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4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  18,575 Ratings  ·  1,674 Reviews
A gallery attendant at the Hermitage. A young jazz buff in Tokyo. A crooked British lawyer in Hong Kong. A disc jockey in Manhattan. A physicist in Ireland. An elderly woman running a tea shack in rural China. A cult-controlled terrorist in Okinawa. A musician in London. A transmigrating spirit in Mongolia. What is the common thread of coincidence or destiny that connects ...more
Paperback, 426 pages
Published October 9th 2001 by Vintage (first published August 19th 1999)
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Jim I read Cloud Atlas first, The Bone Clocks second, and Ghostwritten third.

There are some continuities between books, in character names, settings, and…more
I read Cloud Atlas first, The Bone Clocks second, and Ghostwritten third.

There are some continuities between books, in character names, settings, and (most obviously) his style in structuring the stories, but I didn't feel like reading them out of chronological order impacted my enjoyment.(less)
Cloud Atlas by David MitchellThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David MitchellGhostwritten by David Mitchellnumber9dream by David MitchellBlack Swan Green by David Mitchell
David Mitchell
3rd out of 10 books — 94 voters
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Best Books of the Decade: 2000s
367th out of 5,619 books — 25,918 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jun 29, 2013 Kris rated it it was amazing

There are so many people living in the world. We jostle up against each other in subway stations in Tokyo.

We crowd into art galleries in Petersburg, vying for the best location to view the masterpieces on display.

We take trains and planes around the world, with mountains, plains, rivers, valleys, and, above all, people rushing by us, in a blur.

Holy Mountains, China

Where is there a place for the individual in the midst of this overwhelming motion?

Still from Koyaanisqatsi

In his first novel, Gho
Jeffrey Keeten
May 30, 2016 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
”There is truth, and then there is Being Truthful.

Being Truthful is just one more human activity, along with chatting up women, ghostwriting, selling drugs, running a country, designing radiotelescopes, parenting, drumming, and shoplifting. All are susceptible to adverbs. You can be truthful well or badly, frankly or slyly, and you can choose to do it and not to do it….

Truth’s indifference is immutable.”

Have you ever had anyone say to you...Just tell me the truth?

So I ponder what someone wants
D. Pow
Apr 07, 2011 D. Pow rated it it was amazing
This book blew my mind. This book also ripped out my heart and stomped on it and then stuffed the battered organ back in my chest cavity, breathed feathery soft on it and set it pumping again. It was that good, that moving, that inspiring. It brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion and left me feeling that wonderful mind expanding, worldview shifting buzz that only art (or sex, or chocolate) of the highest order can accomplish. I feel subtlety changed by this book.

First off, it engag
Feb 10, 2012 s.penkevich rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of Mitchell, LOST, Murakami, and fans of reading in general
Recommended to s.penkevich by: Ian Vinogradus
’The human world is made of stories, not people. The people the stories use to tell themselves are not to be blamed.’
David Mitchell’s ambitious debut, Ghostwritten, is a world of stories that migrates across the globe like a cloud across the sky, shifting and refiguring between various narrator voices and style. These voices send out ripples into the fabric of reality, which start off small but compound to forever reshape the course of humanity as the reader delves deeper into the novel, placin
Ian Vinogradus
Starstruck Lover

David Mitchell is a five star author and this, his first novel, is a five star achievement. I think.

I’ve been lucky to read most of his novels in chronological order as they’ve been released. Joining Goodreads has presented an opportunity to re-read and review them.

I still adhere to the rating, even if it emerges that I have a few question marks about some of his stylistic choices.

What this reveals is that a highly competent author, even with his first novel, doesn’t have to writ
May 07, 2013 Kalliope rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction-english
How dare I write yet another review of Ghostwritten, when most of my GR friends have read, loved, and written fantastic reviews on this book already? I have LIKED Kris’s, and S.Penkevich’s.

So, I will refer my reader to those reviews and here I will only record some loose thoughts.

As with any thing that is openly praised by most, I was a bit apprehensive to approach David Mitchell. Satisfaction is the difference between Attainment and Expectations.

But I have liked the book even though I had to wa
"I wonder what happened to him, I wonder what happened to all of them, this wondering is the nature of matter, each of us a loose particle, an infinity of paths through the park, probable ones, improbable ones, none of them real until observed whatever real means, and for something so solid matter contains terrible, terrible, terrible expanses of nothing, nothing, nothing..."

Ordinary human lives, sometimes crisscrossing, sometimes briefly touching, sometimes swiftly passing each other by throu
Nandakishore Varma
Oh my God. Can David Mitchell write.

Reading this book, you will never think it's a first novel; Mitchell's mastery of the written word is so consummate. The prose flows, one word after another, forming sentences, paragraphs and chapters in natural progression. The skill of the author is evident in the fact that he himself is invisible - the story seems to write itself, thus justifying the title of the novel in a fashion.

This novel -"in nine parts", as Mitchell calls it - is a series of interconn
Krok Zero
Jun 02, 2010 Krok Zero rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-2010
Oh dear. All the cool kids love David Mitchell. I want to be one of the cool kids! But I won't lie to you, cool kids: this book frustrated the hell out of me, at times outright pissed me off, despite my respect for Mitchell's dexterity hat-trick (intellectual, narrative, verbal). It's the kind of book that made me scarf down the last 100 pages in a single day, breathlessly turning pages in the hopes of making sense of its head-scratching patchwork, only to put down the tome humming that Peggy Le ...more
This predates the more famous “Cloud Atlas” ( by about four years; it has similarities of theme (connectedness, migrating spirits), structure (linked narratives, in contrasting styles), and even characters, but in a less contrived format. The subtitle is “A novel in nine parts”, and although some of the earlier ones could be read as standalone short stories, that would be missing the point, particularly with the later sections. Much as I love Cloud Atlas, ...more
Jul 20, 2016 Katie rated it liked it
The most admirable thing about this novel is its ambition. Had I read this when it came out and Mitchell was a new unknown author maybe I would have been a lot more impressed. But having read Mitchell’s best novels my expectations were, unfairly perhaps, up very high. The ten episodes that make up this novel deal with globalisation, terrorism, banking fraud, conspiracy theory, particle physics – in other words the most pressing issues of our times.

The biggest problem for me was I found the char
Mar 24, 2016 Brad rated it it was amazing
I feel like any review I make of this novel will be an unfair one, so I heartily recommend that you read some of the absolutely gorgeous reviews already out there, but I will leave you with a single impression:

The Uncertainty principle Thus applied to writing fiction (or Science Fiction): You can know where a story is at any point in time or you can know its velocity (it's pacing), but you can never know both at the same time.


Seriously, this book is pretty damn awesome. Each of the nine viewpo
Sep 16, 2012 B0nnie rated it really liked it
Recommended to B0nnie by: Megan
The 'G' on my keyboard barely works. I keep typing host for ghost. But that's all right - hosts and ghosts are the point in Ghostwritten. A similar problem could have given me ghost-ridden, which this book is (there's even a Caspar) yet it's the hosts here that are the most interesting, not the ghost surfing.

Mitchel's characters are real - the man knows how to write, as I found out in Cloud Atlas. There, the connection between the characters is metafictional. In Ghostwritten it is metaphysical.
Apr 26, 2011 Steve rated it really liked it
With Ghostwritten you catch glimpses and sometimes even longer scenes of the feature-length greatness that’s to come in Cloud Atlas. This was Mitchell’s publishing debut. As may be true of many first works, he could barely contain all that he wanted to say. It was chock full of people, places and ideas. He gave himself nine very different vehicles for addressing the question of why things happen as they do. The settings of the nine stories span Asia, Europe, and the US. Good, bad, young, old, Ea ...more
Jun 25, 2016 Chris_P rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 5-star-diamonds
Ghostwritten is one of those books which, halfway through, you know they are right in the 4-star territory and that the ending will be decisive as to whether it will be a 3, 4 or 5-star case. My rating tells a story.

What a ride it was! In Ghostwritten David Mitchell invites us on a journey which starts in Okinawa and takes us to Tokyo, Honk Kong, Holy Mountain of China, Mongolia, Petersburg, London, Clear Island of Ireland and New York before it ends right where it started. Each chapter consists
Jan 08, 2013 Bennet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels-stories
I’m wondering if you can tell a lot about a person by which of these stories she likes best. I approached the book as I do a collection of short stories, more interested in Mitchell’s way with words and characters than whether or not the book turned out to be a novel.

Each chapter is named for the location in which a first-person narrator is attempting to understand the particulars of his or her life and situation, despite all the attendant variables and possibilities. What each chapter or chara
Sep 28, 2012 Megan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: David Mitchell fans and everybody else
Recommended to Megan by: s.penkevich
Shelves: favorites, mind-blown
Ghostwritten is a beautiful novel about human beings, their experiences and how we all effect each other. The novel is split up into different stories which each take up a different genre and a different tone and story. The first story of the novel is about a terrorist involved in a strange cult that's goal is to "cleanse" the world. This story sets the scene of the novel and ends up being extremely important as the novel goes on. After reading this one I was wondering where this novel would go ...more
Can anybody assist me in acquiring the memory-wiping gizmo from the movie Men in black? Because I need to erase the last two chapters of this book from my conscious.

Why, my sweet David, why? Why did you have to write the last two chapters and shit all over the book which is otherwise mindblowingly sublime? Do you realize how close I was from gaining that glorious, exhilarating 5-star-rating reading experience? Do you even have the slightest idea how excruciatingly difficult it gets for a cycinal
Jennifer (aka EM)
Dec 05, 2014 Jennifer (aka EM) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014-b-list
Amazing first novel by a truly original writer who's fast becoming a favourite. It's possible I liked this one even better than his later, and better known, Cloud Atlas. Although the style he hones by CA is still a bit rough around the edges here, that roughness actually works in the novel's favour as structure and style did not threaten at any point to overwhelm substance/content.

Mitchell's virtuosity employing different genres per story-chapter is less delineated here than in CA, but that agai
Dec 23, 2015 Darwin8u rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
“Memories are their own descendents masquerading as the ancestors of the present.”
― David Mitchell, Ghostwritten


So Kill me. I really like David Mitchell, and reading this knowing it was his first novel is one of those things you can only really believe if you've read his other novels. This seems like an embryonic version of Cloud Atlas, with a lot of the same ideas, themes, and even a borrowed character or two. But that seems unfair, because most floret-novels never actually seem beautiful befo
I want to shout from the rooftops about how much I loved this book! I don't think this is going to be a very coherent review, as it's another of those books that is difficult to describe without giving everything away. Ghostwritten was David Mitchell's debut, published in 1999, and it is similar to his better-known Cloud Atlas in that it consists of a number of diverse - but interconnected - stories (and, indeed, a number of characters from that book also make appearances here). It's hugely ente ...more
Jun 02, 2016 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
So time and memory are as uncertain as Mitchell says they are. I read this book close in time to its US release - thanks to the QuanCog like memory of Amazon, I see that I ordered the hardcover (how quaint) on September 20, 2000. Prior to rereading this month, I remembered almost every aspect of the Tea Hut woman's chapter, and I could have closely described to you the Mongolian chapter and Okinawa, even if other parts were fuzzier (and Clear Island seemed brand new to me on this reading). My yo ...more
Jul 13, 2008 Rob rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone that wants to see Murakami's British doppelgänger
Recommended to Rob by: Amy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 14, 2016 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
"History is made of arbitrary choices."

And so are lives, which is the crux of this first novel by David Mitchell. It contains nine loosely related stories about people from places across the globe who, like many of us, feel they direct the course of their lives. But what the people in this book soon discover is, their lives are ghostwritten by others or by forces beyond their control, though it still leaves them accountable whether they choose to believe it or not.

As in Cloud Atlas and other l
Jun 02, 2016 Teresa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

The ghost of reading haunted me as I traveled earlier this month: I'd started A Journal of the Plague Year with my destination being Amsterdam and that city is mentioned in Defoe's first paragraph; I switched to this book rather quickly and as I was flying into Copenhagen, I met the Danish character Caspar; I was in the city when the Irishwoman Mo mentions "Custard from Copenhagen".

The theme of the interconnectedness of the many inhabitants of our planet hit me hard when we kept running into
Dec 20, 2009 ·Karen· rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brits
I read this with “Goodness, and this was his first novel!” going through my head the whole time. It is a remarkably bold, nay even reckless, piece of writing. Mitchell manages to express the fragmentation of the modern world, and at the same time its connectedness. The fragmentation is characterised by its form, a series of episodes that take us from Okinawa to Tokyo and all points West until in the end we have been right round the world and back to Okinawa. These are not short stories, they do ...more
Nov 02, 2012 Jonathan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jonathan by: David Mitchell's fans, his other work

Four stars, or even four and a half stars cannot adequately define this novel, yet five stars appears overgenerous. Though Ghostwritten is a brilliantly ambitious novel it is also a tangled and convoluted novel. If you as a reader disliked Cloud Atlas it is unlikely that you would find this novel any better. Where Cloud Atlas seemed a more whole and structured novel this felt a little more twisted and in sections muddled knots of prose appeared to form. That said it shall receive five stars as a
Apr 11, 2012 Sayingst rated it did not like it
This book is bad. Wow. It's really bad. Mitchell's description of a fly as "a Gothic tricycle" will be forever burned into my mind. There are so many reviews here stating something along the lines of "his prose is lyric and great, and he has such a knack for storytelling". I'll give him credit for the plot; it's dense and it appears that he put a little time into linking up all of the loose ends. But complexity =/= virtuosity, and the book suffers from terrible, terrible prose and poor character ...more
Apr 13, 2012 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2012
Everyone has a story. And I am their observer.

The woman who ran over my foot with a stroller in a mall this morning was distracted by finding the perfect outfit to rekindle the lackluster fire in her marriage. Baby-weight, bags under her eyes, expensive purse, trendy haircut - her husband is an executive of some sort at an indistinguishable company making enough money so that his late nights at the office were justified, yet spent on on all fours with a ball in his mouth while Mistress Whoever w
Jan 20, 2016 Judy rated it really liked it
Every year between Christmas and New Year's Day, I choose one author whose unread books I want to complete. I attempt to read as many of those as I can in one week. This year my author was David Mitchell. I had only read Cloud Atlas and it was a tough read for me so I decided to see if I could crack Mitchell's code by reading his novels in order of publication.

He has published seven books, so it was unlikely I would get through all of them. I managed to read the first three and I did crack the c
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David Mitchell was born in Southport, Merseyside, in England, raised in Malvern, Worcestershire, and educated at the University of Kent, studying for a degree in English and American Literature followed by an M.A. in Comparative Literature. He lived for a year in Sicily, then moved to Hiroshima, Japan, where he taught English to technical students for eight years, before returning to England. Afte ...more
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“Integrity is a bugger, it really is. Lying can get you into difficulties, but to really wind up in the crappers try telling nothing but the truth.” 79 likes
“I am going to tell you a secret. Everything is about wanting. Everything. Things happen because of people wanting. Watch closely, and you’ll see what I mean.” 74 likes
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