Book Review | Men without Women by Haruki Murakami

men without women.jpegIt’s always exciting when your favorite author comes out with a new book. Last month, Murakami’s newest collection of short stories, Men without Women, was released in the US. With seven stories included, this book was a quick read. Versions of some stories had previously been published by The New Yorker or Freeman’s. As the title suggests, these tales share a similar thread: men without women. The men are affected differently by their lack of women in each story, and Murakami uses the circumstances to share interesting insights about love, relationships and matters of the heart.

Though certainly not a happy, feel good book, it was an enjoyable read. Murakami’s signature style is evident and comforting, like an old friend. The stories jump right in and hold the reader’s attention. The characters are anonymous enough to be relatable for many readers, yet developed and well-rounded. Manageable section lengths make the book easy to pick up and put down. This book most reminded me of Murakami’s previous work South of the Border, West of the Sun. It is more of a return to the quality of the author’s earlier works than some more recent publications may have been. Highly recommended for long time Murakami fans, those who enjoy a short story, and those looking for insights into matters of the heart. It’s new now and there are likely to be several holds, but check it out from a library near you!

*If you’ve enjoyed reading Men without Women, you may be interested in This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz (2012).

Book Review | The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

book cover the strange library by haruki murakami english edMurakami followers are psyched about this month’s English release of illustrated novella The Strange Library. Previously released in Japan in 2005 as Fushigi na toshokan, the work was a revised edition of 1982 story Toshokan kitan. At just about 100 pages, this book is really a bedtime story for adults. The story follows a student to the public library. He’s looking for some books about tax collection in the Ottoman Empire when the librarian refers him to a research room that he hasn’t previously heard of. Upon entering the room, he’s greeted by an eerie old man who fetches the books he’s after, but then imprisons him deep in the bowels of the library.

Long time Murakami fans will be delighted with the return of the sheepman from the “Trilogy of the Rat”: Pinball, 1973, A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance. More recent fans will appreciate stylistic similarities and textual magical realism or surrealism. This book will get you laughing. Though this story could be thought of for children, it may also make them afraid of the library or older librarians – beware. Check to see if this book is available at a library near you. After you’ve finished reading it, hop over to the New Yorker’s page to read Murakami’s short story Scheherazade that they published in October.

Book Review | Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

book cover Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki MurakamiMore than a year after its release in Japan, Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, debuted in English last month. The wait had been a long one for Murakami fans who quickly devoured the previous tome, 1Q84, after its English release in 2011. Colorless currently tops the New York Times hardcover fiction list, just as Japanese sellers struggled to keep up with buyer demand for the release in April last year. The sales may be more of a nod to Murakami’s successful career and fan following than a reflection of this book’s greatness in comparison to others he’s written.

Main character Tsukuru Tazaki is an engineer in his mid-30’s working to update and build railway stations near Tokyo. He’s dating a slightly older woman and finds it to be one of his first meaningful relationships, but seems stuck with how to progress. As they get to know each other better, she deduces that his current emotional troubles have deep roots going back to friendship bonds formed in high school. Through the book, we witness Tsukuru battling past and present demons in a meaningful and mostly straight-forward way.

This book left me wanting more. Of course, as a fan, I’d like each new Murakami book to be better than the last, but this novel wasn’t better. Murakami does a great job laying a difficult story line and keeping the serious and somber tone without over-dramatizing, but something seems missing. Colorless does not have some of the same elements of magical realism or surrealism as other Murakami favorites like A Wild Sheep Chase or The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, but it has a few missing connections that don’t quite come together, like in After Dark. Overall, I enjoyed the book. The characters were realistic and many Murakami-isms came through – classical and jazz music, Cutty Sark, swimming, dreams and interpersonal relationships. The novel allowed the reader to pass into the life of another (slice of life), a realistic portrayal of what someone else might have struggled with. For Murakami fans, or those interested in a serious, somewhat psychological read, check out Colorless from the library if you can handle the hold queue, or buy the ebook on Google Play.