14 Best Haruki Murakami Books Of All Time

Are you looking for the best Haruki Murakami books? Take a look at some of the top titles from this Japanese author.

Japanese literature has a tremendous amount of depth. The history of Japan itself is reflected in its pages, and its authors have had a significant impact on writing across the world. There is something for everyone, from short stories to poems and thrillers to romance novels.

Haruki Murakami is primarily considered one of the best Japanese authors, but what is the best Haruki Murakami novel?

Popular Haruki Murakami Books 

Best Haruki Murakami Books

Take a look at some of the best books below, and dive into some of this author’s most captivating works.

1. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a powerful surrealist tale that focuses on the differences between two situations. In this 1994 story, the protagonist’s wife, Kumiko, is held prisoner in a hotel that resembles a labyrinth. The soft-spoken hero needs to overcome his misgivings to get her back. 

The hero eventually finds his way to this metaphysical hotel only to find that his brother-in-law is the one holding her hostage. There are several awkward moments, plenty of violence, and time pressure. The book focuses on power, love, violence, and the influence of memories.

“I was enveloped in numbness and absence of feeling so deep the bottom was lost from view.”

Haruki Murakami
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel
  • a visionary novel by one of Japan's greatest living novelists, Haruki Murakami.
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 607 Pages - 09/01/1998 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

2. A Wild Sheep Chase

A Wild Sheep Chase is one of the most popular Murakami books, released in 1982. The original title was, An Adventure Concerning Sheep, and the book lives up to its original name.

The protagonist fights against a syndicate of political insiders, business tycoons, and industry professionals who appear to have a bottomless pit of money and power. The protagonist flips the narrative to his terms and fights back using morals and honor.

The book itself takes place in the rural areas of Hokkaido, which serves as a metaphor for the inner mind of the hero. This story focuses on juxtaposing the state’s power against the individualist spirit. 

“Most everything you think you know about me is nothing more than memories.”

Haruki Murakami
Sale
A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 353 Pages - 04/09/2002 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

3. 1Q84

1Q84 bears some stark similarities to the infamous terrorist attack perpetrated by Aum Shinrikyo in 1995. The 2009 novel focuses on fringe religious groups, their power, and the havoc they can cause. In this story, a fictitious religious cult, called Sakigake, tries to establish its connection with the spirits of the Earth, called Little People.

The novel’s plot focuses on bringing together two heroes. The first is a fitness instructor who moonlights as an assassin, while the other is a mathematician who moonlights as a copywriter. There is a tremendous amount of tension between politics, religious ideology, and the inner souls of these people. 

“If you can love someone with your whole heart, even one person, then there’s salvation in life. Even if you can’t get together with that person.”

Haruki Murakami
Sale
1Q84 (Vintage International)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1184 Pages - 01/22/2013 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

4. Hard-Boiled Wonderland And The End Of The World

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is a science fiction work that has two narratives intertwined as the story unfolds. The first narrative focuses on the mean underground streets of Tokyo in the setting of a futuristic information war. The other world is a fantasy world that unfolds in a small town with elements such as a giant gatekeeper, people who lack shadows, and the occasional unicorn.

Nothing can quite compare to the strangeness and contrasts between these worlds in this 1985 release. Still, the hero needs to figure out which one is right for him: this book studies fulfillment, choices, and the paralysis created by external and internal pressure.

“Unclose your mind. You are not a prisoner. You are a bird in flight, searching the skies for dreams.”

Haruki Murakami
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Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World: A Novel (Vintage International)
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 03/02/1993 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

5. Kafka On The Shore

Kafka on the Shore is one of the most well-respected Murakami novels, published in 2002, even if it is also one of the most confusing. This book has three separate protagonists who come from different generations. Their backgrounds influence their personalities.

Each of the individual protagonists has some terrible trauma in their past that leads them to open an infamous gateway to another world. Two of the main characters come back as half-persons who have lost half of their identities, while the third confronts the metaphysical world, seeking to grow as a person. The book’s message is that even if we cannot change our fate, we can find a way to use it to our benefit.

“Every one of us is losing something precious to us. Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back again. That’s part of what it means to be alive.”

Haruki Murakami
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Kafka on the Shore
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 01/03/2006 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

6. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years of Pilgrimage

Tsukuru Tazaki is someone who has struggled to make friends. He thinks that he has finally found a group of friends, only to realize that his friends have decided to expel him shortly after he leaves Nagoya to go to school in Tokyo. He goes on a pilgrimage to find himself.

In Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, Tsukuru is forced to face the world’s harsh reality as he tries to figure out who he is as a person. He spends as much time looking inward as he does outward, struggling to grow up. The 2013 novel focuses on betrayal, forgiveness, and being true to oneself. 

“As we go through life we gradually discover who we are, but the more we discover, the more we lose ourselves.”

Haruki Murakami
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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 05/05/2015 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

7. Norwegian Wood

1987’s Norwegian Wood focuses on Watanabe Toru and his tragic relationship with a young woman with severe mental health issues named Naoko. The young woman hears her late lover Kizuki calling to her from another world, but Toru works hard to prevent her from following this voice down a dark road from which she can never return.

But, who is this other woman, Midori? Toru is forced to divide his attention for much of the story. Eventually, he is forced to make a choice. 

“Nobody likes being alone that much. I don’t go out of my way to make friends, that’s all. It just leads to disappointment. ”

Haruki Murakami
Sale
Norwegian Wood
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 600 Pages - 02/01/2023 (Publication Date) - The Harvill Press (Publisher)

8. Hear The Wind Sing

This 1979 book is the first novel by Murakami, and Hear the Wind Sing has an innovative writing style. The hero goes only by Boku and spends much of the story slipping in and out of work, figuring out what will bring him the most meaning in life.

His best friend is The Rat, who goes with him on many journeys. He and Rat develop a relationship with J., a Chinese bartender with only nine fingers. During the story, they all try to figure out where their youth has gone, what happened to their idealism, and how they will face the future with confidence.

“There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.”

Haruki Murakami
Hear the Wind Sing
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 01/31/1989 (Publication Date) - Kodansha (Publisher)

9. South of the Border, West of the Sun

The novel focuses on the protagonist’s “what-ifs.” A successful jazz bar owner and a father of two daughters, Hajime seems to be set out in life. There are only two problems he can’t fix. One, he’s always hunted by the wrongs he did to the women of his past, and two, he can’t connect to others. That is until he meets Shimamoto again, his childhood sweetheart from their small hometown he didn’t hear of after his family moved when he was 12. Her mysterious aura and tempting allure made Hajime want to relive the past. But at what cost?

Haruki Murakami captures human emotion of the many possibilities within grasp in this 1992 publication. Combining the intrigue of infidelity and mid-life crisis, Murakami takes the readers on the protagonist’s journey of self-discovery while narrating Hajime’s story in a dreamlike state.

“What we needed were not words and promises but the steady accumulation of small realities.”

Haruki Murakami
South of the Border, West of the Sun: A Novel
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 213 Pages - 03/14/2000 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

10. Dance Dance Dance

An unknown hero searching for his missing girlfriend delves into an unpredictable cosmic world. Directed by a cryptic Sheep Man, he encounters a psychic, matinee idol, and elite call girls. Falling into portals and existing with other dimensions, the narrator moves through the story that fuses sci-fi, satire, and thriller in a fascinating journey. Near the end, the main character contemplates what destiny is and what everything that has happened to him means, joining the reader in mulling over what the book was all about.

Following its prequel, “A Wild Sheep Chase,” “Dance Dance Dance,” also known as “The Rat #4” tackles themes not new to Murakami’s works: sexuality, loss, technology, and human connection. It also discusses advanced capitalism and its inclination to commodify everything, including personal relationships.

Here’s a fun fact: The novel has a character named Hiraku Makimura, who’s also a chart-topping writer. His name is an anagram of Haruki Murakami.

“As time goes on, you’ll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn’t, doesn’t. Time solves most things. And what time can’t solve, you have to solve yourself.”

Haruki Murakami
Dance Dance Dance
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 416 Pages - 01/31/1995 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

11. After Dark

Mari Asai is a 19-year-old student reading in a restaurant. She then meets a trombone player, Takahashi Tetsuya, who insists he knows her and her sister, Eri. He shares his love for a song called “Five Spot After Dark.” After this innocent interaction, they get pulled into a series of events uncovering their city’s dark side. Love hotels, prostitutes, the mafia – Mari’s presented with the other sphere that lies beyond the sun set. A world where people don’t have inhibitions and can push the boundaries of their impulses and vices. 

True to its title, “After Dark” recounts a story that happens in one night. Murakami unveils feelings heightened by late nights and the world that hides behind the darkness.

“In this world, there are things you can only do alone, and things you can only do with somebody else. It’s important to combine the two in just the right amount.”

Haruki Murakami
After Dark (Vintage International)
  • after dark
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 256 Pages - 04/29/2008 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

12. The Elephant Vanishes

Enter different worlds and realities with this compilation of Murakami’s 17 short stories from 1980 to 1991. From an insomniac mother who found herself in a parking lot, a hungry couple searching for late-night cravings, to a man who thinks burning barns is a “moral” obligation, this collection is a piece worth reading. 

“The Elephant Vanishes” offers an array of stand-alone tales that paint a bigger picture: the constant search for the missing, whether it’s a woman, food, or an elephant. Experience and understand loss, confusion, and loneliness through characters with exuding sentiments. Regardless of the characters’ peculiar conditions, readers are sure to feel connected to them in one way or another.

“The Elephant Vanishes” proves Murakami’s adeptness in writing novels and short stories. It’s an excellent balance of intertwining fantasy and reality without depriving the readers of characters with logical but real emotions.

“You have to make an effort to always look at the good side, always think about the good things. Then you’ve got nothing to be afraid of. If something bad comes up, you do more thinking at that point.”

Haruki Murakami
The Elephant Vanishes: Stories
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Murakami, Haruki (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 06/28/1994 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

13. Sputnik Sweetheart

Meet Sumire, an aspiring writer. Miu, her unrequited love. And finally, K, a school teacher, and Sumire’s best friend. K is also the novel’s protagonist and narrator. Though they are different in many ways, they share one thing in common: They’re all in love with someone who doesn’t reciprocate their feelings, like Sputnik satellites orbiting each other but will never be close enough. 

Sumire soon works with Miu, and they travel for business. The three of them continue life as usual until K receives a call from Miu informing him of Sumire’s disappearance.

At the center of his works, Murakami demonstrates how mundane life can be but narrates it through surreal writing that triggers readers to take an in-depth look at their lives. 

“I closed my eyes and listened carefully for the descendants of Sputnik, even now circling the earth, gravity their only tie to the planet. Lonely metal souls in the unimpeded darkness of space, they meet, pass each other, and part, never to meet again.”

Haruki Murakami
Sputnik Sweetheart: A Novel
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 210 Pages - 04/09/2002 (Publication Date) - Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (Publisher)

14. Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman

“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” contains 24 entertaining short stories Murakami made from 1980 to 2005. These literary pieces, scattered and published in different Japanese periodicals and magazines, were Murakami’s best picks. Bus rides, birthday wishes, fear of mirrors, folklores, and many more, “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” is perfect for anyone just starting to read Murakami’s work because these pieces are simple to digest.

The author’s 24 stories use metaphors and illusory narration, all true to Murakami’s writing style. The characters in these tales display complex human behaviors and emotions. Murakami created them with depth; thus, they occasionally act on feelings alone. Sometimes, the protagonists do illogical things, making them easily relatable.

“I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while.”

Haruki Murakami
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Vintage International)
  • Great product!
  • Haruki Murakami (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 10/09/2007 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

The Final Word On The Best Haruki Murakami Books

These are just a few of the top books by Haruki Murakami. His work has been translated into more than 50 languages, and he has sold millions of copies outside of Japan. Murakami’s works are known for his duelling narratives, deep characters, and an impressive display of magical realism. 

FAQs About The Best Haruki Murakami Books

When Did Haruki Murakami Publish His First Book?

His first book was published in 1979, titled Hear the Wind Sing. It is frequently sold as a dual package with Pinball, 1973, under the title Wind/Pinball.

Have Haruki Murakami’s Books Been Translated Into English?

Yes, most of his books are available in English from Amazon. 

Further Reading

If you liked this list of the best Haruki Murakami books, you might also enjoy our round-up of the best Japanese authors

You may also enjoy our guide on the best life-changing books

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