In the annals of literary history, novelists have often been sports maniacs—Hemingway had his hunting, Mailer his boxing, Plimpton his football. Now Japanese cult writer Haruki Murakami has his marathons. In his new memoir, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running," the author chronicles a season of training (he's completed at least one 42km race per year for more than two decades) with his typically understated, repetitive style—one that mirrors the act of long-distance running itself.
The book is mostly a collection of thoughts, jotted down as Murakami runs in climes as different as Tokyo, Boston and Hawaii. Turns out the traits necessary for writing novels for a living (the ability to enjoy being alone and to exercise even when the muscles are tired) also work in a marathoner's favor. Murakami's book is strongest when he moves out of his head and into the wider world of races—as when he travels to the New York marathon and observes a late-autumn Central Park, where "the sky is so clear you can see forever and the skyscrapers lavishly reflect the sun's rays." In these passages, the humble Murakami shows himself to be very much the master.