, and a physical copy. That unreal quality of magical realism is present here in force with the almost supernatural atmosphere of nighttime Japan and a young girl waking up trapped inside a television screen. It is a fast, enjoyable read, keeping a brisk pace throughout while still being able to pause for quiet reflection and odd pseudo-philosophy when it feels the need to (it is Murakami after all). Much like "Sputnik Sweetheart" it balances out the mundane with the surreal in a way that is easy to digest and can prepare readers for his more dense works, though 928 page beasts like "1Q84" should probably be saved for later.

Now these are just my suggestions, many people have started with "A Wild Sheep Chase" or "Norwegian Wood," others still think his short stories are the easiest bridges into his longer works, but I believe that if you want to wet your appetite for Murakami these are the best, easiest novels to begin with. Murakami is one of those writers where if you dislike his work that opinion probably won't vary much from book to book, but if you love his work you will likely tear through it voraciously and annoy your friends by trying to talk about him every chance you get (well, that's my experience anyway).

Cover Image Credit: radicalscholarship.files.wordpress.com

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10 Dwight Schrute Quotes To Prove He's Everyone's Favorite Character On 'The Office'

“Nothing stresses me out. Except having to seek the approval of my inferiors.”

If you are a fan of the office like I am, Dwight has to be one of your favorite characters! At some points he acts completely insane but you still love him anyways.

Dwight takes his job as assistant to the regional manager very seriously and always wants to best when it comes to Dunder Mifflin. Anyone who has watched 'The Office' knows how crazy and out there Dwight can be.

Here are some of my favorite Dwight Schrute quotes:

1. “I am fast. To give you a reference point I am somewhere between a snake and a mongoose… And a panther.”

I wish I was that confident in my martial arts skills.

2. “I signed up for Second Life about a year ago. Back then, my life was so great that I literally wanted a second one. Absolutely everything was the same…except I could fly.”

We all wish we had the same confidence as Dwight.

3. “People say, ‘Oh it’s dangerous to keep weapons in the home, or the workplace.’ Well I say, it’s better to be hurt by someone you know, accidentally, than by a stranger, on purpose.”

Except when you accidentally shoot a gun in the workplace...

4. “In the wild, there is no healthcare. Healthcare is 'Oh, I broke my leg!' A lion comes and eats you, you’re dead. Well, I’m not dead, I’m the lion, you’re dead!”

Dwight has a comeback AND an argument for everything... why don't I?

5. “Nothing stresses me out. Except having to seek the approval of my inferiors.”

Like when Jim was the manager, a very hard time for Dwight.

6. “I saw Wedding Crashers accidentally. I bought a ticket for “Grizzly Man” and went into the wrong theater. After an hour, I figured I was in the wrong theater, but I kept waiting. Cuz that’s the thing about bear attacks… they come when you least expect it.”

Wedding Crashers bear edition, coming to a theater near you.

7. “Of course Martial Arts training is relevant… Uh, I know about a billion Asians that would beg to differ… You know what, you can go to hell, and I will see you there. Burning!”

It was probably the best day of Dwight's life when he got his black belt.

8. “Once I’m officially Regional Manager, my first order of business will be to demote Jim Halpert. So I will need a new number two. My ideal choice? Jack Bauer. But he is unavailable. Fictional. And overqualified.”

The Dwight versus Jim feud with always live on.

9. “And I did not become a Lackawanna County volunteer sheriff’s deputy to make friends. And by the way, I haven’t.”

He even stuck a siren to the top of his car to escort Jim and Pam to the hospital.

10. “Security in this office park is a joke. Last year I came to work with my spud-gun in a duffel bag. I sat at my desk all day with a rifle that shoots potatoes at 60 pounds per square inch. Can you imagine if I was deranged?”

Only Dwight would have a spud gun handy. What's your favorite Dwight Schrute quote?

Cover Image Credit: Rainn Wilson

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5 Simple Ways To Tackle Your Writer's Block

Here are some tips and tricks to help beat writer's block.

Earlier this week, I sat down to begin writing an article. I went through my entire routine. I got coffee, put on some music, grabbed my laptop, opened a Word document, and then nothing. I was completely out of ideas on anything to talk about. The dreaded curse of writer’s block had taken its hold on me. This happens to myself more than I care to admit, but it is something I think all writers and creative people suffer from frequently. Sometimes it occurs before you even start creating, and sometimes you are halfway done with your creation and your mind goes blank. What can one do in this situation? I thought about this, and I thought about what I normally do when I run out of ideas, so I decided to share some of the things I do to help get my creative juices flowing again.

1. Take A Walk.

Einstein, among many others, was famous for taking walks when he needed to work out complex problems in his head. He would take long walks on the beach to just think about his work up to that point and try to find solutions to his problems. I like this idea a lot, especially for people who are creative. Inspiration can come from anywhere and taking a walk can help open your mind to new possibilities.

2. Play a Game, read a book, etc.

All of my ideas are inspired by something, and a lot of times the things that inspire me are the things I like, such as, video games, comics, movies, etc. If you are stuck with writer’s block, taking a break and doing something else you enjoy can help get your gears turning. You may see something in a book or film that sparks your creative fire and pushes you past your dilemma.

3. Writer More.

There are times when I am writing that I have a good idea set up. This could be a scene for a film, a character, or a setting, but I don’t have any way to continue past that initial idea. Sometimes I am filled with, what I think are, dumb ideas for ways to continue this story, but I can’t think of any good ideas. However, sometimes just writing those dumb ideas down can help turn them into a good story. Things usually sound better in your head, but occasionally getting them down on paper can help you make better sense of it all. Also, this can help get your brain off of the ideas you don’t like, and it can now focus on different ideas.

4. Have a Conversation.

The old saying is still true today, two heads are better than one. It never hurts to run your idea or story by another person to get their take on it. They can usually offer some great feedback and having another opinion other than your own can help you better understand what direction to take. Also, that person may have the answer to the problem that is hindering your writing. It can never hurt to ask for some advice.

5. Take a Nap.

I think most of us would agree that naps are great, but they can help with writers block too. In my opinion, a nap (or just sleeping in general) allows for a reset on the creative process. Taking a nap can help reboot your system and get rid of the cumbersome ideas blocking creativity. Also, a brilliant idea could come to you in a dream and propel your writing forward. Dreams can help craft extremely interesting stories.

These are just some things I do to help with my writer’s block. I am sure there are dozens and dozens of other tips to check out, and there are probably a lot here that sound peculiar to people. The fact is, everyone is different and have different methods for tackling writer’s block, but maybe this will aid in someone’s struggle.

Cover Image Credit: Stanley Dai

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