“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.” — Louisa May Alcott
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorites (in case the profile I wrote didn’t give that away already). Featuring his famous science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout, Breakfast of Champions blurs the line between reality and fiction, between creator and creation. Not my favorite of Vonnegut’s novels but still a fun read.
I had to read Candide for a history class my freshman year of college. It was around finals time so I don’t remember a whole lot of it, but I do remember thinking it was weird. I’m sure a second go-round would help me to find all those nuances I missed the first time around when I was more worried about my group chemistry presentation and my final paper for sociology. I do remember enjoying the woodcut illustrations that were included in my copy.
While Breakfast of Champions ranks somewhere in the middle, Cat’s Cradle is in a solid second place as far as my Vonnegut rankings go. The novel is a brilliantly entertaining and haunting representation of the Cold War arms race as well as the dangers of religious fanaticism. The satiric commentary on American interference in smaller sovereign nations is deftly handled. And I will forever remember the moment I realized that Vonnegut got it: there is no cat and there is no cradle. Another one I’ve loaned out and am waiting for it to find its way back to me so I can stick it on the Read Again pile.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
I really enjoyed the sympathetically frustrating twists and turns of Joseph Heller’s classic. More than anything, I will remember the day I realized that my second hand copy was missing two pages from the middle of the text and my scramble through the high school library to find a copy and figure out what I was missing.
For a while now, this has been my all-time favorite novel (and I expect it will be for a while yet). The ethical examinations and the progression of Raskolnikov’s guilt are carefully crafted and perfectly executed. The image of the prostitute and the murderer reading the Bible together is poignant, even for those of us who aren’t very religiously inclined. And I have to give credit to one of my high school history teachers who pushed us to think about the appeal of them reading the story of Lazarus as opposed to the story of Christ’s resurrection. That brought the novel to a whole other level for me. Sorry Karamazov fans but Crime and Punishment is Dostoyevsky’s best as far as I’m concerned.