Where To Start With Haruki Murakami

Where To Start With Haruki Murakami

Which book should you start with?
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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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5 Perks Of Having A Long-Distance Best Friend

The best kind of long-distance relationship.
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Sometimes, people get annoyed when girls refer to multiple people as their "best friend," but they don't understand. We have different types of best friends. There's the going out together best friend, the see each other everyday best friend and the constant, low maintenance best friend.

While I'm lucky enough to have two out of the three at the same school as me, my "low maintenance" best friend goes to college six hours from Baton Rouge.

This type of friend is special because no matter how long you go without talking or seeing each other, you're always insanely close. Even though I miss her daily, having a long-distance best friend has its perks. Here are just a few of them...

1. Getting to see each other is a special event.

Sometimes when you see someone all the time, you take that person and their friendship for granted. When you don't get to see one of your favorite people very often, the times when you're together are truly appreciated.

2. You always have someone to give unbiased advice.

This person knows you best, but they probably don't know the people you're telling them about, so they can give you better advice than anyone else.

3. You always have someone to text and FaceTime.

While there may be hundreds of miles between you, they're also just a phone call away. You know they'll always be there for you even when they can't physically be there.

4. You can plan fun trips to visit each other.

When you can visit each other, you get to meet the people you've heard so much about and experience all the places they love. You get to have your own college experience and, sometimes, theirs, too.

5. You know they will always be a part of your life.

If you can survive going to school in different states, you've both proven that your friendship will last forever. You both care enough to make time for the other in the midst of exams, social events, and homework.

The long-distance best friend is a forever friend. While I wish I could see mine more, I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Cover Image Credit: Just For Laughs-Chicago

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12 Songs That Prove You're A Sucker For The Jonas Brothers

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