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Since I spend most of my day thinking about, talking about, and writing about running, I try to read books that don't have anything to do with running. It helps that most books about running (with a few notable exceptions: training books, Once A Runner, Running With The Buffaloes) simply aren't all that interesting to me. They tend to either be too dry or too self-indulgent for my taste.
Most of the non-fiction I really enjoy works hard to make the subject fascinating to the reader. I feel like most running books assume that you're already fascinated by running. And while that may be the case, it still helps if the book tries to shed a new light on what makes us all love running so much.
Haruki Murakami's book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is an interesting read because he still seems in awe of his own fascination with running. This awe leads him to study it and examine it rather than take it for granted.
Partly this comes from the fact that he started running later in life. As he says, "Thirty-three -- that's how old I was then. Still young enough, though no longer a young man. The age that Jesus Christ died. The age that Scott Fitzgerald started to go downhill. That age may be a kind of crossroads in life."
That was also the age that he began his career as a novelist. Since then, the two pursuits have been intertwined for him. Because he is better known as a writer, he assumes that his audience has less familiarity with running than with him and does a good job of writing for a general audience.
He talks honestly about his running -- the good and the bad. There are no "Chicken Soup for the Soul" stories here, no grand life philosophies. But he still manages to talk more eloquently and offer more insight into running than most of the running books I've read.
The stories he tells are interesting enough, but the real strength of the book lies in his self-examination. The scrutiny that he puts his passions under (both running and writing) helps you look at your own and remember why you started in the first place, and the simple joys of doing it, "not so much as an intentional act, but as an instinctive reaction."
Neither rah-rah motivational or really plot-driven, it's an excellent, quick read that will definitely offer something different for any runner's bookshelf.
You can purchase What I Talk About When I Talk About Running at Amazon.