What I Talk About When I Talk About Reading at the Gym

Filed under readin' and writin'

I only downloaded Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running because of its super-romantic-but-maybe-only-to-me title. I figured it was figurative, because obviously a book about running would never actually be called This is Totally a Book About Running. But it really is a memoir about training your body for marathons and how that relates to training your mind for writing, and I decided to go ahead with it because I like Murakami so well.

It’s fine reading it on the subway and all, but where I’m really getting the most joy out of it is in the gym. I used to seriously dread waking up at 5:45 to go to the basement of Kamran’s building, and I tried hard to make it more tolerable with books and movies, but I always bounced around too much to concentrate on tiny text, and I always got too easily bored with intense indie plotlines. But now that I can pump up the text size on my Kindle, going to the gym seems like a small sacrifice for having quiet time to read (because obviously I would never wake up before 6 just to challenge my intellect), and it makes me feel so much less hateful toward the elliptical machine when the person I’m reading about is working hard, too.

The first book I read in the gym on my Kindle was Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, and I actually found myself wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail while I read it. And now I actually find myself wanting to run while reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. This morning, I went an extra .3 miles just because Murakami told me my muscles will cooperate with me if I push them harder little by little. Before, I would purposely go .3 miles less every day just to spite Kamran and his desire for me to love working out.

So, now that I’m on this activity-themed book kick, anything you’d recommend?


  1. Alfagirl says:

    ” I actually found myself wanting to hike the Appalachian Trail”…. Does Kamran know you want to cheat on him? ;)

  2. Dave says:

    Check out “Born to Run.” It’s about some crazy people that run ultra marathons and about how humans are designed to be runners. I will probably never run an ultra, but it’s really inspiring!

    • Oh, I just got to a segment on ultra marathons in the Murakami book, and I’m like, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa?” It almost makes me physically hurt just reading about it, but he acts like your body just kind of gets used to it after 36 miles. CRAZINESS.

      I’m under the distinct impression that humans–and more specifically Americans–will break down entirely if we run too much. I actually want to run, because the people who do it talk about it like it fills a void, but I don’t want to end up with prosthetic knees. So yeah, I’m going to read this. Thanks!

      • Alfagirl says:

        Yeah, I kinda like my knees a little too much also. Plus, a friend of mine recently starting running with Team in Training — they really make sure you prepare well, and work to build up endurance, etc. She loved running, but in less than 2 years of doing it she noticed she started having foot problems (and it’s not because she’s not using proper footwear). I don’t know, If I’m going to get a bunion I’d rather it be from wearing heels than running.

  3. Every single time you mention your Kindle, it makes me COVET it.

    • Dude, it is $189 freakin’ dollars right now, and you really should have one. I know you have a wedding to plan or something ridiculous like that, but while a wedding is a single day of joy, A KINDLE IS A LIFETIME OF BLISS.

      And I will give you all of the e-books I have. Which is not so many at this point. But it’s the important ones.

      • Alfagirl says:

        If I were “Bach Girl” I would just put it on my wedding registry and hope that someone gave it to me ahead of time so I could take it on my honeymoon.

  4. Serial says:

    Tell me there’s at least some sort of Carver reference in the book somewhere … i mean, there has to be! Right?

  5. Tessa says:


    A fabulous read in general (the only thing I don’t like about it is that I immediately feel inferior in both work ethic and physical fitness):

    Breaking Trail — A Climbing Life, by Arlene Blum

  6. bluzdude says:

    “The Joy of Sex”. Does that come on Kindle? And if you use it like you use the running book and hiking book, you might too.

  7. Julie says:

    My husband and his brothers are all into a book called Chi Running right now. I guess there is also a Chi Walking companion book. I have read neither – just passing along their recommendation.

  8. Jessica R. says:

    Now I want a Kindle even more!

    I have gotten hooked on audiobooks while I work out because, like you, I can’t focus on small text when I run.

    I am going to check these two out!

  9. Tracey says:

    I guess David Sedaris is not something you want to read when you want to feel athletic, huh?

    I racked my brain and have absolutely zero recommendations. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything that celebrates physical activity, since I only seek out things that affirm my sedentary lifestyle.

  10. Mike Lowrey says:

    I read the novel “Pimps up, Ho’s Down” recently.
    You might like it.