1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die



Several months ago, one of my best friends asked me, “How many of them have you read?” These were the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. I was sad that I had read less than 3% of the books listed. Some of these books were ones I had not even finished. I asked myself “Who came up with this?”

Since the time I first received the list, I found out there was a whole book on this. After checking it out from HCPL and scanning it, I have gone to work on this list. As described on the 43 Things Site:

Each work of literature listed here is a seminal work key to understanding and appreciating the written word. These works have been handpicked by a team of international critics and literary luminaries, including Derek Attridge (world expert on James Joyce), Cedric Watts (renowned authority on Joseph Conrad and Graham Greene), Laura Marcus (noted Virginia Woolf expert), and David Mariott (poet and expert on African-American literature), among some twenty others. (Description from Amazon.com)

I doubt that I will ever read all of these. In fact, I nearly refuse to read some of these works. Yet, it’s a nice diversion and I find it interesting that a group of people could meet some sort of consensus on what was best. I even found a terrific Excel spreadsheet on the Arukiyomi site specifically for this book list. There are book reviews, too. Several of the books I will review will be on the 1001 Books list. I hope you enjoy my latest selections. Comments are encouraged!

~ Jorie

In the Grips of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go


Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro | LibraryThing

* 1001 Books Book (2006)

Ishiguro, K. (2005). Never let me go. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 9781400043392

Going in reverse chronological order, Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is Number 1 on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Finding it on the shelf at the library where I work, I pulled the book, started reading, and found myself in Chapter 2 by the end of lunch. Ishiguro, born in Japan, moved to England with his family at the age of five. I read somewhere Kazuo Ishiguro was the only one in his family who spoke English. I felt his isolation in Never Let Me Go. The author has written numerous novels, including The Remains of the Day.

Never Let Me Go begins with the introduction of the narrator, thirty-one year old Kathy H. She has been a carer for eleven years. Carers watch over donors and Kathy takes pride easing the burdens of her charges. Kathy H. lives in her native England sometime in the late 1990s. She grew up at the prestigious Hailsham boarding school. Hailsham almost seems idyllic in it’s nurturing the learning and creativity of its students. Hailsham also placed an emphasis on poetry and art.

Two of Kathy’s closest friends from Hailsham were Tommy and Ruth. Eventually, Tommy and Ruth become donors and Kathy becomes the carer for both. Together, they ponder what Hailsham is all about and their place in the equation. However, when they uncover the answers, they do not solve the problem.

The title, Never Let Me Go, comes from a song by fictitious American singer Judy Bridgewater. In the song, Bridgewater expresses how she does not want to be separated from the one she loves. Kathy also does not want to be “let go.”

This novel is what one of my professors would have called a Platonic novel. Like “Allegory of the Cave,” the characters and the reader learn things that alter them and things they cannot unlearn. It took me sometime to shake how the book made me feel. If nothing else, this book is provocative. While numerous book reviews and Wikipedia tell you what happens, I will let you find out for yourself. However, I will say it made me very sad.

At first, I wondered why kids like Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy didn’t ever hear from their families. In addition, I questioned the definitions of “carer” and “donor.” I had all sorts of theories from museum employees to school endowment workers. Ultimately, Ishiguro pulled the rug out from under all of us when we found the true nature of the students’ “uniqueness.”

Yet, when the reader discovers why Hailsham exists, there is no fight or flight attempted by Kathy, Ruth, or Tommy. I would have liked to have seen Kathy attempt at least one of these things. Since she did not, I was very disappointed. By the end of the book, I did not feel she had or would gain any peace, either.

Based purely on the questions this book raises, I give it three and a half out of five pearls. On the end of the book, I give it one and a half pearls.

More on Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go: