10 Best Ishiguro Books You Must Read

Discover the 10 best Ishiguro books in our guide to broaden your reading library and expand your knowledge.

Kazuo Ishiguro is an award-winning British novelist with eight novels and two short story collections. He was born in 1954 in Nagasaki, Japan. When he was five years old, the future novelist moved to England. Even though he only lived in Japan for a short time, he grew up with mental images of the country due to his family’s heritage, which influenced his first few novels. Because of this, he is considered a British Asian author, and his life as a Japanese child growing up in Britain helped him see life from a unique perspective.

Though he is not a prolific author, Ishiguro has won many awards for his works, and all but two of his books have been on the shortlist for significant awards. His contributions to literature also earned him many personal awards and titles. In 2017, Ishiguro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. In addition, his unique way of weaving plot twists and science fiction ideas into his novels makes him quite popular. In 2018, he was appointed Knight Bachelor for his services in literature and was named to the Order of the Rising Sun.

In addition to his novels and short stories, Ishiguro has written five screenplays and the lyrics for five songs. Below is a list of the best Ishiguro books you can read if you want to get to know this author and his works a little better. You might also be interested in our round-up of the best Dostoevsky.

Here Are The 10 Best Ishiguro Books

1. Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is one of Ishiguro’s most popular books, published in 2005. This Booker Prize finalist tells the story of a woman who grew up in an English boarding school. As readers delve into the story, they quickly realize that there is more going on than meets the eye and that the students at the school are not there to learn reading and writing.

At its heart, this novel looks at the complex questions that come from living in the face of pending death. When the main characters, Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, discover they are clones, created only to donate their organs to others, they do not decide to run away but instead ultimately embrace their fates.

It is an interesting ethical look at the dangers of human cloning. In 2010, the book had a film adaptation, and in 2016 it became a television miniseries. Interestingly, even though this is a science fiction work, it did not occur in the past. Ishiguro set the book in 1990s England, allowing him to maintain a realistic setting while writing about an unrealistic potential reality. Looking for more sci-fi novels to read? Check out our round-up of the best Cyberpunk authors!

“Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value most, I don’t ever see them fading.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

2. The Remains of the Day

Best Ishiguro Books: The Remains of the Day
Image Source: The Booker Prizes

The Remains of the Day follows Stevens, a butler in Darlington Hall, in the 1950s as he takes a road trip through the West Country. As he goes through his journey, readers are transported into the history of England as they learn more about Stevens and his employers. The narrator’s unmistakable voice and vivid depictions of his life make this book a powerful read and show Ishiguro’s writing skills.

This book is also filled with British cultural references and insights. Published in 1989, The Remains of the Day received the Booker Prize for Fiction. It was included in the “Big Jubilee Read” list in 2022 when Queen Elizabeth of England celebrated her Platinum Jubilee. In 1993, this novel received a film adaptation, and in 2010, London’s Union Theater launched a musical version. Check out our round-up of the best James Crumley books.

“Indeed — why should I not admit it? — in that moment, my heart was breaking.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

3. The Buried Giant

Published in 2015, The Buried Giant is a fantasy book that won multiple awards for the genre. Set in post-Arthurian England, it sets the plot by introducing a world where people suffer selective amnesia, barely able to remember things that happened in the recent past. It follows the story of Axl and Beatrice, a married couple who believe they may have once had a son and decide to find him, despite their amnesia.

This book has sparked much controversy about whether or not it had a measure of allegory. In the end, amnesia is both a blessing and a curse, as it blinds the people from remembering the damages of a past war. This novel is the only one in Ishiguro’s collection of works that were not written in the first-person narrative style. This move away from his traditional style also contributes to some of the criticism of this work.

“When it was too late for rescue, it was still early enough for revenge.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

4. Klara and the Sun

In this sci-fi novel, Ishiguro looks at life from the point of view of Klara, an “Artificial Friend.” This android was created to be the friend of a wealthy child learning on a screen rather than at school. As she waits to be purchased, Klara watches the world around her, gaining nourishment from the sun as a solar-powered being. As Klara falls in love with the girl she is meant to befriend, the reader sees an exciting look at what love and humanity mean through the eyes of an unlikely narrator. Klara and the Sun is one of Ishiguro’s more recent works, published in 2021.

In a way, this novel is a different take on the traditional love story, as Klara does love her human friend, but not in the traditional romantic way, and she watches love unfold around her.

“Until recently, I didn’t think that humans could choose loneliness. That there were sometimes forces more powerful than the wish to avoid loneliness.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

5. The Unconsoled

Published in 1995, The Unconsoled covers just three days in the life of Ryder, a pianist from central Europe who arrives in a city to perform a concert. He struggles to get to his concert as he moves through a series of appointments and promises.

The story takes an eerie turn as readers realize the pianist cannot remember agreeing to the concert and cannot identify the city he is in. Even the landscape becomes a changing force in the story. When it was first published, readers found themselves confused about the plot and left many negative reviews. However, by the early 2000s, critics had changed their tunes, and it became known as one of the top novels by Ishiguro. Though the plot can be hard to follow, it is an exciting read for readers willing to dig in and attempt to follow the changing landscape of the book.

“I have this feeling, that all it will take will be one moment, even a tiny moment, provided it’s the correct one. Like a cord suddenly snapping and a thick curtain dropping to the floor to reveal a whole new world, a world full of sunlight and warmth.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

6. When We Were Orphans

Published in 2000, When We Were Orphans is Ishiguro’s fifth novel. It follows the story of an English orphan named Christopher Banks, who grew up in a settlement in China until age 10 when his parents disappeared. He grows up to become a detective and uses his skill to try to solve his parents’ disappearance.

This book is an interesting look at human memory and how people can alter it. Though the book was not well-received by critics because it is an example of a crime novel, which is not his most common genre, it deserves a spot on this list of top Ishiguro novels. Today, readers appreciate seeing how Ishiguro uses his signature style to tackle a new genre of literature.

“It’s all right. I’m not upset. After all, they were just things. When you’ve lost your mother and your father, you can’t care so much about things, can you?”

Kazuo Ishiguro

7. An Artist of the Floating World

Published in 1986, An Artist of the Floating World takes place in Post World War II Japan. The narrator is an aging painter, Masuji Ono, looking back over his life and how the war has changed his reputation and attitude. Through the book, he must learn to deal with his past actions and his responsibility to them.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize and named the Whitbread Book of the Year in 1986, this novel has been published in 40 languages worldwide. It has some slightly autobiographical elements, as Ishiguro had a Japanese mother and was born in Japan, giving him inside into Japanese culture even while being raised in England. In 2019 the book was made into a TV movie.

“The truth is, Japan is headed for a crisis. We are in the hands of greedy businessmen and weak politicians. Such people will see to it poverty grows every day.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

8. A Pale View of Hills

Ishiguro’s first novel, A Pale View of Hills, tells the tale of Etsuko, a Japanese woman living on her own in England, as she comes to terms with the suicide of her daughter. Because of its mysterious tone, many assume this book to be a ghost story. However, it also has many undertones of Japanese culture, highlighting his dual cultures.

Critics praised the book for its tone of mystery, and it opened the door to a successful writing career for Ishiguro. It also feels slightly autobiographical, as the characters in the book experience a cultural transition similar to what Ishiguro experienced as a young child when moving to England. The book earned the Holtby Memorial Prize in 1982, also the year of its publication.

“As with a wound on one’s own body, it is possible to develop an intimacy with the most disturbing of things”

Kazuo Ishiguro

9. Come Rain or Come Shine

Come Rain or Come Shine is a book of short stories from Ishiguro. Many stories comment on modern society and its quirks; they are lighter than the previous mysterious fantasy novels. The stories in this work cover a range of genres, providing a snapshot of what Ishiguro thinks of modern life. This book hit the shelves in 2019. You might be interested in exploring fiction books, such as the best William Faulkner novel.

“Then before you know it, you’re forty-seven years old, and the people you started out with have long ago been replaced by a generation who gossip about different things, take different drugs and listen to different music.”

Kazuo Ishiguro

10. Nocturnes: Five Short Stories of Music and Nightfall

Nocturnes is another collection of short stories from Ishiguro, and what makes this one so interesting is how he connects the stories. Each one has music as a central character and shares a story with subtle losses and an emphasis on the narrator’s memory. Because they are short stories, the takes in this book show how skilled Ishiguro is at writing narration and fiction.

In addition, each one has an ending that is not quite traditional, which many readers enjoy. This book has a publication date of 2009 and is his first book of short stories. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best books on writing fiction you must read!

“She might be a great person, but life’s so much bigger than just loving someone.”

Kazuo Ishiguro