10 Best Haruki Murakami Books
Haruki Murakami Guide: Which novel should you read
Who is your favorite writer or who do you think the best writer in the world is? You can read popular books in your language translation these days no matter where they are published. Japan is no exceptional, and best-selling books, especially novels, are translated into numerous languages soon after being released in Japanese.
Haruki Mukarami, one of the most popular writers in Japan, is also highly admired around the world. It is said that Haruki Murakami is one of the most likely candidates to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Today, I’d like to introduce 10 best books written by Haruki Murakami which you can read in English and other languages. There are numerous books written and translated by Haruki Murakami including novels, short stories, essays, etc. However, I believe that many readers favor the idea that Haruki’s true value depends on his novels. Therefore, the well-selected novels are featured here as well as his brief biography and novels in chronological order.
About Haruki Mukarami
Haruki Murakami (村上春樹), who was born in Kyoto and was raised in Hyogo Prefecture, released his debut novel Hear the Wind Sing in 1979 while running a jazz bar named Peter Cat in Tokyo. His books has become received international awards for novels since Kafka on the Shore was published in 2002. Haruki’s books are published in various counties and regions in the world, and Norwegian Wood, published in 1987, is released in no less than 36 counties. Haruki Murakami is also famous as a translator putting numerous notable books in English into Japanese such as The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler.
Novels in Chronological Order
-Hear the Wind Sing 風の歌を聴け (1979 in Japanese/1987 in English)
-Pinball, 1973 1973年のピンボール (1980 in Japanese/1985 in English)
-A Wild Sheep Chase 羊をめぐる冒険 (1982 in Japanese/1989 in English)
-Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World 世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド (1985 in Japanese/1991 in English)
-Norwegian Wood ノルウェイの森 (1987 in Japanese/1989 in English)
-Dance Dance Dance ダンス・ダンス・ダンス (1988 in Japanese/1994 in English)
-国境の南、太陽の西 South of the Border, West of the Sun (1992 in Japanese/1999 in English)
-ねじまき鳥クロニクル The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994-1995 in Japanese/1997 in English)
-Sputnik Sweetheart スプートニクの恋人 (1999 in Japanese/2001 in English)
-Kafka on the Shore 海辺のカフカ (2002 in Japanese/2005 in English)
-After Dark アフターダーク (2004 in Japanese/2007 in English)
-1Q84 (2009-2010 in Japanese/2011 in English)
-Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage 色彩を持たない多崎つくると、彼の巡礼の年 (2013 in Japanese/2014 in English)
-Killing Commendatore 騎士団長殺し (2017 in Japanese/2018 in English)
-The City and Its Uncertain Walls 街とその不確かな壁 (2023 in Japanese/TBA in English)
The City and Its Uncertain Walls: the Latest Full-Length Novel in Six Years (2023 in Japanese/TBA in English)
Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, The City and Its Uncertain Walls (街とその不確かな壁), is a long-awaited release from the acclaimed Japanese author, published six years after his previous work. Written during the pandemic, the novel was inspired by Murakami’s 1980 mid-length story of almost the same name. However, the storyline has been significantly expanded and reworked into a three-part structure. As in Murakami’s past book Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, the first part of the novel features a world surrounded by high walls. But the story then takes a new turn, moving to present-day Fukushima and following the protagonist, who works in a library.
10 Best Novels by Haruki Murakami
10. Killing Commendatore (2017 in Japanese/2018 in English)
Killing Commendatore (騎士団長殺し), the newest novel by Haruki Murakami, is his 14th novel published in Japan in 2017 when about 7 years passed since 1Q84 was released. The 36-year-old protagonist leaves home as a result of a conflict with his wife and moves to a studio in the mountain. Various people and something strange lie ahead for his new life.
9. Sputnik Sweetheart (1999/2001)
The 9th novel written by Haruki Murakami Sputnik Sweetheart (スプートニクの恋人) was published in 1999. It is sometimes regarded as the novel in which an inventory of Haruki’s first-person story is taken. The protagonist, who is closer to just a teller, falls in love with a girl named Sumire in the university. However, she likes someone else, and they are growing apart. The title of the book is named after the spacecraft launched by the Soviet Union in 1957.
8. Hear the Wind Sing (1979/1987)
Going back to the root of Haruki Murakami as a novelist, Hear the Wind Sing (風の歌を聴け) is his debut novel released in 1979. He completed the first book by writing after closing his owned jazz bar. The main character makes up his mind to start writing when he was 29 years old, which is the same as the author. It is like Haruki Murakami reflect himself on the character. The story of Hear the Wind Sing is followed by his 2nd novel Pinball, 1973.
7. A Wild Sheep Chase (1982/1989)
A Wild Sheep Chase (羊をめぐる冒険) is the third part of the so-called “Tetralogy of the Rat” which consists of his early novels: Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball, 1973, A Wild Sheep Chase and Dance Dance Dance. The story follows the protagonist’s adventures in Tokyo and Hokkaido chasing a sheep. He also goes though a tough break-up.
6. Kafka on the Shore (2002/2005)
One of Haruki Murakami’s masterpieces was published in Japan in 2002. Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ) was listed on “The 10 Best Books of 2005” from The New York Times and won the World Fantasy Award for 2006. He took the opportunity afforded by the international reputation to distinguish himself as a writer around the world. In this novel, the 15-year-old Kafka growing up in loneliness starts his journey to become independent as an adult.
5. Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森) (1987/1989)
Norwegian Wood (ノルウェイの森), one of the most famous books written by Haruki Murakami, is the best-selling novel and is translated into the most languages in the world. He identifies the book as a realism and romance novel. The story proceeds while the 37-year-old Toru Watanabe thinks back to the 1960s. Norwegian Wood is based on his short story “Firefly” released in 1983.
4. Dance Dance Dance (1988/1994)
As the final part of “Tetralogy of the Rat”, Dance Dance Dance (ダンス・ダンス・ダンス) was released in 1988. The setting of the book is the world where about 4 years passes after the former part A Wild Sheep Chase. The unnamed protagonist lives a stable life as a freelance writer, but he feels a lack of something priceless. The Sheep Man plays an important role in the novel as well as A Wild Sheep Chase.
3. 1Q84 (2009–2010/2011)
1Q84 is one of the most popular and best-selling books after 2000. Book 1 and 2 were released in 2009 and Book 3 was welcomed by fans in surprise in 2010. Many readers thought 1Q84 was concluded with the Book 2. 2 main parts with 2 main characters Aomame and Tengo are proceeded simultaneously. This story also includes the background of some serious incidents in Japan. Little People in this book is sometimes compared to Big Brother in Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell.
2. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985/1991)
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (世界の終りとハードボイルド・ワンダーランド) was published in 1985 as Haruki’s 4th novel. The story is divided into 2 parts in the different worlds: Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. The adventure part Hard-Boiled Wonderland seems a science-fiction story. On the other hand, the fantasy world in the End of the World is surrounded by the walls like the castle in medieval Europe. Critics sometimes categorize Haruki’s books into 2 themes: detachment and commitment, and some of them look on Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World as the best novel with the theme of detachment.
1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994–1995/1997)
What I would like to select as the best book by Haruki Murakami is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル). The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, one of the longest stories in Haruki’s books, was published in 1994–1995 as the 8th novel. It has the theme of commitment with others or society. In this case, the narrator and protagonist Toru Okada has a commitment to searching for his wife Kumiko (or their pet cat). He meets a variety of people and follows their “chronicles” in this book. The story of Nomonhan during WWII is fiction, however, it was inspired by Haruki Murakami’s father who was drafted in 1938 and deployed to China.
In addition to those 10 books, other novels and short stories should be focused on. For first timers, it is highly recommended to start with his debut novel Hear the Wind Sing or the number one book on the list The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. If you have read some novels written by Haruki Murakami, I really recommend to read all of those 10 books at least. For more info about Japanese culture, check these articles below.