Summer is probably the busiest time of the year for me in terms of reading. Something about the summer heat brings out the bibliophile in me. You’ll notice that most of the books that I’m reading are 20th or 21st century writers with exception of Romeo and Juliet. That is because it was a very kind parting gift from a very dear friend of mine (read: someone I was seeing). I’ve always been a fan of Shakespeare but this play reads better each time I come back to it. This time will probably be no exception.
Okay, now we get to Haruki Murakami’s Birthday Stories. I came across my first Murakami in Grade 8 English, when we were studying Japanese literature. It was then when I was first exposed to Yasunari Kawabata and Banana Yoshimoto as well, who are also both wonderful; the first piece by Murakami I read was actually “On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning” and “The Second Bakery Attack“, which are both in the The Elephant Vanishes collection – which is one of my favourite short story collections. Those two pieces are both beautifully bizarre pieces of prose and great summer reads.
I chose to read Birthday Stories this summer because I feel like it gives me insight into Murakami’s writing – it is anthology that was compiled by Murakami. All the works relate back to the theme of birthdays (naturally). I loved reading the introductions to the authors that the pens and of course, the stories were brilliant (the ones I’ve read so far anyway). I’ve especially enjoyed “The Moor” by Russell Banks so far.
I picked up Raymond Carver and Kazuo Ishiguro’s short story collections for two very different reasons. I stumbled upon Carver first in Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running when he refers to Carver’s other collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Murakami also features him in Birthday Stories which furthered my curiosity. In Will you please be quiet, please?, “Neighbours” is probably my favourite piece so far but this collection hasn’t left too much of an impression on me really.
I came across Ishiguro when I was trawling through the modern Asian authors section. I’ll be the first to admit that I totally judged a book by its cover and bought Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall because it caught my attention and sounded genuinely interesting. I have really enjoyed every story thus far (but if I really have to play favourites, the first story, “Crooner“, has a special place in my heart). He captures the subtlety of being human so perfectly in his stories and the stark reality of life. They are dense in material but feels like you’re just swimming through the lines of text. A very easy and breezy read overall.
Let me know what you’ve been reading/ planning to read this summer so that I can add onto my list!