Friday, March 7, 2014

List: Top 3 Haruki Murakami Books

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Haruki Murakami is a best-selling Japanese author. He writes novels, short story collections, and some non-fiction from time to time. He has won numerous awards and his works have been translated to several languages.

So far, I’ve read eight of his books -- 1Q84, After Dark, Blind Willow Sleeping Woman, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood, The Elephant Vanishes, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. If you didn’t read the review policy for List posts, let me tell you this: the entries in this list are subject to change, as I read more Murakami books and overthrow the current Top 3.

But as far as I’ve read, these three books are Murakami’s best.

3. 1Q84

            1Q84, as far as I know, is Murakami's longest work. My copy is 925 pages long.

            Personally, this is Murakami’s most surreal novel, with its concept of alternate realities. The story arcs and subplots are also the most complex and imaginative I’ve seen in Murakami’s books.

            That’s a lot of superlatives for 1Q84. But why is it just ranked third? Indeed, 1Q84 appears to be more prominent compared to its sister books, but it definitely has its own flaws that prevent it from being Top 2 or 1.

            This book has the tendency to overcomplicate things, and the pacing seems to drag especially in the middle part. In fact, the middle part is so dragged and expanded that the last one-third of the book seems to be rushed, giving the impression of a premature ending.

2. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

            Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a 1985 novel. It alternately narrates two stories -- Hard-Boiled Wonderland, and the End of the World.

            This is arguably Murakami’s most underrated book, mostly because it precedes Murakami’s more-known works. The primary reason why this is included in my personal list is the prose and writing style. They are very different compared to Murakami’s other books, or at least that’s how I see them. It’s either the original Japanese text is inherently different or the English translation I’ve read just turned out different.

            But whatever the case may be, it doesn’t change the fact that this book has real quality prose. Another thing that makes it different is its experimentation on science fiction and cyberpunk elements, while still maintaining the typical surreal atmosphere that Murakami is known for.

1.  Norwegian Wood

            Norwegian Wood is arguably Murakami’s most iconic book. This is somewhat ironic, because this book is the least that showed Murakami’s writing style. Really, this book has an entirely different style when compared to Murakami’s other books. It’s also the book that has the least surrealism. It’s very direct and has no blatant symbolisms.

            Despite all that, this is the book that made Murakami a certified best-selling author. The book has a lot of heart and soul, and the reader will surely feel them in the direct writing style and prose. Norwegian Wood is just beautifully written.

The characters and what they’re going through are the primary driving forces of the story. The sequences are very tragic and depressing, even more when compared to heavyweights like Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. That’s what I really like about Norwegian Wood. It has the same tragedy seen in Murakami’s other books, yet the direct and non-surreal approach makes it different from the rest.


Haruki Murakami

            All in all, Haruki Murakami is one of my favourite writers. His stories are very dreamy and tragic at the same time, and that gives off a unique sensation. His greatest strengths are how he builds atmosphere in his settings and how he weaves truly depressing stories. His weakest point is his tendency to dwell in random details and drag certain sequences. But even this weak link isn’t a major problem. Murakami’s other positive traits counterbalances it, and what results are books that are, indeed, good reads.

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  1. I remember Norwegian Wood being made into a movie a few years, but I have never read the book, or any of Murakami's books. If I had time, I might check out Norwegian Wood sometime though.


    1. Yes it was, but I haven't seen it. I read some negative reviews about it though. I don't know. I would not be seeing it because I don't want to ruin the images in my head.

      Murakami is an interesting writer! You should check him out if you have the time.