17 July 2012

Oh, my gawd, in my life right now, this is PERFECT. I'll explain at the end, but my favorite part is the realization that "I am blessed to be born with a body that gets fat."

With my new love for running, I've found that music doesn't help me run any better, longer, or stronger. Music distracts me, making me ambivalent. I end up running to the beat more than anything else, which is annoying if I need to slow down or speed up. But listening to an audiobook? Fantastic. And listening to one about running by Haruki Murakami? PERFECT.

Only Haruki Murakami could write his memoir, and make it seem like it's just going to be about one thing only, something simple, but then he sneaks in so much more to make you really think. Is it only about his love affair with running? It is, but I would say it's a straightforward reflection about one man's evolution in his life and how running has made him better. Although Murakami falls in love with it, he just can't fight growing older, and this is tough to accept.

Before his career as a novelist, Murakami smoked sixty cigarettes a day. SIXTY. He decided to get healthier, so he quit smoking and ran. Short distances at first and then eventually his runs lengthened. Soon, he was running an average of more than 36 miles a week. Marathons are now a way of life for him and Murakami puts his heart and soul into it all. He experiences highs and lows that confuse him and make him question what his body can do, but he still pushes himself, trying to become better every day.

Whether you love the chaos of your job, are stressed out by it, or a little bit of both, you have to commit to it in order to make a living and survive. However...you still need that moment to yourself, right? This is where I'm at in my life now. I want to find time each day, but I also want to be better in everything. While I am no athlete (or perfectly coordinated human being, for that matter), I now suddenly find myself in a life more chaotic than ever before. So I want to run and it makes me feel so much better. Listening to this audio helped me understand why. There is one part about feeling the pain, but moving past it and not really feeling it anymore that resonated with me. I ran a little bit longer that night.

Running or not? Will you like the book either way?
I think you'll still enjoy it even if you're not a runner. It's hard for me to feel like I'm giving great guidance about that because I recently fell in love with running, so I instantly connected to it. Murakami is a fascinating person and the different races he participates in are incredible. He is motivational simply because he doesn't want to be anything other than what makes him happy. He talks a little bit about his writing, and the success of his books, and how he is extremely pleased with those who love his work, particularly the young college kids he never expected. But at the end of the day, the book is about a runner, one man who finds complete and total joy in the beauty of pushing yourself, but truly enjoying the art of being who you are.

And you know what my favorite part really was?
As I mentioned earlier, Haruki Murakami revealed a wildly cool idea about something I never thought I would feel: "I am blessed to be born with a body that gains weight.Huh? What? I thought this was crazy-talk. But as I listened, I totally got it. Like he says, by having a body that gains weight, we have something that is our trigger to motivate us to get healthier and to exercise. If we had a perfect {read: relative} body, then we wouldn't really ever get healthy. We'd smoke and drink and eat junk and maybe we'd clog up our arteries and get sick and a host of other issues but we would think we were fine because hey, our bodies look gooood. This was eye-opening for me. I resolved to feel happy with the fact that I need to work out and eat better,  that I have to invest in myself in order to look and feel the way I want to. I loved this revelation of the book and it's a lesson I'll take with me forever.

Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Release Date: 07/29/08
Audio Time: 4 hours, 25 minutes
Narrator: Ray Porter

Others said:
Book Chatter
Bookfoolery and Babble

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book on the audiobook website, Audible.com

About the Author
Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author of such popular works as Norwegian Wood and 1Q84. He is also a translator of English classics to the Japanese language. Although he shuns the public eye, he is a passionate runner and has been featured in running magazines for participating in several marathons each year. He lives with his wife, Yoko in Kyoto, Japan.

Audio Notes: Ray Porter's voice was outstanding and the inflection in his voice carried the emotions of the words right to my ears and it was blissful to listen to him while running. I loved it even more so because of Ray Porter's narration and am girlishly delighted to find another narrator to add to my favorites list. Click here to listen to the sample. And to Audible.com, please create a way to "favorite" your favorite audiobook narrator so that I can receive an alert when they have a new audio released!


  1. I feel your passion in this review. I do love Murakami, and maybe this one will be able to light a fire in someone like me:)

  2. I loved this post! Like Diane, I felt your passion for the book and running. I'm a huge Murakami fan and I'd seen this book around, but since I'm not a runner I wasn't so sure about picking it. And, I have to say I loved what you wrote about having to take time for yourself and also loving a body that can get fat - those two things really resonated with me. Thanks so much for this terrific post!

  3. I read and reviewed this book a couple of years ago, BEFORE I started running. Actually at the time my knees were totaled and I couldn't have run a mile. Still I loved the book LOVED. Gave it five stars. It is so inspirational and fascinating, that I wished I were a fan of his work. (At this point, I've not read anything because he intimidates me, but I know I'll get to it at some point.) It is a book that I could read over and over again.

    1. Sandy, what did you do about your totaled knees? I'm walking instead of running right now...and loving it...but my left knee drives me crazy! :(

    2. Have you tried swimming or using the elliptical? Both are better for troublesome knees.

  4. I've found the same thing with exercise (particularly running or walking) -- I much prefer spoken things, podcasts or books, to music. I tried to start running earlier this year, but lost momentum after I hurt my foot exercising. This book sounds great though, maybe the inspiration I need!

  5. I just got this one from the library on audio, and I am looking forward to checking it out. Sandy told me she really loved it, and although running is just a dream for me at this point, I still think I could benefit from reading this one and hearing what Murakami has to say regarding both his life, and the effect that running has on his body. Excellent and very passionate review today, Natalie. I should try to make time for this one sooner rather than later!

  6. I am so adding this one to my Audible list :) I haven't read anything by him yet, but I love to hear/read writers talking about their work...and the fitness/realizations about getting old are so where I am right now. Sounds perfect and a great review!!

  7. I'm so not a runner or keen on memoirs but you've got me curious about this one. My wife is trying to get me into running so maybe I'll try both and see what sticks! ;)

  8. I just started getting really into running about 4 months ago, so this book looks really interesting to me! Sometimes I need the motivation to get out of the house. Murakami, help me!

  9. Okay, so a few things. First! This book has been on my radar for SO long and I don't know how I haven't picked it up yet. I'm putting it on my (ever-expanding) list of books to check out of the library when I get home next month. Second! It's been a few years since I've been able to run (it's a long story; but in the conservative town where I lived in Macedonia, it wasn't acceptable for me to go out running, and for the past year I've been dealing with a string of back and achilles problems that have kept me focused more on strength training and stretching), so this is a perfectly timed review as I'm looking forward to starting up again in a couple weeks. I've never listened to music while I ran, but I'm buying one of those teeny clip-on-able ipods so I can test out music and audiobooks while I'm running. Actually, this may be a great book to start with.

    And: like others have said, I love that your passion comes through in this review. I'm sure that any Murakami fan would get a lot of this memoir, but it is especially fun to read a review from someone who's gotten into running recently. Hopefully, as I return to running, my thoughts on this book will mirror yours!

  10. "... blessed to be born with a body that gains weight." Wow! I need more of this kind of thinking in my life! I have, on occasion, been somewhat glad that I have had to watch what I eat my entire adult life. I'm seeing many of my middle-aged friends struggle to learn to eat healthy as weight and health issues catch up with them. I've been in this mode for many years already, so it isn't a shock to work the diet and workout. The running IS new to me and I'm glad to have found something that makes me feel so good in so many ways.

    I'm looking forward to reading this!

  11. Since it's a memoir, I'd probably enjoy it too.

  12. Isn't it great when just the right book comes along at the perfect time?! This sounds like a memoir I'd enjoy, too.

  13. You've inspired me to get back into trying to run (jog, lol) and while I never had any interest in this book I think I might give it a try on audio. I have yet to try an audio book while I'm at the gym. Plus I've always wanted to be one of those people who finds stress relief and time for reflection in running lol!

  14. For me, running is a high like no other form of exercise can bring me. I have gotten away from it in the last year or so and my mind and body are begging for me to get back to it. This book sounds like a must read for me.


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