When novelist Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2017, the Swedish Academy described him as a writer “who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”
Known for his lyrical stories of optimism and regret, Ishiguro’s work – most notably 1989’s The Remains of the Day and 2005’s Never Let Me Go – has distinguished him as one of the most celebrated fiction authors of our time. His latest novel, Klara and the Sun, was released in early March.
In a list of all-time favorite books for O Magazine, Ishiguro shared his love for Bronté’s narrative voice, the escapist delight of Jeeves and Wooster, and an enduring penchant for cowboy tales. Find his reading list below, and complement with the bookshelves of Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, and Margaret Atwood.
Villete by Charlotte Bronté
“Almost everything I know about first-person narration comes from this novel. Its plot lacks the clean lines of Jane Eyre, but this is the richer, more daring achievement. What looks at first like laughably flowery language steadily builds into one of the most extraordinary narrative voices in literature. Lucy Snowe is a lonely young Englishwoman teaching in a provincial Belgian boarding school. What she relates has almost the texture of a diary in its patient attention to the everyday, but seethes with unspoken love— and almost indistinguishable from it, a yearning for a fuller, freer life. The ending is a heartbreaker.” -KI
Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
“The best Jeeves novel, and as such a masterpiece of comic escapism. The plot is standard Wodehouse: a country-house farce in which Bertie Wooster attempts to help his pathetic geek friend, Gussie, find the courage to propose to his true love. It’s hard to say why this is great literature. There’s no attempt to engage with the complexities of life. But the book does several things supremely well: There’s Bertie’s first-person voice, a pitch-perfect mix of posh English and American Jazz Age slang; it has a beautiful structure, with one hilarious, expertly staged setup folding seamlessly into the next. And Wodehouse does make you believe (at least momentarily) in a world where trivial problems have the status of huge ones, and the huge ones have vanished altogether. Pure delight.” -KI
“When I arrived in England as a small boy from Japan, I promptly became obsessed with cowboys. I never fell out of love with Westerns, and became a huge fan of the great films of Ford, Hawks, Leone, Eastwood, and Peckinpah. But where were their literary equivalents? To an outsider, this is a gaping hole in American letters. But I found one magnificent novel, a work of unambiguously high ambition that takes on the myths of the frontier. The reach of McCarthy’s book is such that it goes way beyond America: It stares unflinchingly at human nature itself—at the darkness and violence from which we’re built, individually and societally. The story follows a gang of gunfighters who rampage around a Texas already scarred by butchery. Commissioned to slaughter hostile Native Americans, they are paid by the scalp, and soon cease to care where the scalps come from. There are staggering images of savagery, many of them hauntingly beautiful. Not for everyone (my wife always stops at the first massacre), but this is a monumental work of art.” -KI
Ghostwritten by David Mitchell