The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami

A young boy’s thirst for knowledge goes horribly wrong in this translation of Haruki Murakami’s 2008 book.

The boy, whose name we never know, goes to the library to borrow some books. That was his first mistake. Led to a special ‘reading room’ by an old man he is imprisoned with a man dressed in a sheepskin and a girl who can only talk with her hands. The young narrator must then flee the old man, who has a special taste for small boys’ brains, and what follows is a bizarre and spooky short story about his escape from deep below the library.

First published in Japan in 2008, this is the first time The Strange Library has been translated into English. It’s a unique and creepy story that will delight fans of Murakami and make new readers of the author crave more. While the story is completely odd, it’s an easy read which will leave you gripped until the last page. You don’t ever get to know much about the characters and there are a lot of things left unsaid, it works brilliantly as a short story.

The Strange Library is sharp and to the point, but what really sets it apart is the presentation. This glorious book is fully illustrated and beautifully designed, making it seem like a picture book for adults. Every page is illustrated somehow, with a variety of drawings, images, illustrations and photographs taken from a wealth of printed sources.

From a 1950s’ cookery book to Birds of the British Islands, a book on popular astronomy from 1894 to a Victorian book of lock and keys, each page captures the reader. With marbled papers and old pages reproduced from old books found in the London Library, it’s a visual feast for book lovers.

First editions of the book include a special library pocket on the front cover and scattered throughout the pages are the library stamps you’ll remember from days gone past.

A well-told imaginative short story in a creative package, The Strange Library is sure to delight.


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Rebekah is an Otago-based mother of two young girls. The former journalist and primary school teacher has a soft spot for New Zealand authors and young adult fiction. Follow her on Twitter.

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