Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
Many writers pursue hobbies, interests, or avocations that are only tangentially related to the printed page. Joyce Carol Oates has a keen interest in boxing. Stephen King's love for and occasional performance of rock n' roll is well known. Salman Rushdie has a passion for acting and has had cameo roles on the big screen. Haruki Murakami has a thing for running.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running contains much of interest about the author and his writing, but running truly is the focus. Though one could read the entire book as a metaphor about writing, that would do a disservice to his thoughtful, plain-spoken meditations on running. Murakami talks about training, pain, food, marathons, half-marathons, ultra-marathons, triathalons, and all manner of things having to do with the body's health.
Often he does refer to his writing life here, talking about what does or does not make a novelist, but this book is a joy to read on its own terms, talking about the pleasures and pains of putting one foot after the other. The anecdotes, from running the route of the original marathon in reverse to jogging by the Charles River in summertime, are well deployed to illustrate the themes of each chapter, and make for fine stories in and of themselves.