Lately, I have been living in another world—a world imagined and created by Haruki Murakami in his novel 1Q84. The book is almost 1000 pages long and as I neared the end I slowed my reading noticeably so that I could spend a few more days there. The plot involves an emergency elevated highway escape ladder that leads one of the protagonists into a parallel world. The other protagonist arrives in the same parallel world through his involvement as ghostwriter for a novel called Air Chrysalis. Somehow, the world he creates for the novel becomes real.
Over the past five years I have fallen in love with Haruki Murakami and his oddly moving novels. While I liked 1Q84 very much, it is not the novel of Murakami’s I like the best; that would be The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Both books create worlds that share about 95% of their DNA with the everyday world we already inhabit. The magic lives in the 5% that is unique to Murakami. I feel like I am travelling when I enter his books. I go to another place and live there like a tourist on an extended visa. It can sometimes be hard to leave his books and re-enter this world.
Finishing 1Q84 made me think about other books I have read that have transported me the way Murakami does. It is a rare enough reading experience that I was only able to come up with roughly a dozen books that have affected me this way in my 35 years as a real lover of fiction. Below is a list of those books. If you have others that have taken you in, chewed you up, and spit you out gasping for air and changed in some small way forever, write the title and author’s name in the comments. I am always looking for a great book.
Native Son by Richard Wright
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Gospel by Wilton Barnhardt
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
Nickel Mountain by John Gardner
Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera
Waterland by Graham Swift