I first read Murakami in 2000 or so. My introduction was the mesmerizing and dreamlike The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, a novel that carries the reader through a world of reality, imagination, horror and understanding. It's a book that's nearly impossible to encapsulate in a review, due to its unlimited interpretations.
Following this classic, I've gone on to read seven or eight more by Murakami. Following Albert Camus and Richard Russo, he stands among my favorite authors. Where Camus has left an imprint of a lifetime on my view of it all and Russo touched on my sensitivity around small-town life, Murakami opened up my imagination to events as massive as a world war and as mundane as a neighbor's cat roaming an alley. There's nothing Murakami can't explore, and there's nothing that's without meaning.
Last night in Berkeley, Murakami did a short reading followed by a conversation about his writing process, Japan, fiction, non-fiction and responsibility, and his favorite rock bands (Radiohead and Beck, to name a few). He is just as broad in a talk as he is in his novels. He can bring on a laugh, deliver inspiration and point out the individuality in us all, whether real or imagined. He's a brilliant and open mind. And he made us realize that behind it all, the possibilities are endless.