What Happens When You Read Seven Murakami Books In A Row

I did something absurd this year. 

I read seven books in a row by a single author. It took me about a year. I did sprinkle in some other novels (I sometimes catch myself reading 2-3 books at one time, word ADD) but for the most part my head was only and always consumed by the crazy magical realism that is Haruki Murakami.

In one review, a writer describes his books as:

built around an almost obsessive urge to explore and understand the inner core of the human identity. His heroes routinely journey into a metaphysical realm—the unconscious, the dreamscape, the land of the dead—to examine directly their memories of people and objects they have lost.

So yeah. Reading seven books like that was...definitely interesting. But also incredibly fascinating and fun.

I was first introduced to Murakami a few years ago. One of my good friends from Nigeria used to order me used books off of Amazon, so I'd have random & worn books show up on my doorstep from all around the world. (#BFFAward - thank you Nate!) 

One book was Murakami's A Wild Sheep Chase. I remember starting to read it, but couldn't get past the first few chapters. I buried it in my bookshelf and got lost in the other magic that is The Hunger Games and crazy Reddit threads.

For whatever reason, I picked up A Wild Sheep Chase again last summer, and this time was instantly enthralled. It's a mystery story that involves the remote, snowy mountains of Japan, and characters like a mutant sheep with a star on his back.

I legit would take local trains home from work so I could keep reading for longer. My head was always glued to the pages, and when I finished the book I was SO SAD it was over.

So I did the next best thing I could: read another Murakami.

This time it was his latest book, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. What was most interesting about reading another book by him was being able to capture the nuance of his writing, and notice themes across his books (there's a lot of weird sex, even weirder dreams, swimming, cooking, and lost, simple male characters).

After that book, I read his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. (Actually, I got it for my dad for Christmas, and immediately borrowed/stole it back after he finished it.)

I read it in two days, captivated by his commentary on running and its intersection with writing.

Next up was Kafka On the Shore, which is my favorite book out of all seven I've read. It's another 'parallel world read' with a 15 year old trying to escape a terrible oedipal prophesy, an old man who is mentally disabled, a crazy dude who kills cats and eats their hearts, a secluded library, a transvestite, and a Fried Chicken King: Colonel Sanders. I swear it's really, really good. 

Followed by Kafka was 1Q84, a monster 1,100 page book that I accidentally started reading a week before a backpacking trip to Peru. I was so hooked I actually took the 20lb book with me (...backpacking...) so I could read it in my tent at night. Dedication, or unhealthy obsession...?

Next up was a downsize: Norwegian Wood was less than 300 pages, and felt way nicer to carry on my subway commute into Manhattan. Just like his memoir, I purchased this one a family member (sister-in-law!) but luckily borrowed it right after she was through.  Nothing wrong with have an ulterior motive...

This book almost crushed me. Essentially it was a poignant love story—though it was still fantasy, not a fairy-tale—and the depths Murakami makes his readers travel to are emotional ones: a sanitarium, a troubled 20-something's mind, and a hypothetical well.

No way to deny it: I felt sad after reading this one, which I took down in about six days. 

Perhaps I should have stopped there, but I had one more book in me (for now, at least). Lucky number seven was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a book that's as whacky as it is lovely, violent as it is peaceful. There's another well (this time the main character actually goes in it, and eventually uses its walls to transform into other worlds...) which is mixed with buried secrets of WWII, a pair of psychics, and a missing cat. 

I was quickly losing steam. This one took me about a month to read and was probably my least favorite of all seven. I think I was simply exhausted from reading seven books—about 3,731 pages—of magic, violence, love, and not being able to depict what's real from what's not.

Whenever I read before bed I would have bizarre dreams. There were scenes so crazy I'd read on my commute to work I'd do a lap before heading to the office. There were other pages so perfect in my mind I read them over and over, wishing I could muster up 1/8th of the literary genius I believe Murakami to be.

so, what happens when you read seven in a row?

You feel weird. So don't say I didn't warn you.

Still, Murakami's an incredible writer, and I highly recommend diving into a few of his books if you haven't already. Kafka on the Shore and 1Q84 are my favorites, though I'm sure any you start with will throw you down the path of wanting to read another, then another, then ... 

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