July 27, 2020

The second book in the list of summer reading recommended by Bill Gates certainly brought mixed reviews, with several feeling strongly in opposite directions! Cloud Atlas seems to have fostered a love/hate relationship with our group but everyone agreed: it was a challenging read, a book that stretched our minds and made us think on different levels. As we discussed and digested our differing perspectives, several points became clear:

  • What made Bill Gates choose this book? We’re not sure, but we agreed there was immediate credibility in its value because he choose it. His endorsement helped our group know there was something profound to grasp and many fought hard to uncover it.
  • While generally this book is literary fiction, it covers several genres – historical fiction, science fiction, first person narrative – in one book. Additionally, its stories spanned the globe, and included topics of science, music, medicine, mystery, and religion. So, regardless of which genre/topic you gravitate toward, you were thrust into others. With this came an appreciation (or frustration) for being pushed beyond our comfort zones and caused us to consider what happens when we stay within our reading preferences. Reading Cloud Atlas was a means for growing our perspectives and delving in the interests of others.
  • Each story line was fundamentally a cautionary tale about what happens when we overlook or undermine the truth. Whether intentional or not, by denial or by rationalization, when we undermine the truth it causes a ripple effect that spans lifetimes and generations.
  • Ultimately, this is a book about power and how power rules. There were stories of enslavement and domination and control throughout. When we allow power to go unchecked, it causes great loss of voice and freedoms among others.
  • As the book spanned centuries, we were able to see patterns in humanity and consider that without profound effort, human nature doesn’t change much. It was a warning that the way we care for our people and our planet right now will have lasting impact.

Some read the book, some watched the movie, some did both. Nearly all agreed there was a message of value, whether or not we enjoyed the process of uncovering it.