If you want to know the best Kazuo Ishiguro books then you’ve come to the right place. The Japanese/English author is one of the best contemporary writers on the planet and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017.
Some of the most famous books by Ishiguro are The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, with both being turned into movies.
I’ve read a lot of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novels and they are entertaining, gripping and leave you with lots of questions at the end. He has a great ability to keep you turning page after page and an ability to make you emotionally invested in the characters.
I can’t recommend his books enough, and if you’re looking for a quick overview of each of his books and the reasons you should read them, keep scrolling to discover what makes Ishiguro’s books so good!
Table of Contents
Best Kazuo Ishiguro Books
Never Let Me Go
Set in England in the 1990s, Never Let Me Go follows the story of Kathy, Tommy and Ruth who are at a boarding school in the countryside.
The book is narrated by Kathy who is recalling events at the boarding school in Hailsham and what happened after they left.
Never Let Me Go takes a while to get going but once it does you’ll be hooked. There’s a lot that’s unsaid by Kathy at the beginning, but you get the impression that there is an undercurrent of something in the background at Hailsham and wider society.
When it becomes what that undercurrent is, the book springs to life and is hard to put down! The book was also turned into a film of the same name, so once you’ve finished the book, you can check out the film too.
Klara and the Sun
Klara and the Sun is Ishiguro’s most recent novel and it deals with themes of artificial intelligence and what it means to be human in the modern world.
The book is set in an unspecified future and follows Klara, an artificial friend who is the narrator. She starts the book in a store before she is purchased by the family of Josie, who Klara is to be her companion.
Klara is intelligent but she has a limited understanding of the world, and it’s only through Josie and her friend Rik, that she begins to learn more about how the world works.
This was the first of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books that I read, and I enjoyed it and the themes he touches upon. Klara and the Sun is a poignant book that deals with uncomfortable topics and has a particularly sober ending about humanity and love.
The Buried Giant
The Buried Giant marks a departure from the other Ishiguro books on this list as it’s set in a medieval world of Arthurian legend.
It has more of a fantasy feel to it than any of his other books, and while it focuses on one of his main themes, life in England or Japan, the subject matter is very different to the other books on this list.
The plot involves an elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, who remember they have a son, and trek across England in search of him.
While The Buried Giant doesn’t hit the heights of Ishiguro’s other books, this is no bad thing. Ishiguro has set a high standard, and even though this isn’t one of his classic novels, it’s still a fun read.
An Artist of the Floating World
An Artist of the Floating World is the second of Ishiguro’s books and the second one that deals with Japan.
It’s set in postwar Japan as the country is coming to terms with its surrender to the Americans. The book is narrated by Masuji Ono, a retired painter who looks back at his life and the way he lived it.
The overriding theme of the book is how Ono’s generation comes to terms with what happened during the war and the post-war generations’ disdain for their actions.
I enjoyed An Artist of the Floating World and found it to be an interesting read about the need to take responsibility for one’s previous actions. If you’ve read some of Ishiguro’s other novels before this one, it’s slightly different but just as engaging.
The Remains of the Day
Set in post-war England in 1956, The Remains of the Day follows Stevens, a butler at Darlington Hall a stately home in Oxford.
The book is narrated by Stevens who recounts his time in the service of Lord Darlington in the 1920s and 30s, whose motivations become clear as the book progresses thanks to Stevens’ flashbacks.
These flashbacks are told by Stevens as he is on a road trip to meet a former employee at Darlington Hall, Miss Kenton, whom Stevens received a leer from prompting his road trip.
We soon learn that there is a rich history between Stevens and Miss Kenton which progresses to a crescendo when the two meet towards the end of the book. The Remains of the Day is a riveting read and a powerful meditation on making the most of your life.
It was also made into a film in 1993, which was nominated for 8 Academy Awards.
Nocturnes is different from the other Kazuo Ishiguro books on this list as it’s a collection of five short stories.
All of the stories deal with music, musicians and the end of the day. What unites each story as the aforementioned themes is unfulfilled potential, which gives some of the stories a comic edge.
In the first story, an American singer who is on hard times co-opts a Polish musician to accompany him as he serenades his wife from a gondola in Venice.
Another story follows an expatriate EFL teacher who is invited to the house of a couple he knows from university in London, but the encounter becomes tense due to the relationship between the couple.
The stories in Nocturnes are interesting and there are similarities with other books on this list. If you haven’t read any Ishiguro before, Nocturnes is a good book to start with. If you have, then you’ll enjoy the stories and struggle to put the book down!
The longest of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books, The Unconsoled follows the story of Ryder, a famous pianist who has arrived in a European country to perform a concert.
A seemingly straightforward occasion turns into a bewildering set of circumstances, as Ryder struggles to deal with bizarre requests, appointments and promises that he can’t remember.
The story has a Kafkaesque feel to it as Ryder finds himself in ever more bizarre circumstances while he struggles to control his life before his performance on Thursday.
The Unconsoled is a taxing novel to read at over 500 pages and tends to divide people into those who love it and those who don’t. If you can stick it out, you’ll either find yourself waiting for the book to end or gripped as the story progresses to its crescendo.
When We Were Orphans
The book is set in pre-World War II Shanghai and follows Christopher, a British detective who was born in the city and returns to try and solve the case of his parent’s disappearance.
The story itself is interesting as Christopher sets out to solve the case during a period of turmoil in China with the war with Japan raging.
But compared to his other books, it doesn’t have the same verve or engaging prose. If When We Were Orphans was written by another, less distinguished writer, they’d consider it one of their best. But for Ishiguro, it’s one of his weakest, if still an interesting read.
A Pale View of Hills
A Pale View of Hills is Ishiguro’s first book and given the success of his later novels, it’s one that’s often forgotten about.
We follow the story of Etsuko, a middle-aged Japanese woman who’s living alone in England. Her eldest daughter has committed suicide, and she is visited by her younger daughter, Niki.
Gradually Etsuko recounts the story of how she moved to England, and the friendship she made with another Japanese woman who dreams of moving to the United States.
As with many of his books, A Pale View of Hills has an unreliable narrator and this comes to the fore as the book reaches its conclusion!
Frequently Asked Questions
Which Kazuo Ishiguro book should you start with?
Ishiguro’s first two books, A Pale View of Hills and An Artist of the Floating World are good places to start. They are set in England and Japan, two settings that feature in most of his books. While they also use unreliable narrators, which is another common theme of Ishiguro’s books.
What novel did Ishiguro win the Nobel Prize for?
The Novel Prize for Literature is awarded to authors rather than for a specific book they have written. Ishiguro won the award in 2017 due to his “…novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”
Is Kazuo Ishiguro similar to Murakami?
There are more differences than there are similarities between Ishiguro’s work and Murakami’s. Ishiguro books tend to be from a first-person perspective, often with an unreliable narrator. Murakami’s books are more absurd than Ishiguro’s and tend to deal with themes of loneliness and self-discovery.
Want More Book Suggestions?
Best Michael Crichton Books – Another author who specialises in science fiction novels, Crichton’s books are mostly thrillers but they are fascinating and will entertain any reader!
Best George Orwell Books – One of the best and most diverse writers in the English language. Orwell has some fantastic novels and coruscating non-fiction books.
Best Matt Haig Books – Haig has a wide variety of books from fiction to non-fiction. If you’re looking for a lighter read than Ishiguro, Haig is a good choice.
Books by Plato – Ishiguro’s books tackle some big topics, so if you’re looking to understand these topics better, reading some by the father of Western philosophy is the place to start.
Books by Albert Camus – Camus’ books are more philosophical than Ishiguro’s but they do have overlapping themes and you’ll enjoy reading them if you like Ishiguro’s work.