Haruki Murakami is an amazing writer. His works often appear simple, but are incredibly complex and profound. Ranging from haunting and magical to feverish and intense, each Murakami novel is its own special, complex experience. If you’re looking to read something different, challenging, and beautiful, then I cannot recommend this brilliant Japanese writer enough!
To keep things simple, I’m including a short list of this author’s works. But, there are plenty more to read once you finish these.
The Strange Library is my favorite to suggest as an intro to Murakami. This slim novella is only 96 pages (the audio recording linked above is only an hour), making it perfect for someone who is curious about this author, but who doesn’t want to make a huge commitment. This is the story of a child who wanders into the wrong part of the library, and finds himself prisoner of a strange and terrifying librarian who has sinister plans in mind for his young captive.
Wind/Pinball is actually two books in one. This volume comprises the first two installments of The Rat series. Plus, these are some of the earliest Murakami stories, which were out of print for about 30 years. The story follows an unnamed narrator and his old roommate, “The Rat”. There really isn’t much of a plot, per se, but rather a winding, dreamlike tale of two friends who are struggling to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Absolutely spellbinding–once you start reading, you won’t be able to put it down.
After Dark is a short read, but a deep one. So much is happening in this strange tale that takes place over the course of a single night. There is Mari, a young college student pulled from her late-night studies at a Denny’s into the alien world of the “night people,” including a trombonist who believes they’ve met before, the manager of a “love hotel”, and a prostitute brutalized by a client. Meanwhile, there’s Eri, Mari’s sister, a model sleeping her life away in a strange, dark room.
When I’m telling my friends about Murakami, I like to say that he has two types of books. The first take the simple and mundane and somehow elevate them to something beautiful and magical. Wind/Pinball and After Dark are like that. The others are best described as “fever dream”. And The Strange Library and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World both fit that description perfectly. Like everything else on this list, this is a hard book to describe. But, if you choose to read it, you can expect everything from unicorns, dream-readings, elevators that may or may not work, and a beautiful librarian with a voracious appetite. What do those things have to do with each other? You’ll have to read it to find out!