50 books to read before you die discussion

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message 1: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments Cloud Atlas was voted our Open Read for July. I'm looking forward to reading it, or at least giving it a stab, because the reviews on it are all over the map. I am always curious about books that some reader rave about while others absolutely loath them.


message 2: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments Hello again, since I am moderator for this discussion, and it's my first job as moderator, I am a little anxious so have jumped the gun and started reading The Cloud Atlas before July.
I am engrossed by it, and without giving anything away (which at that point, I have no idea where this book is going, anyway) the first observation that comes to mind is that this book is like the weather in Erie, Pa. If you don't like it, give it 15 pages and it will change!
I'm sure all this will come together eventually, but meanwhile it's immanently readable and engaging.
I actually was swept up in the gracious 19th century style of the first chapter, which is narrated in first person by a well-bred San Francisco notary who, while on a voyage to Australia seeking some heirs to an estate, winds up .... well, I'll let you to it. But my point was, I love this kind of writing and I'm trying to put my finger on whose style this is. Not Dickens, I don't think, or Jane Austen, but some 19th century British author ... someone help me with this!
Unfortunately for me, but probably to the relief of some of my fellow readers, this abruptly changes and here we are in 1931, reading letters from some jerk in Belgium ... but he is a funny, entertaining jerk ... the recipient of said letters pops up later in the book ... we are still wondering what the heck happened to that gentile young American notary on the voyage ...
Currently I am on page 160, involved in the troubles of a somewhat unscrupulous London book publisher; a bit of a jerk, also, but fun to read. "I traced Magellan's voyage across my globe and longed for a century when a fresh beginning was no further than the next clipper out of Deptford." (This chapter is downright funny!)
Aside from being engaging, this book is hard to put down because we are left hanging in multiple situations and, if you're like me, you're dying to know how it all winds up.


message 3: by Christine (new)

Christine Nancy, you make it sound really good. I might read it as well.


message 4: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments I think you'll enjoy it ... I am very curious as to where he's going with all this ....


message 5: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) I will be reading this too - waiting to get it from the library.


message 6: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) I read Cloud Atlas about five years ago. I'll post my review later.


message 7: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments This gets curiouser and curiouser and has made me late for work a couple of times. I have completed the chapters about Somni the fabricant (clone) whose eerie similarity to an actual human provokes fear and anger in her masters, and the one about the tribal society on the Big Island of Hawaii after The Fall.
Things are typing together on a few occasions and so far, just tenuously.


message 8: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) Got my book!
Finished the first part of Adam Ewing's pacific diary. He is a good man.
Sounds like you are far ahead of me Nancy. Let me see if I can catch up some during the weekend.


message 9: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments Yes, do hurry, lol, I am almost finished! I hope you are as absorbed as I am ... things do begin to link up in a bit. I'm trying to decide what part of the book is my favorite. This book certainly showcases the author's ability to employ different styles of writing.
Keeping track of what's "real" is another issue. (For some reason I'm reminded of the movie "Vanilla Sky," although this book isn't like that so I don't know why it comes to mind.) And then after pondering for a while, I realize, this is a WORK OF FICTION for crying out loud, none it is "real. "
I think one reviewer likened it to a Russian nesting doll.
Will try to refrain from too many revealing comments until everyone who wants to read it, gets on with it.


message 10: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) The book is engrossing. Couldn't help staying awake and reading yest. I have reached the futuristic bits where our clone sonmi is being interviewed.

Really liked all the main characters so far. All so different, but so interesting. The musician was standout different - a likable wastrel genius musician.


message 11: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments I thought the musician was funny. A rascal, but amusing! I had some questions about the futuristic part I was going to throw out there but I'm at work and the book is home so of course I don't remember what they are. I do really like that part, and the format of the interview to tell the story.


message 12: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) Reading about Zachary now. They are going to climb the mountain.
Love the small connection from one story to next.
I am so curious about what happened in 'The Fall'
I liked the interview format for Sonmi too. Seemed like a perfect fit.


message 13: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments I am dying to see how they handled this in making a movie. Going to check Netflix to see if it's available.


message 14: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) I have just finished Sonmis story...I really did not see that twist coming. Stunned and impressed. Did wonder about fabricant Wing but then forgot about it all when Zachary's story began.


message 15: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) Did you like the movie Nancy? Watched it on Netflix Aus - there seems to be many differences but still a good movie.


message 16: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments Honestly, I just watched it and was disappointed. If you read the book, it was easy to follow, but if I hadn't read the book I would have gotten disgusted with all that seemingly senseless skipping around. Although it was interesting they used the same actors in the different eras, the stories did not link up tightly enough (in my opinion) to allow that kind of format. I would have liked to have seen the Russian doll format followed, I think I would have done it from the inside out, that is, starting with the post-modern civilization and Meronym, and working its way out, with flashbacks along the way at the points where the stories touch ... as in the Frobisher letters, Somni's recorded testamony, etc. I think it would be difficult to do, though. Maybe a mini-series starting from the beginning, but anyone walking in late would be lost.


message 17: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments I think I was most entranced by the Somni part of the book


message 18: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) Y'all seem to be having such a good time with this book. My take was a bit on the negative side, so I'll wait 'til later to have my say. Don't want to be a party pooper.


message 19: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments I won't take it personal, Buck!


message 20: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) Finished it and really enjoyed reading it.
I think we might have a robotic future than a clone reliant future. If the earth survives that long, that is.
Watching the movie after reading the book would be a downer as there are so many differences. I think I liked it because I hadn't finished the book and did not know how it would pan out.


message 21: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments It was one of those movies that jumped around constantly. The book jumped from one setting to another in a logical manner, kind of like nesting dolls.
I just can't see clones in the future either, at least not a a serving class or a donation bank for organs like in that Scarlet Johanson movie, "The Island." (Not a bad movie, by the way.) If a robot can vacuum your house and man most of a production line, hard to tell what all they can do.
Did you catch the part in the movie where the Cavanaugh charactor runs away yelling, "Soylent Green is made of people?" (I thought he was the best charactor in the movie, maybe even in the book.)


message 22: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) I did wonder about that actually as I didn't understand the reference. Just googled it and I see the author has taken the idea of 'soap' from 'soylent green'
Ordeal of Cavendish was the most entertaining plot in the movie for me too. And Sonmi's + Adam Ewing narrative from the book.


message 23: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments Yes! Pretty gory stuff.


message 24: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (wordsmith2294) | 26 comments Just finished it! Before I share my thoughts, I've pulled my favorite quotes from each of the 6 sections (just for fun) :

*Pacific Journal: "Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?"

*Letters from Zedelghem: "All boundaries are conventions...one may transcend any convention, if only one can first conceive of doing so."

*Half-Lives: "Are molecules of Zedelghem Chateau, of Robert Frobisher's hand, dormant in this paper for forty-four years, now swirling in my lungs, in my blood?
Who is to say?"

*Timothy's Ordeal: "'Freedom' is the fatuous jingle of our civilization, but only those deprived of it have the barest inkling re: what the stuff actually is."

*Sonmi's Orison: "Truth is singular. Its 'versions' are mistruths."

*Ev'rythin' After: "Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies, an' tho' a cloud's shape nor hue nor size don't stay the same, it's still a cloud an' so is a soul. Who can say where the cloud's blowed from or who the soul'll be 'morrow? Only Sonmi the east an' the west an' the compass an' the atlas, yay, only the atlas o' clouds."

Loved this book! Thoughts to come later. :)


message 25: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey (wordsmith2294) | 26 comments David Mitchell really knew what he was doing! This book risks telling six mediocre stories instead of one great one, but each segment is fleshed out and careful, and the whole story stands out because of it. (I've got a lot to say, so be prepared everyone.)

The Pacific Journal is verbose and Victorian, and it wasn't just accurate for the time but really beautiful writing, especially the last entry. The Letters from Zedelghem captured Frobisher perfectly without seeming gimmicky, with his fragments and snark. Luisa Rey's story was 100% gimmicky, and all the better for it - the best kind of cheesy conspiracy novel. Timothy's Ordeal was one of the funniest and most cynical things I've ever read, and it took me so long to read because I stopped to laugh every other paragraph! Sonmi's Orison in the interview format was such a great narrative change, and the Corpocracy future Mitchell made was so thorough. And then everything after the Fall - we make fun of the dialogue these days because the movie went all the way with it, but it's such a great method of messing with language and putting us in the bleak far-future, and Mitchell made sure to show that there's still hope in the bleakness.

I also like how Mitchell trains you to read the story. The journal stops mid-sentence to throw you off just enough to wonder what on earth is going on, and after a few letters we get Frobisher's mention of the journal as connective tissue. The name "Half-Lives" is a pretty strong clue of what's happening, and Sixsmith is the first character we meet to bring us back to the 1930s, and on and on. By the time we reach Sonmi's Orison, we spend most of the section looking for a mention of Timothy's Ordeal, which only happens at the end of the first half. The same thing happens in reverse, picking up all those cliffhangers. I bet everyone started part 2 of the journal by flipping back to the end of part 1 to reread his interrupted entry, or at least his interrupted sentence.

And I can go on all day about the feat Mitchell accomplished but it wouldn't mean much if his themes didn't stand out. This was a mapping out of the life of a soul, irregardless of time, creed, and culture. Every chapter seemed to be a wildly different version of the same story - freedom from oppression, human progress and hunger, search for truth and beauty - common themes of humanity's history and future.

There are things that could be changed, I won't lie. Annie and Nancy, I agree that a clone future seems more unlikely, and the story could have easily been updated to include a more Westworld/Blade Runner-ish robot gaining sentience. Timothy's section wasn't split in half the same way the others were and it bothered me - everyone else read half of the previous story before moving forward chronologically, but Timothy finished the first half of "Half-Lives" in part 2 of his ordeal. It felt like when you read a poem and two words don't actually rhyme, like "love" and "move." I also think Mitchell did a lot to say a little - if you read any one of the sections on its own, I think you wind up with the same overall messages. What made it interesting was the overlapping narrative, but what made it good was the common story (told six times, maybe unnecessarily so). But it helped that the stories were so diverse, so I just have mixed feelings about it.

Overall I loved it! I had watched the movie already which helped me solve some of the mystery of the book. I loved the movie, and it didn't quite do the book justice, which is okay. But the book is certainly one of those everyone should get a chance to read.


message 26: by Christine (new)

Christine Great review Jeffrey, I'm half way through and thoroughly enjoying it.


message 27: by Nancy (new)

Nancy Mills (nancyfaym) | 73 comments Jeffrey wrote: "David Mitchell really knew what he was doing! This book risks telling six mediocre stories instead of one great one, but each segment is fleshed out and careful, and the whole story stands out beca..."

Insightful review! The author's choice of the cheesy way he tells the Luisa Rey story is explained by Timothy Cavanaugh, whose ordeal was just too funny, and HIS story in turn winds up entertaining the Somni character ... just very slick how the stories link together, not too tightly but very cleverly.
I think the Somni section was the most fascinating .... the commercialization of life in the future, I can actually see that happening. What did he call it, a corpocracy? Their whole existence is based on destructive consumption. Can you just see a holographic Ronald McDonald entertaining his customers and exhorting them to eat more?
So maybe I am the only one who didn't like the movie. It was OK, having read the book and being able to piece things together, but had I not read the book, I would have been frustrated with all the skipping around and the seeming unrelatedness of everything. I did very much like the ending, though; the scene with the young notary with his inlaws.


message 28: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) Jeffrey wrote: "David Mitchell really knew what he was doing! This book risks telling six mediocre stories instead of one great one..."

Great review, Jeffrey. I read Cloud Atlas about 5 years ago. My take was a little different.

I was was disappointed, considering the hype this book, and especially its movie, has gotten. About three quarters through I was ready to abandon it, but I stayed with it and it managed to redeem itself somewhat. It is a collection of novellas of different prose styles and time frames, each interrupted by the next, and then resumed later. There is a pretext of the stories being interrelated, but there is no substance to the interrelation. It was simply an invented literary device that worked poorly. Two of the stories are pretty good: The intrigue adventure of Luisa Ray, and the comedic escape of Timothy Cavendish from a home for the senile. The others are not bad, but are seriously degraded by having to be read on the unexpected installment plan.

Cloud Atlas just barely gets three Goodreads stars from me.


message 29: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) Great review Jeffrey.

Buck - I think perhaps the 'hype' was part of the disappointment. I read 2 books recently which I heard was soo good but felt let down when I read them. [A man named Ove, The confederacy of dunces]
I really didn't know this book was so famous hence perhaps it went beyond my expectations.


message 30: by Buck (new)

Buck (spectru) Annie wrote: "Great review Jeffrey.

Buck - I think perhaps the 'hype' was part of the disappointment. I read 2 books recently which I heard was soo good but felt let down when I read them. [A man named Ove, The..."


You've got a point. I rated A Confederacy of Dunces as five stars; and after reading A Man Called Ove, I've read everything of Frederik Backman's that's been translated into English. I hadn't heard a lot about either of them beforehand. Also, books are a matter of taste. I like books others dislike and vice versa. Cloud Atlas just didn't do it for me, but I'm glad everybody else likes it.


RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I loved Cloud Atlas and gave it 5 stars. I thought the linked stories approach was genius and showed how all human lives are similar and different, even in different locations and times. And of course many lives touch one another in unexpected ways even across time. Our world is an ocean and our lives are the drops.

Yet what is any ocean but a multitude of drops?


message 32: by Annie (new)

Annie (annie_thomas) Randy wrote: "I loved Cloud Atlas and gave it 5 stars. I thought the linked stories approach was genius and showed how all human lives are similar and different, even in different locations and times. And of cou..."

Me too! The different periods and settings, the progress to the future and then return to the past was great.


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