Six Kurt Vonnegut Books You Need To Read Now!

Kurt Vonnegut has an extensive bibliography!

I still remember the first time I read Kurt Vonnegut. It was back in my sophomore year of high-school (so that would make me about 15) when I was first tasked with reading Slaughterhouse-5. Now, I’d be lying if I told you I was immediately receptive towards the book… I actually really didn’t like it! The book and its themes proved to be too much for me at that time. Yet, when I chose to revisit the book a few years later, I was met with a completely different experience! The issues I previously had with the book, had completely vanished.

Since my re-discovery, I made it a personal mission to read every single work in his bibliography. Since Kurt has an extensive collection of work (including: 14 novels, 5 nonfiction books, 7 plays, 2 novellas and 9 short story collections) and add on top a few re-reads along the way, this mission took me a few years to complete! But, by giving myself a 2021 resolution to read a book every week, it kinda forced me to finish.

And how glad I am that I did!

I could go on and on about the merits of Kurt’s style and career as a whole, but I will keep this part condensed for now. However, in the near future, I am planning on releasing a much more detailed look into Kurt himself, his writing style and the reasons for his beliefs. So stay on the lookout for that!

Kurt Vonnegut was a master of his craft. This is a picture of the author from later in his life.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Writing Style

Kurt’s style of writing has always been a highlight for me! Vonnegut’s use of satire and dark humor are constant and impactful. They are always some of the things I look forward to the most while I’m reading his novels.

Also, Vonnegut had a unique ability to use language that, while very simple in structure and vocabulary, was more than able to convey his complex ideas and beliefs. He credited his straightforward, concise and simple style to his time spent working as a journalist for the Chicago City News Bureau. While at this job, he was taught to write in a way that would be understood by the masses. For this reason, Kurt’s style allowed him to present his themes in ways that reached and were understood by a large percent of the population!

And believe me, Vonnegut definitely held some complex beliefs!

Vonnegut’s Influences & Beliefs

People can rightfully have issues with Kurt’s writing style, but they can never say he didn’t proudly display his beliefs at any point he could. No matter if it was in a fiction novel or in a speech given to graduating class of college students, Kurt was never afraid to advertise his views.

Anti-War, Anti-Rich, Anti-Religion, Anti-Fascist.

Perhaps Vonnegut’s most impressive quality is that even today, nearly 70 years after his novel were first published, most of the themes and ideas Kurt presented to his readers, are still highly relevant. Turns out society hasn’t changed all that much.

Vonnegut’s complex belief set mostly stems from his past experiences. Because of this, his novels always carried a large amount of his past with them, and often times, his past experiences actually directly inspired the events of his novels.

Kurt’s ability to intertwine classic Science Fiction elements, along with his past experiences, is definitely another of my favorite qualities about his work.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of America’s Greatest Novelists.

I could go on and on about the merits of Kurt’s style and career as a whole, but it’s time to get to the list! Since Kurt has such an extensive bibliography, this list will only include choices from his novels or his nonfiction works.

Keep in mind, it was hard enough to narrow this list down to only six choices, so the list is in no particular order!

Here are six of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novels:

1. Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

Slaughterhouse-Five is a fantastic novel!

As I mentioned earlier, Slaughterhouse-Five was my first introduction to Vonnegut and quite simply, I couldn’t have experienced a better starting point! I mean… How can you not include Slaughterhouse 5 on a list of featuring Kurt’s best novels.

Originally titled The Children’s Crusade, this novel looks at the main character’s (Billy Pilgrim) life. Even though it’s told as a non-linear story, including moments of time travel, the novel centers around the main character’s capture by Nazi forces in WWII and his survival of the Allied bombing of Dresden. Exploring the ideas of free will and humans fate in life, Slaughterhouse-Five provided me with plenty to digest. In order to avoid giving away anything further, I’ll leave you with this. To put it simply, Slaughterhouse-Five is incredible. Not only is it one of the greatest anti-war novels of all time, it’s a book everyone needs to read at least once. If you haven’t yet, put this book on your list to read!

2. Mother Night (1962)

Mother Night provides a look into xenophobia and white supremacy issues in America.

In Mother Night, the novel follows Howard J Campbell Jr, as he is writing his own memoir while in prison awaiting trail in Israel for war crimes. Campbell is an American who moved to Germany as a child, where he eventually rose to a prominent position in the Nazi propaganda department.

As is true for most of Kurt’s novels, the themes in Mother Night are as important (and present) today, as they were when he originally wrote the novel. White supremacy, anti-Semitism, fascism and xenophobia are all issues which, unfortunately, are still a major problem throughout society.

I haven’t mentioned it yet, but another one of my favorite traits about Kurt Vonnegut’s bibliography is his use of intertextuality. Meaning, there are a few characters whom appear in multiple different novels! Mother Night features a great example of this with the main character, Campbell. Kurt quite prominently features Campbell’s character again in Slaughterhouse 5.

3. Cat’s Cradle (1963)

Cat's Cradle discusses science and the issues with advancements

Cat’s Cradle showcases a unique, but fantastic combination of a novel discussing postmodern ideas, but through the vail of a “standard” Science Fiction story. The story follows a writer, Jonah, who is writing a book titled, The Day the World Ended. Jonah’s book is set to follow important Americans on the day of the detonation of first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Through his research, Jonah discovers the existence of a substance called ice-nine, which when used on water, immediately turned it into more ice-nine. Displaying one of Vonnegut’s most somber endings, Cat’s Cradle is a worthy read.

This novel provides an in-depth exploration of human’s reliance on technology and the carelessness that can come with these scientific advancements. Cat’s Cradle also explores the idea of free will and using religion for the sake of providing a purpose in life.

Also, ice-nine acts as one of my favorite literary devices from all of Vonnegut’s work!

4. God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

God Bless You, Mr Rosewater is a great read about Greed and wealth disparity

This novel directly looks at and explores the idea of wealth in America, and how money is the catalyst for many of the problems in society. The plot follows a millionaire, Eliot Rosewater, as he suddenly develops a social conscience.

When looking at the main themes of this novel, money and greed, these issues are as prevalent today as they were at the time of the book’s publishing in 1965.

Also, this book features two of Vonnegut’s more prominent moments of intertextuality. One of which, Eliot Rosewater, was also featured in Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions. The other (& the most notable character from Vonnegut’s bibliography), Kilgore Trout, appears for the first time. Trout is featured throughout many of Vonnegut’s later novels, and it’s been thought Trout actually represents a fictional alter-ego for Vonnegut. While Trout’s appearance and personal details seem to change with every novel, one fact remains constant. He’s a failed or unappreciated science fiction writer, supposedly with over 117 novels and over 2,000 short stories to his name. (Stay tuned for a future post about Kilgore Trout!)

5. The Siren’s of Titan (1959)

If you like Science Fiction books, look no further! This is Vonnegut’s quintessential entry in the Science Fiction genre. With a story revolving around a Martian invasion of Earth, The Siren’s of Titan dives into the ideas of free will and the overall purpose of human life.

The main character’s realization at the end of the novel might just be my favorite moment from any Vonnegut novel. So classically humorous, yet so difficult to believe “that” was all the message said.

Also, while this was only the second novel in Vonnegut’s collection, it’s the first novel that truly starts to display his iconic style. The ultra simplicity of his sentences and structure, while still carrying his highly effective wit, is very apparent throughout. If you’re interested in seeing Vonnegut develop and hone his style, The Siren’s of Titan is the perfect place to start!

6. Palm Sunday (1981)

Palm Sunday offers a new way to look at Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut didn’t just write fiction books, in-fact, some of my favorite writings from him are actually from his nonfiction works.

Through a collection of short stories, speeches, essays, letters and other previously unpublished works, Palm Sunday provides a unique glimpse into Vonnegut’s life!

In their own ways, almost every one of the writings were incredibly interesting. There were a few which stood to me more. One of which, “An Account of the Ancestry of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, by an Ancient Friend of His Family”, provides insight into Vonnegut’s family and upbringing. Since Kurt’s writings were so heavily influenced by his past experiences, it was very interesting to learn as much possible about his family. In another entry, “The Sexual Revolution”, Vonnegut grades all of his novels. While grading his novels against one another, it’s insightful to see how Vonnegut feels about his own past works.

Palm Sunday presents a new side of Vonnegut, which I think any fan would benefit from reading!

Well, that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading about 6 of my favorite Kurt Vonnegut novels.

Have you read any of Kurt Vonnegut’s work before? What is your favorite novel? Or, are you going to dive into his bibliography for the first time?

There is only one way I can end this post. With one of Kurt’s most famous sayings.

So it goes…


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