Tidings from the Crew that be Off the Charts – what I talk about when I talk about running (Haruki Murakami) – the keep or keelhaul edition!

Ahoy there me mateys!  Blustery winds and crazy seas are still severely limiting the time I have to read.  So here be a Tidings post with a twist!  The First Mate has been reading like a fiend.  I ordered asked him to write a review of something he recently read because I be going through withdraw and NEED to hear about books.  At the end of his review I will decide whether the book is kept in the hold for me future reading pleasure or be keelhauled into the watery depths.  Hope ye enjoy!

From the First Mate:

Over the years, I think I’ve soured a bit on Murakami. I remember reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World for the first time and being struck at how much it seemed like a more accessible version of a David Lynch film. That opinion was only strengthened by reading A Wild Sheep Chase not too much later. But following that, I didn’t really connect with his work in quite the same way. Might have been me; might have been his work going in a different direction. I doubt I’ll ever read 1Q84 or Killing Commendatore again. And I have no idea if I’d pick up a new book by him if it came out now. But that’s his fiction.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is one of those books that I’ve had in boxes for years and had never read. I bought it when it came out because I was then still a Murakami fan. I couldn’t state a particular reason why I didn’t read it when I bought it. A memoir about running didn’t seem terribly appealing at the time, and I suppose very little over the last fourteen years made me think to pick it up.

It almost seems like Murakami was as vaguely disinterested in writing this book as I was in reading it. Unlike his novels, the language here is very loose and a little rambling. He tells us that he doesn’t actually think about anything when he’s running. But he does have lots of thoughts about how important running has been to his life and career. And he weaves a narrative about his career as a novelist through descriptions of various races he’s run.

The consistent theme of the first 4/5ths of the book is Murakami talking about training for the 2005 New York Marathon. In talking about his training, he meditates on getting older, discipline, disappointment, competition, and regret. The way the book is structured it feels as though it’s building to a chapter where he’s going to give us some description of what that particular race was like. But, no. He tells us that it didn’t go as well as expected, and then he moves on to talking about triathlons.

I’m not a runner. The Captain would likely tell you that I’m more a beast of burden. When we go hiking, I carry all of our supplies, and even carry the Captain when we cross rivers. Perhaps I would’ve gotten more out of the book had I been a runner. I don’t know. I enjoyed the memoir elements. The few races that Murakami talked about were very interesting. It just felt like this was not a finished work. It left me thinking about other things.

Recommended to Murakami fans and fans of unconventional memoirs. Avoid if books about running are not in your interests.

Yer Captain’s Verdict:

KEELHAUL!  Arrrr!  This Captain doesn’t run.  Ever.  Sometimes one has to strategically retreat but I always make haste slowly.  This book holds no appeal for me.  But apparently it does for other folk.  It was put into the free little library and was gone in less than one day!

Goodreads has this to say about the novel:

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and–even more important–on his writing. Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.”

To visit the author’s website go to:

Haruki Murakami – Author

To buy the novel visit:

what I talk about when I talk about running – Book

To add to Goodreads go to:

Yer Ports for Plunder List

8 thoughts on “Tidings from the Crew that be Off the Charts – what I talk about when I talk about running (Haruki Murakami) – the keep or keelhaul edition!

    1. The First Mate says that 1Q84 is one of weaker works that should only be read by Murakami completists. He said one of the best is the Hardboiled one listed in the review though it is very weird. Sheep Chase is less weird but also less fun. I have read no books by this author and I trust the First Mate when he says I shouldn’t read them.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m currently ‘reading’ this book, although I did put it down as a YTF (Yet To Finish) some months ago. Nothing very exciting or intriguing, but at times a bit funny, but I admittedly haven’t read anything else by him. I do like inspirational and self help books, so I’ll keep it on my shelf for as long as it needs to be there. Thanks for sharing. =D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear that it working for ye and that ye plan on finishing it. I wish self-help books were more useful to me in practice rather than being just in theory. I am very glad that other folks find them to be helpful though. Take help from where ye can get it and bettering oneself is always a good goal.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A great review! But I suppose that what we can take away from this – is that memoirs and life writing books can be structured around almost anything that drives the passions of the protagonist. It’s just a shame that it didn’t feel completely finished.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t read a ton of memoirs. Then ones I love I call naturalist memoirs. They talk about owls or octopuses or snails and why they matter to the writer. I do occasionally read travel related ones. I do find the concept of memoirs to be fascinating. I can’t remember what happened two days ago so I cannot see how anyone can write about the past at all with clarity.
      x The Captain

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think most people who undertake memoirs either have a particular period in their life they remember extremely well for a reason. Or they have diaries or daily journals they can refer to, when writing their memoirs…


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