On behalf of our reading group I have applied to take part in World Book Night on March 5th 2011. If we're successful we will have the enormous pleasure of giving away 48 FREE copies of a selected text. ( http://www.worldbooknight.org/ ) As recipients we have identified senior High School students and residents of ours and surrounding villages whom we want to encourage to join our group, or even form ones of their own. And the book we've chosen? Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell – no, not that David Mitchell... It's a curious book at first sight – six stories hiding one inside the next: six styles, six plots that advance in time from the 19th century to an uncertain and far-distant future, and back again. Each story is anchored to its predecessor by certain characters, or a piece of music, a ship, or an android serving in a fast-food outlet! Mitchell's purpose seems to be to explore what drives humankind on to 'progress', even in the face of disasters and disadvantage, regardless of the consequences. He philosophises about the circularity of human history and experience. I think he concludes that we can learn from the past, but it will take a lot longer to get it right than we thought, and we might have to begin all over again. As Mark Twain once wrote: History never repeats itself, but it does rhyme.