In order to expand the scope of the blog, I thought the I could start to cover author and not only book series. So here we go, let’s start with Kurt Vonnegut. But first…
Who is Kurt Vonnegut?
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (November 11, 1922 – April 11, 2007) was an American writer who published his first novel in 1952, a few years after the war during which he was captured by the Germans. He soon became for his anti-war stance that transpired in some of his most famous work, as well as his dark humor and his sometimes unconventional exploitation of science-fiction tropes.
Vonnegut is known today as one of the most important and influential writers of the 20th century.
Where to start with Kurt Vonnegut’s books?
Like all authors, Kurt Vonnegut wrote some good (really good, classics even) and some less interesting novels. We’ll start with what’s incontournable, then the still good ones, then the optional.
I. Kurt Vonnegut’s Must Read Classics
- Slaughterhouse-Five – Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we fear most.
- Cat’s Cradle – An apocalyptic tale of this planet’s ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist, a complete, original theology created by a calypso singer, and a vision of the future that is at once blackly fatalistic and hilariously funny.
- The Sirens of Titan – The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there’s a catch to the invitation–and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell.
II. Other Good reads
After those classics, there are still good Kurt Vonnegut’s novels to discover.
- Breakfast of Champions – The aging writer Kilgore Trout, finds to his horror that a Midwest car dealer is taking his fiction as truth. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America and reminds us how to see the truth.
- Mother Night – American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.
- God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – Eliot Rosewater—drunk, volunteer fireman, and President of the fabulously rich Rosewater Foundation—is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature . . . with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout.
- Bluebeard – this is the fictional autobiography of Rabo Karabekian, who, at age seventy-one, wants to be left alone on his Long Island estate with the secret he has locked inside his potato barn. But then a voluptuous young widow badgers Rabo into telling his life story.
III. The ones you can skip
At that point, if you’re not a hardcore fan of Kurt Vonnegut’s work, you can easily skip those novels.
- Player Piano – Kurt Vonnegut’s first novel. Thi is the story of engineer Paul Proteus who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines.
- Slapstick – an apocalyptic vision as seen through the eyes of the current King of Manhattan (and last President of the United States), a wickedly irreverent look at the all-too-possible results of today’s follies. But even the end of life-as-we-know-it is transformed by Kurt Vonnegut’s pen into hilarious farce—a final slapstick that may be the Almighty’s joke on us all.
- Jailbird – This wry tale follows bumbling bureaucrat Walter F. Starbuck from Harvard to the Nixon White House to the penitentiary as Watergate’s least known co-conspirator. But the humor turns dark when Vonnegut shines his spotlight on the cold hearts and calculated greed of the mighty, giving a razor-sharp edge to an unforgettable portrait of power and politics in our times.
- Galápagos – Thanks to an apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave, new, and totally different human race.
- Hocus Pocus – The story of Eugene Debs Hartke-Vietnam veteran, jazz pianist, college professor, and prognosticator of the apocalypse.
- Deadeye Dick – Amid a double murder, a fatal dose of radioactivity, a decapitation, an annihilation of a city by a neutron bomb, Rudy Waltz, aka Deadeye Dick, takes us along on a zany search for absolution and happiness. Here is a tale of crime and punishment that makes us rethink what we believe . . . and who we say we are.
- Timequake – There’s been a timequake. And everyone—even you—must live the decade between February 17, 1991 and February 17, 2001 over again. The trick is that we all have to do exactly the same things as we did the first time—minute by minute, hour by hour, year by year, betting on the wrong horse again, marrying the wrong person again. Why? You’ll have to ask the old science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. This was all his idea.
IV. There’s also short stories
Naturally, Kurt Vonnegut wrote more than those novels. If you want some short stories, you should start with those:
- God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian
- Welcome to the Monkey House
- Look at the Birdie: Unpublished Short Fiction
- While Mortals Sleep: Unpublished Short Fiction
Also, a complete collection of his short stories will be available in september 2017.
V. And nonfiction
Kurt Vonnegut also wrote nonfiction. There’s more than these three, but you can start with that:
- Palm Sunday: An Autobiographical Collage
- A Man Without a Country
- If This Isn’t Nice, What Is?: Advice to the Young-The Graduation Speeches