Cloud Cuckoo Land – Anthony Doerr
When you win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, as Doerr did for his wonderful All The Light That We Cannot See, it can be a bitch to follow it up. So why not build a story around five main characters who occupy 700 years of time? If nothing else, the sheer scope of the book will make it stand out.

There is no good way to summarize this book. It ranges from the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 to a spacecraft fleeing a dying Earth for a potential new home planet for humans in the 22nd century. A healthy dose of the book takes place in the 20th Century, both in the 1940s through the 1950s and in our current age. That all seems like a lot, doesn’t it?

There is a common thread throughout it all, though: a fictional story by the real Ancient Greek writer Antonius Diogenes called Cloud Cuckoo Land. Doerr traces the discover of a battered text of the story as Constantinople falls to the Ottomans, its effect on a Korean War veteran, his presentation of the story to a group of children in 2020, its role as a rehabilitation tool for an eco-terrorist in the near future, and finally as a source of inspiration and discovery for a pre-teen on that spaceship.

It takes awhile for it all to come together, but I promise you it does. It was a little slow and messy as Doerr got everyone settled into their roles. But, eventually, the book becomes a lot of fun. There was a nice warmth to the final 100 pages or so. Even with several very sad moments, I finished the book with a smile on my face.

All The Light We Cannot See was a fabulous book. I don’t know a person who read it who hasn’t recommended it to others. Cloud Cuckoo Land doesn’t match it, but it has fun trying.

Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America – Alec MacGillis
Online shopping has changed the world in countless ways. I think most consumers realize those changes aren’t all for the good. I’m the first to admit I online shop way too often, and my first stop is Amazon, even knowing how problematic that is.

MacGillis dives deep into the massive effects Amazon has had on our economy and society. And from his perspective, none of those effects are good things.

He discusses the low wages Amazon pays most of its warehouse and delivery workers. The long hours those workers spend in warehouses that are often dangerous. How the company demands massive tax breaks from local governments in return for those low-paying jobs. How Amazon undercuts local businesses in numerous ways. How Amazon demands all interactions with local government be kept secret, preventing any oversight by the outside public. And so on.

It’s not a great portrait. And it feels largely fair. It underscores my discomfort that Amazon is such a big part of our family spending. Yet it is so easy to find something you want/need on their site that will arrive cheaper and more quickly than from other vendors and go ahead and click purchase…