For many people, the magical realism of Haruki Murakami defines Japanese fiction.
The prolific author is popular around the globe, and his novels detailing a magical meeting point between everyday life and fantasy have sold more than 2.5 million copies in just the US.
In his homeland of Japan, Murakami regularly makes the best sellers list.
Haruki Murakami is best known for his magical realism, with books such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and 1Q84 detailing extraordinary occurrences in ordinary settings. But it isn’t just the fantastical that Murakami celebrates.
Norwegian Wood is one of his most popular novels, and it’s set firmly in reality. It’s also been adapted into a film.
Murakami writes in Japanese, but his works have been translated into over 50 languages.
The winner of prestigious awards such as the World Fantasy Award, the Franz Kafka Prize, and the Jerusalem Prize, Murakami is a necessary addition to any bookshelf.
But once you’ve explored the magical worlds of Murakami, what should you read next?
If you love the magical realism of Haruki Murakami books such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, you’ll love the works of similar authors such as Franz Kafka, Ryu Murakami, and Milan Kundera. Read this guide to discover the books you need to check out.
Books By Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami is a prolific writer of novels and short stories. He published his first book, Hear the Wind Sing, in 1979, at age 30.
But it was later in his career that he found success in Japan, before achieving global popularity with the English translations of his most popular books.
Although the books sold well, it wasn’t until Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World that Murakami started to achieve wide recognition.
Straddling parallel universes, this novel exemplified the dreamy magic Murakami has become known for.
But it was Norwegian Wood that sent Murakami’s popularity into overdrive.
A work of romantic literary fiction, Norwegian Wood lacks the magic that defines much of Murakami, while exploring themes of love and loss.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of Murakami’s most popular novels and an excellent starting point for anyone interested in magical realism.
Starting with a search for a missing cat, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle journeys to the bottom of a well, back in time, and past an eccentric cast of side characters.
Dealing with themes such as power, desire, and isolation, the darker side of humanity is explored with a touch of magic.
Cats also play a key role in Kafka on the Shore, a Murakami novel that references one of his major influences — Franz Kafka. Following interrelated plots, a common theme of Murakami, Kafka on the Shore dives into the murky relationship between dreams and reality.
The sprawling 3-part series 1Q84 deals with similar themes of love and alienation, taking place across parallel universes in the year 1984.
Authors Like Haruki Murakami
Ryu Murakami is a Japanese author who isn’t afraid to explore the darker side of life.
His books lack the magical realism of Murakami, but they share common themes of isolation and disillusionment, enhanced by a touch of the surreal.
Coin Locker Babies is a novel that goes beyond genres, blurring horror, comedy, and philosophy.
Charting the diverging life of two boys found in coin lockers, the book will appeal to those who enjoy the parallel storytelling of Murakami.
Entertainingly dark, In the Miso Soup finds the absurd in the grotesque. If you prefer the lighter side to Haruki Murakami’s work, In the Miso Soup is best avoided.
But both authors are happy to prod at the less appealing parts of human nature.
- Ryu Murakami brings humor to horror and adds surrealism to grim backdrops.
- Human nature, good and bad, is key to the works of both writers.
- There are some gruesome passages in the works of Ryu Murakami.
Themes: Isolation, disillusionment, surrealism, power.
It’s impossible to talk about authors like Murakami and not mention Franz Kafka.
Even Murakami himself draws the links between his works and Kafka with his book Kafka on the Shore.
The confusing and inexplicable worlds of Franz Kafka were a formative influence on Murakami.
For Murakami lovers, The Metamorphosis is the perfect introduction to the works of Kafka.
Following the story of Gregor Samsa, a man who wakes up one morning as an insect, The Metamorphosis wraps tragedy and humor into one bizarre package.
The Trial might lack the magic associated with Murakami, but this Kafka novel reads like your most confusing nightmare.
It explores the darker sides of reality through the story of Josef K., a bank officer who inexplicably finds himself on trial.
- Kafka is a direct influence on Murakami.
- Kafka probes deep into the dark recesses of humanity.
- Primarily a writer of novellas and short stories, dedicated readers can devour Kafka’s books quickly.
- The books might be short, but the twisting and turning plots can make Kafka a difficult writer to tackle.
Themes: Surrealism, identity, absurdity, alienation.
The works of Milan Kundera are deeply philosophical, exploring existentialism through the lives of normal people.
His novels take regular diversions into exposition, with characters passing in and out of the narrative at will.
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting contains themes of magical realism, through a disjointed narrative that is highly experimental.
If you enjoy the unexpected story changes often found in Murakami’s novels, this is a good book to try.
The Unbearable Lightness of Being takes the typical novel and turns it on its head. The plot takes a back seat to ruminations on character and philosophy.
There are themes of parallel lives, as we follow the journey of different men, women, and even dogs.
Like Murakami, Kundera weaves the lives of animals into his human tales.
- Kundera isn’t afraid to disrupt the plot at any time, with the story less important than the existentialism it explores.
- Touches of magical realism enhance the philosophical questions at the heart of Kundera’s work.
- There’s one less than pleasant link between Kundera and Murakami: their treatment of female characters is a little uncomfortable.
Themes: Philosophy, magical realism, identity, isolation.
The works of Yoko Ogawa penetrate deep into the human psyche.
A Japanese writer, she is known for exploring human memory, existentialism, and the subtleties of interaction.
Yoko Ogawa might not be a strictly magical realism writer, but touches of the absurd populate her work.
The Diving Pool is a series of three interconnected novellas, each based around a female protagonist.
Each story speaks of isolation and alienation, and how feeling alone can drive negative impulses.
Like much of Murakami’s writing, The Diving Pool flowers into the dreamlike while remaining rooted in the mundane.
Similarly, Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales follows the loosely connected stories of regular people in Japan, driven to horror.
Normal lives act as a catalyst for dark acts of revenge, with gruesome acts told in a dreamlike style.
There’s no distinction between normal and unexpected — as with Murakami, Ogawa accepts that humans contain many elements beneath the surface.
- Ogawa explores the connection between the mundane and horror.
- The narratives are dreamlike, adding some magic to the dark stories.
- Although growing in popularity, English translations of Ogawa aren’t always easily available.
Haruki Murakami has an easily definable style, as his books blend magic and the everyday to create enticing stories about life in Japan.
His works have become increasingly popular across the globe, and his unique perspective on life sometimes seems inimitable.
Although there’s no one quite like Murakami, there are plenty of authors to enjoy if you’re a fan of his tendency to explore dark philosophical questions in a surreal setting.
Japanese authors such as Yoko Ogawa and Ryu Murakami are excellent choices if you love the Japanese setting of Murakami’s work and his tendency towards the macabre.
But you need to look beyond Japan if you want to find authors with work most closely linked to Murakami.
Much like Murakami, the works of Kranz Kafka explore surrealism in an average setting, while Milan Kundera has Murakami’s habit of interweaving philosophy with text.
That isn’t the end, for Murakami fans. Instead, venture outside the authors we’ve listed here, and into some other expressions of the absurd.
Writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borge are worth checking out.
I hope this guide will help you on your journey into the world of magical realism, as exemplified by Murakami.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Books Should You Read If You Like Haruki Murakami?
If you like how Haruki Murakami blends realism and surrealism while exploring the human psyche, try reading books by Ryu Murakami, Franz Kafka, Yoko Ogawa, and Milan Kundera.
What Authors Influenced Haruki Murakami?
Haruki Murakami has been inspired by classic fiction authors such as Franz Kafka, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut, and J.D. Salinger.