Every day, Japanese author Haruki Murakami writes and runs, each on a set schedule with set goals. Most of this essay collection is ostensibly about running, but when Murakami talks about the discipline involved with marathon training he’s also talking about the discipline involved with writing, so that reading about his stretches and his Hokkaido ultramarathon provides insight into a disciplined creative mind. He also recounts his transition from jazz club-owning twentysomething to focused writer, and the entire book forms a quiet, unpretentious reflection on what it means to pursue a skill—even if you don’t like sports.
I love Nick Hornby’s Stuff I’ve Been Reading column (which he’s written on and off for The Believer since the 2000s, and perhaps will again when the magazine finally makes its return??) because he talks about books like a real person, avoids pretentious review-speak, and jokes about how Americans don’t understand British football. Though this review collection’s in the same vein as his others, I missed the more stylized jacket flaps and the book excerpts that came with the first two collections, which made finding new books for my own towering To-Read stack that much easier.
I have zero interest in football, but I enjoyed Bissinger’s book because it’s mostly about the all-encompassing influence that football holds over midwestern culture. Bissinger spent a year in the west Texas town of Odessa following its high school football team to the state championship, and shows how completely football trumps academics and leads the town to build a $5.6 million stadium for its high school. He also discusses how racial tensions and Reagan-era politics affected the region—history seen from ground level.
There’s a lot of football play-by-plays too, but I kind of skimmed over those.
Where I Got It
Bought online a few weeks ago, part of the research process for my new novel.
Bissinger reflects on Friday Night Lights 25 years later (Sports Illustrated)
Interview with Bissinger on the book’s 25th anniversary (NPR)