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Biblio File

If You Like Murakami...


This week's readers advisory request comes to us in the form of two books and an author our reader has enjoyed in the past: The Secret HistoryJonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and Haruki Murakami

Here is what our staff recommended for this reader. If you want a reading recommendation from the NYPL, ask us on Tumblr.

The Crying of Lot 49 Cover

I might say the reader likes language and story, with character-based interest too, and with some psychological suspense or even unreliability in the mix. Or, just, generally meaty books that grab you with inner ruminating intrigue. I'd recommend trying The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon for some intrigue and a picture of someone confronting questions of hidden reality from a big-name writer. I'd also recommend The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, for language, fantastical yet deep, pondering, and relatable examinations of reality, and characterizations. —Jill Rothstein, Andrew Heiskell Library

I'm guessing this reader likes college settings with lots of intrigue and suspense, in addition to character building and language style. I think some of the other well-known authors of Japanese literature might fit the bill, or titles set at universities, especially novels with gothic or mysterious overtones, and bildungsroman. Try Ryu Murakami’s Almost Transparent Blue and 69, Kenzaburo Oe’s The Changeling, Banana Yoshimoto’s The Lake, Campus novels and more campus novels. —Jenny Baum, Jefferson Market

Special Topics in Calamity Physics Cover

I'd recommend Special Topics in Calamity Physics, by Marisha Pessl. It has the high-brow contemporary eccentricity of a Wes Anderson movie and the traditional literary chops of authors like Donna Tart, Wally Lamb, and even Vladimir Nabokov. Unlike so many mysteries that can't seem to escape the stereotypical clichés, Pessl's unique style made this book one of the most impressive and unique debut novels of the past decade! If you like Haruki Murakami's music of words then you'll love the work of one of his biggest influences, Raymond Carver. If Murakami's work can be described as magic realism, then Carver's would best be described as dirty realism; blue collar, hard working, lower-middle class, nicotine stained fingers, on the outskirts of town, rusty cars with ashtrays full of cigarette butts, uncut lawns with patches of dirt, empty beer cans and TV dinners, televisions on dead channels, that hazy dirty light at dusk, down on luck, a day late, and a dollar short. Carver's writing is spare and minimal which reinforces the atmosphere of his short stories. Start with What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Where I'm Calling From, and Cathedraland you'll be hooked. Incidentally Carver knew Murakami towards the end of his life. When he died, his wife Tess supposedly sent Murakami a pair of his shoes. Large shoes to fill, indeed. —Billy Parrot, Mid-Manhattan Library

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is a lot of story with a good dose of character and language. Set before and during WWII, with the main character waking up over and over to different variations on what her life might have been depending on the circumstances. It has a quality of mystery and unreliability because you don't know how long she will live through in any one lifespan. —Jessica Cline, Mid-Manhattan Library

Never Let Me Go Cover

Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go is an exquisitely melancholic read. It's a deliciously surreal bildungsroman set in an English boarding school. —Miriam Tuliao, Selection Team

Given those selections I would recommend the works of Ray Bradbury, particularly his short stories.  Language rich, incredibly evocative and easily blending fantasy and science fiction with reality to create a surreal sense of narrative that transcends genre.  A master of imagination and intellect, Bradbury explores many realities and settings, but ultimately comes round to the human condition and the creative spirit.  I'd recommend The Stories of Ray Bradbury that feature one hundred of his short stories, chosen by Bradbury himself, The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. —Stephanie Whelan, Seward Park Library

I just finished reading Alice Hoffman's Museum of Extraordinary Things, and that might fit the bill. A Coney Island daughter of the curator of a oddity museum (and an oddity herself) and a disenfranchised former textile worker turn photographer become involved in a murder mystery and fall in love in 1911 New York. 1911 is a year of fire in New York, starting with the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory (one of those world changing events) and ending with the fire in Dreamland at Coney Island. —Danita Nichols, Inwood Library

Murakami can be considered a fantasy/sci-fi author in much the same vein as Kurt Vonnegut and similar writers. He has a very dreamy, surrealistic style that matches the tone of Jonathan Strange and some earlier fantasy writers like Peter Beagle. I'd recommend The Last Unicorn for that kind of style. —Joshua Soule, Spuyten Duyvil

Despair Cover

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov—a murder mystery involving a doppelganger and a "perfect murder plan."  However, since this is Nabokov, the narrator (and murderer) is unreliable, and the murder plan isn't as perfect as he thinks it is.  Great language (as always for Nabokov) and a terrifically snakelike (but charming) main character. As She Climbed Across The Table by Jonathan Lethem—since both Murakami and Clarke dabble in the fantastical, Lethem's sci-fi satire should fit in with this group.  The plot is complicated, so let me just say that the novel involves quantum physics, alternative realities and a group of strange, yet believable characters. —Wayne Roylance, Selection Team


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