The Complete Reader’s Guide to David Mitchell

This post is an overview of the bibliography of author David Mitchell.  It includes links to interviews, reviews, and essays, as well as information about his forthcoming books.

Last updated January 2017.

Table of Contents
I. Collected Works
II. Book Review Compilations
III. Select Critical Analysis
IV. Select Essays, Interviews and Lists
V. Videos
VI. The Future and Forthcoming Books

***

Introduction

In its starred review of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks, Publisher’s Weekly posed the following question: “Is [this] the most ambitious novel ever written, or just the most Mitchell-esque?”

High praise, indeed, and appropriately prescient; The Bone Clocks was ultimately longlisted for several end-of-year literary awards.  But Mitchell’s readers have long known that such critical praise is both justified and deserved.  David Mitchell, author of six novels and over a dozen short stories and librettos, is one of the most ambitious (and enjoyable) writers of the twenty-first century.

What makes Mitchell’s body of work so unique?  In brief, his use of lush language, kinetic storytelling, and an expansive vision of how his fiction fits together.  Mitchell is pioneering what might be deemed a “meta-novel,” in which all of his books and short stories are part of a larger universal narrative.  Thanks to his emotionally resonant characters and the thematic depth of his fiction, this has yielded an unparalleled micro- and macro-storytelling project unlike anything else in modern literature.

The varied structures and styles of Mitchell’s individual novels reflect this overarching scope.  They range from standard first-person Bildungsroman (Black Swan Green) to multi-narrator historical fiction (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet) to symphonies of interconnected narrative strains.  Cloud Atlas, perhaps his most well-known work, features six linked stories-within-stories that span hundreds of years, authored in the styles of epistolary correspondence, judicial inquisition, 1970s political thriller, and more.  Ghostwritten, his debut novel, features nine independent stories that connect over the course of the book.  Mitchell’s first manuscript, which was roundly rejected by publishers, somehow puts its successors to shame in scope: it included 365 different chaptersmultiple subplots, and dozens of characters.

In many ways, Mitchell’s penchant for unique, interlocking narrative structures makes him a perfect author for contemporary fandom, in which the close-reading of small plot points and finishing touches is rewarded with new layers of thematic depth.  The interconnectedness of his books and stories yields a dizzying number of crossover character appearances and cameos from title to title, which in turn affect how the reader understands the drama and stakes of a given scene or plot.  Dr. Marinus, the wise, gruff botanist from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, appears in a different capacity in The Bone Clocks, despite the two books taking place nearly 200 years apart.  Knowing Marinus’ role in the latter book completely re-shapes how the reader could interpret the full narrative arc of the former.

Of course, such interplay between books only works when characters and plots are compelling, and Mitchell does not disappoint.  Tracking Jason Taylor’s maturation in Black Swan Green, Jacob de Zoet’s hopes and fears in Thousand Autumns, and Zachry’s attempts to make sense of post-apocalyptic society in Cloud Atlas are case studies in the pathos that Mitchell can draw from his protagonists. A recurring theme in his work is the dynamic of power structures and how benevolence can exist amid aggressive malevolence. Seeing his characters navigate their surroundings and these power structures is a joy, thanks to Mitchell’s ability to weave together action, humor, and quiet moments of reflection.

To help fans appreciate the scope of Mitchell’s expansive literary universe, we’ve compiled a host of links and resources that comprise a significant portion of his bibliography.  We hope this will serve both newcomers to his work and seasoned fans looking for hard-to-find stories and interviews.  Enjoy!

***

I. Collected Works

Every major piece of fiction and nonfiction in Mitchell’s bibliography. Book links lead to Amazon pages; short story links lead to online copies if available; libretto links lead to synopses and interviews.  Short story publishers and publication dates represent the earlier publication date between U.K. and American editions.

Credit to this site for compiling many of the short stories listed, and special thanks to Mr. Robert Borski for his kind help in adding additional stories and recommended links. 

Books

Unpublished Manuscripts

  • The Old Moon
  • From Me Flows What You Call Time (Future Library Novel)

Short Stories and Fiction

  • The January Man (Printed in Granta 81, 2003. Early version of a chapter from Black Swan Green.)
  • What You Do Not Know You Want (Included in McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories edited by Michael Chabon, published by Vintage, 2004)
  • Acknowledgments (Printed in Prospect, 2005)
  • Hangman (Included in New Writing 13, edited by Ali Smith and Toby Litt; published by Picador, 2005.  Early version of a chapter from Black Swan Green.)
  • Preface (Printed in the Daily Telegraph, 2006)
  • Dénouement (Printed in The Guardian, 2007)
  • Judith Castle (Reprinted in the New York Times, 2008; included in The Book of Other People edited by Zadie Smith, published by Penguin, 2008)
  • The Massive Rat (Printed in The Guardian, 2009)
  • An Inside Job (Included in Fighting Words, edited by Roddy Doyle, published by Stoney Road Press, 2009)
  • Character Development (Reprinted in The Guardian, 2009; included in Freedom: Short Stories Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by Amnesty International, published by Amnesty International, 2009)
  • Muggins Here (Printed in The Guardian, 2010)
  • Earth Calling Taylor (Printed in the Financial Times, 2010)
  • The Gardener (Reprinted in The Guardian, 2011; originally created for Kai & Sunny’s “The Flower Show” art exhibition, 2011)
  • The Siphoners (Included in I’m With the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet edited by Mark Martin, published by Verso Books, 2011)
  • In the Bike Sheds (Printed in We Love This Book, 2012)
  • Lots of Bits of Star (Originally created for Kai & Sunny’s “Caught by the Nest” art exhibition, 2013)
  • Variations on a Theme by Mister Donut (Printed in Granta Magazine 127, 2014)
  • The Right Sort (Published via Twitter, 2014. Early version of a chapter from Slade House.)
  • My Eye On You (Originally created for Kai & Sunny’s “Whirlwind of Time” art exhibition, 2016)

Librettos

Book Translations (Nonfiction)

Short Story Translations

  • The Earthgod and the Fox (by Kenji Miyazawa; translation printed in McSweeney’s Issue 42, 2012)

Other

II. Book Review Compilations

Collected links for reviews of three Mitchell titles.

III. Select Critical Analysis

Periodical Criticism

Academic Scholarship

IV. Select Author Essays, Print Interviews, and Reading Lists

Select Essays

Japan and My Writing – “This lack of belonging encourages me to write: I lack a sense of citizenship in the real world, and in some ways, commitment to it. To compensate, I stake out a life in the country called writing. I don’t mean the publishing world: I mean a mental state (mental is the word!), where characters and plots in the head achieve the solidity of people and lives outside the head.”

Two essays for BookBrowse – “Writers’ motives are as varied as criminals’, but I suspect that the historical novelist’s genetic code contains the geeky genes of the model-maker – there is pleasure to be had in the painstaking reconstruction of a lost world.”

Lost for Words (published in Prospect) – “Stammerers are furnaces of willpower, burning more of the stuff in making a single phonecall than our non-stammering accusers get through in a week. My first ever public event as a writer was in 1999, at the generous invitation of AS Byatt and Tibor Fischer. Tibor picked up on my nervousness and, meaning to reassure me, said: ‘This will be the scariest reading you’ll ever do.’ I’ve never told him how right he was.”

An essay for The Atlantic – “We have a hard time remaining in the present: Our monkey minds are continually jumping through the jungles of the past and the forests of the future. But Wright’s poem says: Stop! Just stop. Calm down, be quiet, and look around. It’s an homage to, and an exhortation of, the act of seeing.”

Imaginary City (published in GEIST) – “Closer up, my imaginary Vancouver is scoured by the cold Pacific (as much an oxymoron as ‘hot Atlantic,’ where I’m from) and in need of a fresh lick of paint, like any working port. Ferries lit like Christmas trees plow the harbour, and snow-carved mountains encircle a stained-glass-at-night sky.”

A Possibly True Ghost Story (published in Freeman’s) – “Being young, I felt that I owned an unlimited bank account of hours and days, so I’d often zone out and gaze at the river, its herons, and the steep flank of wooded mountain rising from its far bank. No great leap of the imagination was required to picture the irradiated human beings of all ages arriving 50 years earlier—right there, at the very same spot where I aired my futon, hung my laundry, and ate my granola.”

Select Interviews

Blurbs and Recommendations

V. Select Videos

Longer Conversation

Short Clips

(Also parts 2, 3, and 4)

(The first in a series of 10, linked from that video.)

VI. The Future and Forthcoming Books

Mitchell signed a three-book deal with Random House in 2014, which covers the publication of two new novels and another translation of Naoki Higashida’s work (the author of The Reason I Jump).  It appears that one of these novels is his most recent book, Slade House, which was published in October 2015.

Next Novel

As part of the publicity tour for Slade House, Mitchell noted that he’ll be working on side-projects in advance of his next novel, which will take place in the 1960s:

I’m doing a couple of non-novel side-projects to ‘omnivorize’ myself a little, but I’ve promised not to discuss these for the time being. My next novel will be set in Soho London, Greenwich Village and Laurel Canyon in the late 1960s and will contain not a whiff of the supernatural. Probably.

Mitchell had discussed the themes of this next novel in a May 2015 interview:

Though most of Mitchell’s works can seem dark, they are ultimately also imbued with an inescapable sense of optimism. He believes in a future for humanity, and in the resilience of the human spirit, and it shines through.

Those ideals also colour the novel that Mitchell is currently working on, the book that may come after the novella in October. I won’t divulge too much, except to say that it’s set primarily in London in the 1960s and 1970s, and explores youth and creativity.

“What is idealism? What use is it? How ridiculous is it? But does anything change for the better without it?”

He also described the basic plot of the book in a 2014 interview with The Yale Herald:  

It’s going to be set in 1967, ‘68, ‘69. It’ll be a British act in the folk rock revival starting in Soho—which is like our Greenwich Village, London’s Greenwich Village—and then they’re agent will try to “break America,” so they’ll be performing in the Gas- light Bar, and in places like that. But there are drugs around, so you can then bend the laws of reality with that justification but stay within realism. There will be weird shit happening in the book.

Following Novel

In an August 2015 interview with The Guardian, Mitchell acknowledged how all of his work shares a common universe, and he briefly referenced the next book he’ll be working on after the Slade House follow-up is finished:

He added: “Everything I will do will be in this universe. Even if it’s the book after the next one I do, which will be set around the turn of the first millennium.”

Additional Forthcoming Books

Kathryn Schulz wrote about Mitchell’s next five novels in her Vulture piece on The Bone Clocks:

Over lunch at a café in Kinsale, Mitchell astounded me by describing, in extensive detail, his next five books. These include further adventures with soul-eating villains, a trio of linked novellas set in New York in the late ’60s and early ’70s, a return to historical fiction (different hemisphere this time), and a fictionalized biography of an 18th-century person you’ve probably heard of. The final installment of the Marinus trilogy will follow all that. Mitchell is also toying with an idea for what will by then be his 12th novel. It is set 250 million years in the future.

In his 2014 interview with The Millions, Mitchell described the Marinus title in greater detail, along with information about another book:

I’m going to do a book mostly about Marinus in the future, about what happens once she gets to Iceland, and to link that to Meronym, who’s a character at the center of Cloud Atlas. They call themselves the Prescients. That’s how she introduces herself when she arrives in a fusion-powered ship to the post-apocalyptic times and the think tank the surviving Horologists have set-up in Iceland. I’m going to do Hershey’s father as well, the filmmaker. I’m doing something short now, but my next major book, I’ll start that next year.

Mitchell seems to have referenced the Marinus title in an interview from 2015:

…he’s been recently very interested in Iceland and so something with Vikings, or Greenland, or the Sagas, is probably in the queue. Particularly, he’s interested in writing something set 30 years after the end of The Bone Clocks and set in Iceland.

In that same interview, he also appears to have dropped a hint about the protagonist of his book set in the 18th century:

He also admitted to being fascinated by the 18th century harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti who was decidedly average until the final years of his life when he wrote 550 sonatas of brilliance. The inversion of the more familiar child-prodigy figure appeals to him and he wondered what might have triggered that sudden awakening of genius.

At Book Expo America 2014, Mitchell mentioned that he would like to write a novel about soccer but provided no additional details by way of plot or style.

Future Library Title

In May 2015, the Future Library project announced that David Mitchell would be its second participating author.  Future Library is a literary time capsule that will be collecting new, never-before-published work from 100 authors over the next 100 years, and it will lock those manuscripts away from public consumption until 2114.

In May 2016, Mitchell submitted his contribution, From Me Flows What You Call Time, at a ceremony held in Oslo.  Few details have been revealed about the manuscript, save that it’s a 90-page novella and that it shares its name with an orchestral composition by Toru Takemitsu.

Anything Else?

Not at the moment, but if you have any recommendations for additions to the list, send them our way- we’ll update this post as new features are published or uncovered.  This is not a exhaustive accounting of every interview, review, and conversation that David has been a part of, but we hope it’s a good introduction to his body of work.

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25 thoughts on “The Complete Reader’s Guide to David Mitchell

  1. Unless it’s an extract from the new novel, you failed to mention “The Siphoners,” a short story published in I’M WITH THE BEARS (Verso, 2011). I also seem to remember a short story where the narrator (semi-spoiler) turns out to be someone with multiple personality disorder — plus is written as a letter/suicide note? Unless it’s one of the stories listed above and I’ve blanked out on the title.

    • Thanks, Robert- this is extremely helpful. I’ll update the post and see if I can find any additional information about the second story you mention.

      Thanks!

      • Christopher:

        Oddly enough, I can still picture the softcover anthology in which the story was contained, but cannot remember anything at all about the title. I’m also reasonably sure I purchased the book from Amazon or eBay, but do not know if I still have it — I liquidated about half of my library when I moved in 2010. I tried Googling several strings, but to no avail (there are also a multiplex of writerly types named David Mitchell, it seems), but I did find two other stories you many want to list for completion’s sake or a possible bibliography. Both, I must note, would be very expensive to procure, but perhaps, unlike me, you’re wealthy. Or have filthy rich friends.

        The first of these is entitled “Lots of Bits of Star” and was written exclusively for a box set entitled “Caught by the Nest” by Kai and Sunny — the same chaps Mitchell wrote “The Gardener” for and who designed several of his book covers. A real steal at $468.00 (Link: *http://411posters.com/tag/kai-and-sunny/* .

        The second of these is a story written exclusively for a book entitled FIGHTING WORDS, published in a limited edition of 150 by Stoney Road Press and edited by Roddy Doyle. (Link: *www.fightingwords.ie/fighting-words-limited-edition-book-1* ) Alas, I’ve been unable to find out the story’s title, although apparently Mitchell has read it several times on tour, so the information may be out there somewhere, perhaps in some fan’s blog. Its price: 1,950 Euros or $2661.38 US.

        Hope this helps.

        Best regards.

        Robert

      • Hi Robert,

        This is immensely helpful. Thank you for helping us ensure this list is comprehensive! I wish I had the money to purchase both of the volumes you reference, but alas, I do not.

        I’ve added “Lots of Bits of Star” to the list and I put in an inquiry to the publisher of Fighting Words to see if we can acquire the second story’s name. I’ll update the post once I hear back. Thanks, too, for providing the source publications for both pieces. I’m thinking of appending this information to all of the stories in the post and this is a great start to that initiative.

        Hope you’ve enjoyed the additional resources we’ve listed. If you have any other suggestions for essays or interviews, please let us know; I’ll continue to update the post as people recommend other valuable links.

        Thanks!
        Chris

      • Some more links that may be of interest to Mitchell fans:

        *http://www.bookbrowse.com/author_interviews/full/index.cfm/author_number/480/David-Mitchell* Two essays by Mitchell about *The Thousand Autumns *and *Ghostwritten*.

        *http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/21/books/review/david-mitchell-by-the-book.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0* Interview of Mitchell mostly about other writers and favorite books.

        *http://www.pulp.net/top10/17/david-mitchell.html* “My Literary Top Ten” (Mitchell’s response to “Most out of date author photo I’ve seen” is hilarious.)

        *http://www.toptenbooks.net/authors/david-mitchell* “David Mitchell’s Top Ten List” Another favorite books list.

        *http://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/david-mitchell-stammering-kings-speech/#.U7Ag5sJOX3g* “Lost for Words” Mitchell on the movie, *The King’s Speech *and his own stammer.

        *http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/27/magazine/27mitchell-t.html?pagewanted=all* “David Mitchell, The Experimentalist” Fascinating article about Mitchell’s early writing years, including information on his very first and unsold novel, “The Old Moon,” made up of 365 chapters, one for each day of the year.

        One minor belated picky correction: The short story you have listed as “Acknowledgment” should more properly be “Acknowledgements”.

  2. Hello Robert,
    Thanks again for your help in listing additional stories and for your recommended links. I’ve added them to the main post and I’ve updated the short story list to include the Fighting Words entry. It was called “An Inside Job.”
    Best,
    Chris

  3. “The Earthgod and the Fox” by David Mitchell is actually a translation of a story written by Japanese writer Kenji Miyazawa and appears in McSweeney’s 42, its “Multiples” issue (2012), wherein 61 authors take 12 stories and translate them serially in and out of different languages, attempting to replicate on a literary basis the parlor game most often called Chinese Whispers or Telephone. Thus Mitchell’s story, translated by David into English from Japanese, is further translated into Spanish by Valeria Luiselli, which in turn is then retranslated back into English by Jonathan and Mara Faye Lethem, their version of which is subsequently translated by Nadeem Aslam, the final result in Urdu being a translation of “an English version of a Spanish version of an English version of a story in Japanese by Kenji Miyazawa.”

    At any rate it’s interesting to compare and contrast the English versions by Mitchell and the Lethems.

      • Hello Krikke,

        Thanks for your comment and apologies for not updating the post accordingly – we’ve been on a bit of a hiatus for the last couple of months. I’ve added Imaginary City to the list under the Nonfiction section. Thanks for forwarding!

        Chris

  4. The Vulture Interview is listed above, but Mitchell fans may especially interested in the chart that accompanies the article called “Crowd Atlas – A surely incomplete accounting of where Mitchell’s characters keep popping up”.

    (Be sure to scroll down to the Comments section for additional information.)

    Also, now that I’ve finished TBC, I can verify that Mitchell’s short story, “The Siphoners” takes place in the same universe, and ten years before the events described in “Sheep’s Head.”

    • Hello Lee,

      Thanks very much for your comment. I did not list “The January Man” in this compilation because it’s the first chapter in “Black Swan Green.” We’ve only included stories that weren’t published in his novels.

      Best wishes,
      Chris

  5. Updated May/June 2015:
    – New post title
    – Revised introductory material, with table of contents appearing first
    – Added information about Future Library manuscript; added new section for “Unpublished Manuscripts”
    – Updated with newly-found short story “In the Bike Sheds”
    – Linked to new details on Slade House and its follow-up
    – Included fictional Twitter account of Crispin Hershey

  6. Oh wonderful! DM is my obsession at the moment. Tried Cloud Atlas in a bookstore, but the first narrative voice put me off. Next were Bone Atlas and Slade House…as a reader of non-Latin magical-realism/slipstream fiction, I can ask for no more than these fine works! Happy to know there’s much more to come…

  7. I stumbled upon this recent interview of David Mitchell on “The Gutterbound Starglazer” (http://glyn-morgan.blogspot.ie/2016/04/interview-with-david-mitchell.html) and our author revealed the subject of one of his future books. If you remember an older famous interview by Kathryn Schulz where many of his future projects were listed, there was this vague entry : “a fictionalized biography of an 18th-century person you’ve probably heard of”. Well, I think he just revealed this person : David “admitted to being fascinated by the 18th century harpsichordist Domenico Scarlatti who was decidedly average until the final years of his life when he wrote 550 sonatas of brilliance. The inversion of the more familiar child-prodigy figure appeals to him and he wondered what might have triggered that sudden awakening of genius”.

  8. Updated January 2017:
    -New short story added: My Eye On You
    -Updated Cloud Atlas book entry with U.S. / U.K. edition differences
    -Added two new academic publication entries
    -Revised and expanded Blurbs and Recommendations section
    -New information on Future Library novel

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