Murakami on What to Read

Courtesy: Vittorio Giardino

It isn’t an uncommon scenario when we find ourselves at the bookstore for a book next to read. We all have been there.

Though one section of the bookstore which is a safe bet is “best-selling” one. Or if you don’t visit bookstore anymore, “bestsellers” on Amazon. These contain the book that might be loved by people but generally turns out to be the mediocre ones that time hasn’t yet filtered for us.

With the passing time, their popularity will also fade. Yet we choose our next reads from these sections. Ask why? Because social proof tricks us into thinking that these are worth reading (from The Psychology of Persuasion).

This often misguides us and we end up wasting our resources in terms of time and money. The point being, if we are reading what everyone else is reading, it is difficult to think differently and find solutions to our problems.

Norwegian wood Haruki Murakami

Haruki Murakami sums it right in his book Norwegian Wood:


And so we became friends. This happened in October.

The better I got to know Nagasawa, the stranger he seemed. I had met a lot of strange people in my day, but none as strange as Nagasawa. He was a far more voracious reader than I, but he made it a rule never to touch a book by any author who had not been dead at least thirty years. “That’s the only kind of book I can trust,” he said.

“It’s not that I don’t believe in contemporary literature,” he added, “but I don’t want to waste valuable time reading any book that has not had the baptism of time. Life is too short.”

“What kind of authors do you like?” I asked, speaking in respectful tones to this man two years my senior. “Balzac, Dante, Joseph Conrad, Dickens,” he answered without hesitation.
“Not exactly fashionable.”

“That’s why I read them. If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking. That’s the world of hicks and slobs. Real people would be ashamed of themselves doing that. Haven’t you noticed, Watanabe? You and I are the only real ones in the dorm. The other guys are crap.”

This took me off guard. “How can you say that?”

“’ Cause it’s true. I know. I can see it. It’s like we have marks on our foreheads. …”

Reading is one of the best ways to educate yourself. But what do you read and how you read is of high importance.

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