“As a boy growing up in England, I loved Westerns,” says Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature for such classics as The Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go. Though known for his searing evocations of England and its way of life, Ishiguro is most concerned with humanity’s uniting forces (even when his protagonist happens to be a robot, as is the case in his latest novel, Klara and the Sun, out this week from Knopf). Hence this British writer’s unlikely affinity for books in the Western genre, which, in Ishiguro’s late teens, “went from escapist entertainment to being part of an anguished debate about America’s history and values, about genocide and race, about law and order, about what and how a nation should remember”—a rich subject which has gone largely unexplored by literary novelists. “But on the occasions when they have done so, the results have often been stunning,” he says. Here, four Western novels Ishiguro calls “important contemporary classics. And also great reads.”

Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy

Magnificent, lyrical, blood-soaked sentences that sound biblical and meander across half a page or more. A dark vision not just of the conquering of the American West but of the violent essence of our species.