7 Sensational Haruki Murakami Works that You Should Read

Whether fiction or non-fiction, these are all wonderful novels and short story collections by Haruki Murakami that people should read.

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Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami published his first novel in 1979, and he hasn’t stopped since. He has written dozens of books and short stories, and he is one of the most famous and influential writers in the world. While his writing is wonderful, there are some books and stories of his that everyone should read. I compiled a list below.

Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche

'Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche' book cover showing vague yellow, orange, and blue shapes

This is a journalistic investigation of the 1995 terrorist attack that happened in Japan and shocked the world. Aum Shinrikyo is a terrorist group, and five of its members attacked the Tokyo subway system with poisonous gas. To discover why, Murakami interviewed the surviving victims and exposed the Japanese psyche, which was being pushed aside in favor of investigating the terrorists. As he seeks to find out how the attack happened, Murakami shows the world an event that could happen anywhere and at any time.

Kafka on the Shore

'Kafka on the Shore' book cover with a blue background and a small white cat

There are two main characters: the teenage runaway Kafka Tamura who is looking for his mother and sister, and the elderly Nakata, who is drawn to Kafka for reasons even he doesn’t know. Their paths collide, and readers are thrown into a strange world. Cats can talk, fish are falling from the sky, and spirits can enter and exit bodies. In this surreal world, the reason these characters’ fates are connected is slowly revealed, and by the end, one gets to escape while the other starts anew.

Hear the Wind Sing

'Hear the Wind Sing' book cover with a dark blue background with bars of color and rhombuses

This novella is Murakami’s first published work. Not a lot happens in the way of plot, except the narrator, a university student, drinks a lot of beer with his friend — named “the Rat,” who is a writer — while home for the summer, and he has a lot of strange talks with a mysterious woman. She vanished by the time he came back in the winter. It’s a strange novella, but it’s enjoyable and simple, and it’s the start of the author’s incredible writing journey.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World

'Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World' book cover

Murakami introduces us to two parallel narratives in a universe where actress Lauren Bacall, singer Bob Dylan, a split-brained data processor, a mad scientist and his brash granddaughter, and librarians, miscellaneous criminals, and subterranean monsters all come together. The result is hilarious and serious, giving us a look at the mind’s nature and uses.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

'The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle' book cover showing red, pink, yellow, and blue clouds

Toru Okada, a man living in a Tokyo suburb, searches for his missing wife and her cat in the underworld of the city’s calm surface. Over time, his searches combine, and he meets a strange mix of both friends and foes. This detective story shows not only Toru and his wife’s struggling marriage but also reveals secrets from Japan’s World War II campaign in Manchuria, putting it all together in a gripping yet hilarious novel.

After the Quake

'After the Quake' book cover with abstract colors and a vaguely human shape

This is a collection of stories set after the disastrous 1995 Kobe earthquake. One is where a salesman whose wife left him has to deliver a strange package, and he ends up seeing a peek at his true nature. Another is about a man who thinks he is the son of God but tracks down a strange man who might be his real father. An amiable collection agent is visited by a talking frog, and he helps the frog save Tokyo from disaster. All six stories come from a place where the human and inhuman collide.


'1Q84' book cover showing a face behind the title

In Tokyo in 1984, a woman named Aomane starts seeing the odd discrepancies around her. She is in a parallel existence called 1Q84, with the Q meaning “question mark.” Also, a writer named Tengo takes on a ghostwriting project and is so absorbed that his life changes. Their narratives collide, and we see their connections: a mysterious religious cult that started a shoot-out with the police; a rich woman who owns a shelter for abused women; a dyslexic teenage girl with a distinct vision; an ugly PI; a calm but brutal bodyguard; and a persistent television-fee collector. This is an ambitious story about love, self-discovery, fantasy, and dystopia that is one of Murakami’s best novels yet.

This list is just a starting point, of course. Which one is your favorite?

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