The Vonnegut Novels (Ranked)

I read all 14 of Kurt Vonnegut’s novels in the last several months. I had read 3 several years ago, so re-read them to have all books fresh in my mind and also because I found a new appreciation for Vonnegut’s work. I figured it would be fun to “rank” the novels from “worst to first” based on how much I liked them. Quick caveat: I don’t think any of his novels are bad. Some definitely could have been better, and several were near-perfect, but I enjoyed them all for various reasons.

14. Galapagos (1985)

13. Deadeye Dick (1982)

12. Breakfast of Champions (1973)

11. Slapstick (1976)

10. Hocus Pocus (1990)

9. Timequake (1997)

8. Jailbird (1979)

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

6. Mother Night (1961)

5. Player Piano (1952)

4. Slaughterhouse Five (1969)

3. Bluebeard (1987)

2. The Sirens of Titan (1959)

1. Cat’s Cradle (1963)

Cat’s Cradle was the novel that sent me on this journey through Vonnegut-world. I read it for the first time and found it incredible, so jumped into the rest. I also read the biography on Vonnegut which also added to my appreciation of his work as well as some of his short stories and other writings.

I recently finished a re-read of Slaughterhouse Five as I wrapped up my readthrough of all 14 novels listed above. I use GoodReads, which tracks reading dates, progress, etc. and I found a funny little datum about my reading this book. I first read it in 2015, in early January, and read it in five days. My re-read I completed in early January 2023, and I read it in five days. I just thought that was interesting.

I added the dates next to the titles for my own benefit to see how my ranking played out against how they were released. I think I have a favor toward his early work with the exception of Bluebeard which really surprised me. I think it may be the book with the best “human” moment of all listed. I hadn’t even heard of the book prior to my decision to read all of Vonnegut’s work. Perhaps that is why I liked it so much. I had no expectations for it. However, the same could be said of Deadeye Dick and Galapagos and I will likely never read those again.

Perhaps you agree, or disagree, with my list. That is okay. The perspective and/or relationship of a book and a reader is extremely individual and can be dependent upon many variables. Perhaps Cat’s Cradle just came to me at the right time in my life. I know I didn’t have a great perspective when reading Vonnegut back in 2014-2015, and now I do have a better one and new appreciation for his work. Time is a funny thing and it is often at the center of Vonnegut’s novels.

The top eight on this list are books I would recommend. I have recommended the top six via posts on this blog. Again, this list is from this one reader’s preference and experience, but I hope it is beneficial or at lease interesting for you.

As always, Happy Reading.

The Sirens of Titan

Sirens of TitanThe Sirens of Titan is actually a re-read for me as I venture through all of Vonnegut’s novels. If I recall correctly, I first read this book in 2015 and it was the first Vonnegut book I ever read. My recent re-read is due to my new appreciation of Vonnegut’s works, and I wanted to read this book with my new perspective. I did like it the first time around, but I enjoyed it a bit more this second time. This definitely falls in the genre of science fiction as many of his earlier works do, but it is less a science fiction story than a story that hints at that question: What is the meaning of life?

This novel has many interesting ideas and themes much like his other novels. I think I enjoyed this one more than most of his others partly due to the science fiction elements but also because it hints at a beauty through the harshness of humanity and even hints at the beauty of action in a universe seemingly pre-ordained. It speaks to the resiliency of humanity in a universe where we have no real control and there is no clear reason for our existence. It playfully dabbles with religion but does not comment directly like a few of his other novels. This story also dabbles with the meaning of luck and its inequity. Life can be difficult and unfair, just as it can be easy for some. Just as Malachi Constant.

It’s difficult to give a summary of this book without giving away key elements. To put it as simply as possible, this novel is about Malachi Constant, the wealthiest man on Earth for a time, who travels from Earth to Mars to Mercury, back to Earth, and finally to Titan, a moon of Saturn. This may not be the most enticing descriptions of a novel, but given the other tidbits discussed above, I think you’ll know whether or not you want to give it a go.

Happy Reading.

Fantasy Favorites

Another list I’ve put together for this holiday season to recommend books to read, gift, or put on wish lists. This list is a handful of fantasy books I’ve enjoyed and will likely re-read at a later time. Some of these are obvious/popular stories you may have already read, but they deserve a spot on this list for those who have either not heard of the or have been putting of finally reading them. Again, I’ve already recommended many of these books so you can find more info about each of them if you are interested.

The Stormcaller

This book is the first of five in a series by Tom Lloyd. I read the first three and remember enjoying them but failed to read the subsequent books as they released. I need to re-read them and finish the series.

The Eyes of God

John Marco’s trilogy that starts with The Eyes of God was a favorite of mine a long time ago. A fourth novel has since come out that I haven’t read so I may revisit the originals and read the new installment.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

This title may be V. E. Schwab’s masterpiece.

The Magician

The beginning of Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Cycle, this initiates a four-book saga that extends further with subsequent books. I read a few beyond the core four books and it is a fun time.

Howl’s Moving Castle

A great story by Diana Wynne Jones that differs a bit from the movie it inspired made by Studio Ghibli. It has two companion novels (not quite sequels) that are also great reads.

The Wheel of Time

Robert Jordan’s 15 book series begins with The Eye of the World and is a journey in itself quite worth the time if you love fantasy.

The Lord of the Rings

The classic that has inspired much that has followed, The Lord of the Rings is well worth the read despite the incredible movie adaptations. This year premiered The Rings of Power as well which delves into the events prior to what takes place in the original trilogy. I enjoyed the first season and am excited to see what comes next.

The Name of the Wind

Yes, fans of this trilogy are still awaiting volume three which we can only hope will be released next year, but the first two books are incredible and I am sure the third will be worth the wait. I recommend this for those interested but it may be worth waiting until you can binge the entire story.

Harry Potter

A series that influenced many of my generation and many outside my generation.

Biography/Memoir Favorites

Another list I’ve put together for this holiday season as recommendations for books to read, gift, or put on wish lists. This list is a double handful of biographies and memoirs I found interesting. Luckily, I’ve recommended most of these books previously so you can find more info about each of them if you are interested.

A Princess Diarist

It is hard to believe Carrie Fisher has been gone for six years now. This memoir reflects on her time filming the first Star Wars movie which would subsequently launch her into fame and fandom as the iconic Princess Leia. The more I learn about her, the more I like her and wish she were still around.

And So It Goes – Kurt Vonnegut: A Life

This biography of Kurt Vonnegut is insightful and I think explanatory of much of his writing as he pulled much of his own life into his work. I am nearing the end of my read-through of all his novels and having read this biography made me appreciate his work more than I probably would have.

Robin

Robin Williams is another celebrity lost too soon. It has been eight years since we lost this fun, compassionate man. This biography by David Itzkoff is thoroughly researched and gives much insight into the man who was Robin.

Reflections: On the Magic of Writing

This is Diana Wynne Jones’s memoir on writing as well as reflections on her childhood and adult life. It was fun to look more into her experiences and who she was.

J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography

This biography by Humphrey Carpenter may be the best one out there on this prolific author. Tolkien has shaped a lot of writers and heavily influenced fantasy and storytelling in general. Love him or hate him, this book is a great look at who he was and the life he led.

In Pharoah’s Army

This memoir covers Tobias Wolff’s experience while a soldier in the Vietnam war. For those interested in Wolff or the war, it is a good read.

As You Wish

This book is Cary Elwes’s memoir during the filming of The Princess Bride and is a great read for the fans of this iconic movie that somehow became a cult classic after flopping at the box office.

Educated

Tara Westover’s memoir about her life in a family that didn’t believe in public education, or health services, is a fascinating read about how some people think. She doesn’t condemn the way she is raised, but ultimately had to decide how to interact with her family after going out on her own to learn about the world.

Amazing Fantastic Incredible

A graphic novel memoir about the graphic novel icon Stan Lee. A quick read that is more a cursory look at his life and work with some obvious bias, but overall a good, fun, book.

Tesla: Man Out of Time

A definitive biography on the enigma that is Nikola Tesla. What more is there to say? Margaret Cheney does a great job putting his life on the page.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Robert M. Pirsig’s philosophical memoir is not for everyone but had/has stirred up a lot of interesting conversations. It may be tough for many readers to get through, but it is an interesting read.

A Moveable Feast

A shorter, fun look into Hemingway’s life in Europe with a event alongside F. Scott Fitzgerald. Great for fans of either writer.

What If Our World Is Their Heaven?

This is actually a transcription of the final interview of Philip K. Dick which is a fantastic insight into who he was, and what he was working on before he passed away. He had a book in-progress that never was finished or published in any way, so what he gives us in this interview is all we will ever get. Sounded good too.

Science Fiction Favorites

I thought I’d put together a few lists this holiday season to recommend books to read, gift, or put on wish lists. This first list is a handful of science fiction books I’ve enjoyed and will likely re-read at a later time. Luckily, I’ve already recommended each of these books so you can find more info about each of them if you are interested.

Dune

Dune by Frank Herbert is one of my favorite science fiction books of all time. I first read it a few years ago upon hearing it is one of the best science fiction books of all time. It was originally published in 1965. It also helps that we recently had a great movie adaptation covering the first half of this book and the adaptation of the second half is coming out next year. I have yet to read the sequels but this first book is great as a standalone story.

The Book of the New Sun

The Book of the New Sun was my introduction to Gene Wolfe who is now one of my favorite authors. This four-book saga is unique and not for everyone, admittedly, but I enjoyed it. Wolfe builds a world filled with mystery without fully giving you a glimpse behind the curtain.

The Murderbot Diaries

The Murderbot Diaries is Martha Wells’s collection of science fiction novellas that follow the fun character who calls itself Murderbot. This story is rich with warnings about how the human race could end up as well as unique views of how we can and should be better. The first in this series is All Systems Red. 

Ready Player One (and Two)

Ready Player One is a fun book all around. The movie adaptation obviously changed a lot but was also fun for me. The sequel, Ready Player Two, was fun but a mediocre follow-up in my opinion.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Douglas Adams’s series The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy might not be the type of humor for a lot of people, but the absurdity of it makes it enjoyable and lighthearted. There are five books in total and, admittedly, some sequels are lacking.

The Library at Mount Char

One of my absolute favorite reads of recent years, The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is a hidden treasure that gives a unique perspective into how the universe works (or at least who is at the helm of creation).

Project Hail Mary

Andy Weir’s third novel, Project Hail Mary, is another semi-lighthearted-during-life-threatening-situations tale much like his first book The Martian. This story involves a mystery that is causing stars to die much quicker than expected, including the Sun. In an interstellar race against the clock, Ryland Grace needs to solve this mystery before Earth is no longer hospitable for humans.

Cat’s Cradle

Having become a big fan of Vonnegut this year, I felt it necessary to include at least one of his novels and Cat’s Cradle seemed appropriate as we head into winter as it involves the mysterious Ice-9.

The Left Hand of Darkness

Another book with ice as an element (arguable a major character in itself) is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. This an important novel containing questions about gender in a world where gender is ambiguous.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell spans several centuries and goes into a future (or futures) that fall into the realms of science fiction, so I’m including it in this list. I greatly enjoyed this book which I first discovered when seeing the trailer for the movie, which I also enjoyed but mostly because I’d read the book beforehand.