judging a book by its cover

The UPS man just dropped off a box that we’ve probably all seen at our doorsteps—the one with that swishing arrow on the side of the package…yes, the Amazon.com box. My Amazon box usually contains a required textbook, but there’s still some sense of excitement in getting that Amazon package and getting to open it.

I admit I don’t read all the books that I buy, but I do love books, not always for reading them but for the physical existence of them. I love looking at the color and design of the cover, feeling those pages in my hands, and looking at the printed pages.

While I have bought books this past year, I haven’t been that excited to read any book in a while. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that most of them had to do with some academic topic, but in general, the reading portion of the reason why most people buy books haven’t been of that much interest to me. The person I know who actually reads the books she buys is my mother. Currently, she’s dug into the writings of  Haruki Murakami, a Japanese writer and translator.  A writer who writes both fiction and non-fiction, he’s has garnered worldwide acclaim and numerous awards. In the US, he’s known more for his short stories, but his bestsellers in the United States have included his novels like Norweigian Wood and After Dark. Considered an important figure in postmodern literature, The Guardian praised him as “among the world’s greatest living novelists” for his works and achievements.

Most of the time I don’t really read much fiction writing, so when my mother started to nudge me about reading a book of his I hesitated to say yes.  But last week I agreed that I would read some of Murakami’s writing. So among the shipment of some textbooks, two of Murakami’s books arrived: a set of short stories The Elephant Vanishes (I thought that might be a good way to get into his works) and a memoir What I talk about When I Talk about Running. I don’t run, but something about the title kind of attracted me to the book.  And as I read the foreward to “What I Talk about When I Talk about Running,” I knew my initial attraction was not unfounded.

From reading that foreward and the back cover, it’s becoming clear that the book’s much more than just about running. The act of running is brought alive through his style of writing, something Murakami emphasizes in the foreward. (“I decided that I should just write honestly about what I think and feel about running, and stick to my own style. I figure that was the only way to get going….”) For me that’s what’s probably what’s intriguing me to this book the most, because though my journal is based on the process of going through ECT, the expression of that experience is done through printed words. Murakami says that “one thing I noticed was that writing honestly about running and writing honestly about myself are nearly the same thing.” Likewise, those combinations of words and letters become more than about my mental health stuff; it is a representation of myself.  And I want to learn to, well, represent myself better, in that I want to be a better writer to be better at most accurately capturing my experiences.

Something in me has been stirred in having picked up Murakami’s “What I Talk About…” The Christian Science Monitor writes that “You need be neither runner or writer to find resonance in this slender but lucid meditation. The insights Murakami shares….transcent either track or page.” I truly am excited about getting to read this book, and I hope that this sense of excitement will still be within me when I am finished with it.

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