The Book That Changed My Life


In his own words, Max Keil is a “writer, runner, and lifelong lover of music and motion-pictures. I like hearing good stories, playing games with my friends, and making short movies or comics. I enjoy taking my interests too seriously and making a very big deal about them. Also I commit quotes to memory like recalling them is going to save my life some day (and maybe it will…).” Yep, congratulations Max, you’re an English major! In other important news, let’s let Max tell us about “The Book That Changed My Life.”

What is the book that changed your life?

The book that changed my life is by Haruki Murakami.  It’s called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir, or as I’ll be referring to it, WITAWITAR: A Memoir.

How would you describe the book to someone who hasn’t read it?

The book is about the life of a successful Japanese author, and how he created a running self-philosophy.  Mostly he recounts a few different marathons he has run, as well as his thoughts while training for the 2005 New York City Marathon.  Along the way he contemplates the nature of writing, of motivation, and of life itself.  If you’ve ever wanted to know what sort of existential void fills a man’s mind when he’s halfway through a 62 mile ultra-marathon, then this is the book for you.  In the end, this book isn’t about extreme sports, but rather how a lifelong commitment to physical activity can provide insight on your life’s failures and triumphs.

Where/How did you first encounter this book?

I don’t remember how I first heard about him, but my first experience reading Murakami was in 2013 when I picked up one of his other notable novels: Kafka on the Shore.  A personal habit of mine is if I like an author, I read absolutely everything by them.  It means that I tend to have read fewer authors than other people, but sometimes I have read more bodies of work.  Anyway, after reading Kafka I investigated what else Murakami had written, and WITAWITAR: A Memoir stood out to me, probably because I was just starting to seriously train and run.

For a while I had been interested in pushing myself further as a runner, but man I own what has to seriously be the comfiest couch and a ton of videogames that do not play themselves. So staying motivated can be difficult, you know?  When I came across WITAWITAR: A Memoir I figured it might help with the motivation, or at least help distract me, and it ended up doing both!

How did the book change you?

In a sense, it taught me how to love again. Remember that scene in The Never Ending Story where Atrayu and Artax are in the swamp of sadness, and the horse, Artax gets sad and straight up drowns because of it?  My friend, I was that horse (metaphorically speaking of course, I have always in actuality been a human).  For years I was drowning, and I just didn’t like myself all that much.  Running didn’t magically cure me of depression, but it’s been a focal point of my recovery, and Murakami’s words have formed mantras that keep me going when I want to sink back into a swamp. Now I’m not saying WITAWITAR: A Memoir is going to lift you out of depression and change your life, but who knows, it might!  Go read the book.  It’s really good.