Cloud Cuckoo Land

By Anthony Doerr,

Book cover of Cloud Cuckoo Land

Book description

On the New York Times bestseller list for over 20 weeks * A New York Times Notable Book * A National Book Award Finalist * Named a Best Book of the Year by Fresh Air, Time, Entertainment Weekly, Associated Press, and many more

“If you’re looking for a superb novel,…

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Why read it?

11 authors picked Cloud Cuckoo Land as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A play within a play, a book within a book, may be one of the oldest tricks in the book. Doerr’s book (which also contains fragments of an ancient text of the same name by one Antonius Diogenes) infuses this familiar trope with new scope, pathos, humor, and profundity.

It is a story about the past, the present, the future, and two beautiful twin bulls named Tree and Moonlight; I think this book contains it all.

Doerr makes this narrative juggling act seem easy, shifting from fifteenth-century Constantinople to a world-containing spaceship as easily as he moved me from laughter…

I love the way Doerr weaves together the stories of children in three different eras and countries. The common thread is the myth of a Greek shepherd, Aethon, and his adventures as he seeks to arrive in a fictional land where there is no pain. 

The novel is about wonderful but under-appreciated children, their passion for things that matter (like learning, like family, like other living creatures), and their determination to find meaning and joy in the bewildering, painful, and often senseless world.

Anthony Doerr is one of the most evocative writers I know – I loved All the Light We Cannot See and this one shows the same ability to conjure up incredible vignettes from across time and space, from the hare-lipped boy pressganged with his beloved oxen into moving a giant cannon for the Ottoman sultan’s assault on Constantinople to a suburban library on modern-day Idaho where kids are staging a play during a snowstorm, or into the future on a space ship bound for a new colony.

Doerr does all this effortlessly, in a series of short passages that immediately…


By Linda Kass,

Book cover of Bessie

Linda Kass Author Of Bessie

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Bookstore owner Learner Reader Historical novelist Long distance cyclist

Linda's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

In the bigoted milieu of 1945, six days after the official end of World War II, Bess Myerson, the daughter of poor Russian immigrants living in the Bronx, remarkably rises to become Miss America, the first —and to date only— Jewish woman to do so. At stake is a $5,000 scholarship for the winner.

An intimate fictional portrait of Bess Myerson’s early life, Bessie reveals the transformation of the nearly six-foot-tall, self-deprecating yet talented preteen into an exemplar of beauty, a peripheral quality in her world. It is the unfamiliar secular society of pageantry she must choose to escape her roots as she searches for love and acceptance, eager to make her mark on the world.


By Linda Kass,

What is this book about?

Just days after the close of World War II, Bess Myerson, the college-educated daughter of poor Russian Jewish immigrants living in the Bronx, is competing in the Miss America pageant. At stake: a $5,000 scholarship. The tension and excitement in Atlantic City's Warner Theatre is palpable, especially for traumatized Jews rooting for one of their own. So begins Bessie.

Drawing on biographical and historical sources, Bessie reimagines the early life of Bess Myerson, who, in 1945 at age twenty-one, remarkably rises to become one of the most famous women in America. This intimate fictional portrait reveals the transformation of the…

It’s impossible to know where you are going when you start this book and impossible not to have taken the path once you get to the end.

That’s the incredible power of Doerr’s intricate, tender, magisterial braid of seemingly unconnected stories over millennia. The characters are powerfully drawn, and you want to stay with them despite the tragedies they encounter. A truly magical read. 

I was recommended this novel by a friend because it is partly about the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 which is something that I am particularly interested in.

It turned out, in fact, to have three interwoven plotlines: Constantinople 1453, Idaho in the 21st century and a spacecraft somewhere in the future, all linked by one long-lost ancient Greek text. Strangely enough, while I enjoyed the sections about Constantinople, I liked the dysfunctional teenager in Idaho and the inquisitive child in outer space even more. Perhaps because they took me into areas that were completely new: I have been to…

Anthony Doerr’s masterpiece follows three sets of characters in three different time periods in three different settings.

The common thread is a book they are all reading—the ancient story of Aethon, a boy who wishes to become a bird and fly. It is a visionary tale as much about the desperation of confinement as it is about metamorphosis. About growing wings and rising above the mundane into the quixotic.

The visionary elements in this book include the timelessness of story and the awakening (and indomitability) of the higher spirit. It illustrates that, were it not for layers upon layers of…

From Rea's list on contemporary visionary fiction.

Each of the interconnected stories told in this novel is fascinating in and of itself, but they’re even more enthralling as an interwoven whole.

An ancient Greek manuscript that tells of a fantastical journey provides a connective thread across space and time, from fifteenth-century Constantinople to the near future on a spaceship. I kept turning pages to know more about what happened in each of the stories, but also to find out all the myriad, deliciously satisfying ways they were connected.

The storylines swelled together into one epic tale, which was capacious enough that I felt I, too, could inhabit…

I read this novel the day it came out, in the fall of 2021, just after sending my book to the printer.

Immediately, I felt a kinship. In this novel, Doerr thinks about cultural survival, and imagines the city of Constantinople as a kind of Noah’s Ark in which fragments from antiquity make it into the present.

The ancient Greek story at the center of the plot is fictional, but the mechanisms of cultural survival are real. It’s a superbly imaginative way of tackling the subject—and way funnier than anything I was able to come up with.

The project asks…

Doerr’s follow-up to his amazing bestseller All the Light We Cannot See, is different and intriguing in its own unique way, to say the least. From my own perspective, I was enthralled by his descriptions of the city of Constantinople in its last days before falling to the Turks in 1453. The myriad events Doerr weaves into an amazingly complex, yet ultimately “Oh yeah, that makes sense” story may leave some readers gasping for air, but his ability to create characters and set them in time periods and locales that give the reader a sense of truly being there rather…

Right from the heart-pounding opening scene, I was all in. As with All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr draws the reader deeply inside his characters one at a time, then intertwines seemingly unrelated lives in intense and often tragic ways. How could the cast of "Cloud Cuckoo Land," an ancient story (coincidentally sharing roots with the Cupid and Psyche myth!), have anything to do with a young boy in 1453 Constantinople or an idealist-turned-radical in 2020 Idaho? You’ll see! Though the book’s length is intimidating and some parts are not cheery, CCL’s deeply satisfying ending offers…

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