The first time I read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami I was seventeen years old. I was making my way through his works after my sister brought After Dark home and read it in two days. “You should read it. It’s weird…but really good.” I made my way through After Dark and After the Quake before sitting down with Kafka, the 615-page behemoth. On the lifeguard stand at the pool doing the one thing I really shouldn’t have been doing (hey, it was a slow day), I opened its strange cover and dove in.
I was not expecting what I got.
In hindsight, I may have been a bit too young to read it. Yes, I was seventeen, but a very sheltered seventeen. The novel was sexual, provocative and philosophical in a way I never experienced before. Kafka and The Boy Named Crow sucked me in, Nakata baffled me and forced me to stick around, Hoshino— the greatest truck driver in the world and the person I named my Persona 5 character after— made me feel at home and invited me to stay. I was always a reader, always invested in books, but Kafka on the Shore was my first adult, mature experience with a novel. It’s a weird book. It’s pretty crazy. But it’s a powerful story about the strings of humanity bringing people together and pulling them apart. Musubi— as the grandma from Your Name would say. I used to scoff at people who said a book or a movie changed their lives, but now I can’t. Kafka wrapped me around its little finger and refused to let go. It’s my favorite book of all time. Probably forever.
And I still don’t own a copy.
The first time I read Kafka, I got it from the library. When I was 20, I bought a copy for myself to read for a second time. Mid-readthrough, I gave it to one of my English professors so she could experience the magic. She never gave it back. Then I bought three more copies, each given to my boyfriend, road trip adventurer, and English major friend/literary confidant for Christmas. Two years later, I purchased another copy and sent it directly to my college roommate so she could jump in.
Every time I buy a copy of Kafka on the Shore, I give it away.
I suppose that’s the best compliment you can give a book; you love it so much, you can’t keep your hands on it. Everyone you know has to experience it for themselves. While I’m writing this, I’m mentally making a list of people who I need to give it to next. Mike’s sister, Krissy, Dhemerae, Kathryne, Courtney, Martine, not my mom. There are so many people who need to read this story, I can’t afford to buy one for myself. I feel obliged to part with it; why keep its greatness for myself when I can give it to people who may not even know they need it until they read it?
In every copy of Kafka I give (unless I send it to the person directly online), I write the same thing inside: “My best friend is a person who will give me a book I have not read.” Great quote, right? Abraham Lincoln was really an upstanding guy. It’s just a little reminder that you want to keep people in your life that will push your limits, take you out of your comfort zone and maybe tell you to try something you wouldn’t on your own. I don’t talk to some of the people I gave Kafka to anymore, but I hope they remember the quote and the story. Both are too good to go through life without.
I saw #BookLoversDay trending on Twitter this morning (I’m a Twitter fiend, follow me at @moves_like_awad =D) and thought about Kafka and the lessons it taught me. Maybe one day I’ll get my hands on a copy for more than 3 days so can give it the second readthrough it deserves. Who knows if that’ll ever happen?
If you need a good beach book, read this book. If you need a good book for a long plane ride, read this book. If you need anything at all ever, read this book. I can’t guarantee that it will resonate with you the same it did with me, but I promise you’ll be in for a crazy ride, one that’s worth experiencing.
And at the very least, if you don’t like it, you can always give it away.