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.

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.

Five Star Books

I thought it would be interesting to go through the books I’ve given a five-star rating. I use Goodreads mainly to encourage and track my goal of reading at least 50 books a year, so it is just a way to encourage myself to keep reading and not fall into a slump. Reading is relaxing and restorative for me, and sometimes I need to remind myself that it relieves stress and read regularly to keep myself balanced.

When going through my list of books I’ve given five stars to on Goodreads, I was surprised at how many made the cut. I typically follow the rating system of three stars means I liked it, four stars means I really liked it, and five stars means I loved it. I think I’ve given one two star rating, and I have never given a one star rating. This is because I often won’t finish a book I don’t like and I always look at a book objectively and won’t let one bad thing ruin the entire work. I also rate the book right after finishing so my feelings about it are fresh, which I hope gives a more accurate rating about how I felt about the book.

Anyway, here is the list of books I’ve given five stars to throughout my use of Goodreads. Some of these are representative of a series, so I may love the series as a whole while not necessarily giving all individual books five stars.

Howl’s Moving Castle was my introduction to the work of Diana Wynne Jones. It remains my favorite Studio Ghibli film and is a great novel I look forward to reading to my children.

Magician is the first book of The Riftwar Cycle by Raymond E. Feist. I first read this in high school and loved it. I only read the primary saga and a few books that followed, so I have not read the entirety of the (I believe) still growing series.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs is the start of the John Carter of Mars series. I read the initial trilogy after seeing the 2012 movie that I enjoyed despite it being considered a failure. The movie doubled as a celebration of 100 years since the first book was published. It also was the only reason I learned about the books. There are 11 in total and I read book four and part of five but failed to remain interested at the time. Overall, it is a great, earlier scifi series that influenced much of the scifi that became popular later on.

On Writing is a much loved book about the craft of writing, but it also gives an autobiographical insight into Stephen King. I haven’t read this one in a while, so I may need to return to it and read it with more experienced eyes. I will likely enjoy it that much more.

The Queen’s Gambit is a more recent read. Written by Walter Tevis and turned into a mini-series by Netflix (how I first discovered it), I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was adapted extremely well.

The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan is the only series I wrote a corresponding series of posts about. I essentially wrote about each book as I read it, all 15 in the series, and discussed what surprised me and what I predicted would come next. It is a great series for fans of fantasy. I did give two of the 15 books five stars.

The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I’ve been a huge fan of this series since I first read these books when I was quite young. I’ve only read the series two or three times and it has been a long time since my last readthrough. I’ve been meaning to re-read it.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden. I read this well after the big craze when the movie came out. I picked it up at the annual book sale of our local library. It was surprisingly good. I have yet to see the movie though.

Our Story Begins is a collection of short stories by Tobias Wolff whom I admire as a writer. He is able to create such intimately human moments in his stories that exemplifies the art itself.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. This book I first discovered by the trailer for the movie. The trailer intrigued me so I read the book which allowed me to better understand and appreciate the movie when it came out. A lot of people were confused by the movie which is understandable given how it intertwines several storylines across a vast timeline. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupery is a fantastic little book that I came to as an adult. I’m curious if I would have loved it as a child but I think I appreciate it more as an adult.

The Name of the Wind is the first book of The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the sequel A Wise Man’s Fear. The third, and I believe final, book of the series is rumored to be released this year. Pat read the prologue of The Doors of Stone for a charity event earlier this year so it may very well be released later this year or early next year. I also gave the peripheral novella five stars as well. Titled A Slow Regard for Silent Things, the novella is a week in the life of the character Auri from the series. I think this may be the only series that has five stars from me for each book (the three mentioned here).

Harry Potter is a series I grew up with and have enjoyed for a long time. I haven’t read the series in quite some time, but ironically my least favorite book when I was younger turned out to be one of my favorite movie in the series. This series was one that I can vividly remember getting the next book the day it released. I gave a few books in this series five stars.

The Stranger by Albert Camus was a novel I read in college and enjoyed more than I thought I would. It was my first reading of Camus. I need to read more of his work but have only read one other book, The Myth of Sisyphus. 

Dune by Frank Herbert has become a favorite of mine. I have only read this first book in the series but I loved it as a standalone novel. The recent film adaptation was great and I look forward to “Part 2” which I think is releasing next year.

Triple Zero by Karen Traviss is the second book of the Republic Commando series of the Star Wars universe. I read a lot of Star Wars books when I was younger and this series was my favorite. There was a Republic Commando video game I also really liked. The story focuses on a few squads of clone commandos and delves into what these clones lives were like. They were mentally 10 years old in 20-year-old bodies and created to fight a galactic war. There is a lot of cool things in this series aside from it being part of the Star Wars universe.

Catching Fire is the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I enjoyed this trilogy and the second book was my favorite.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is a great book. The film adaptation was great and understandably changed quite a bit of the story while keeping the overall main story thread the same. I read Ready Player Two when it was released and enjoyed it also, but not as much as this first book.

Fullmetal Alchemist is a manga series by Hiromu Arakawa. I first encountered this series as the anime adaptation and was swept up into the lives of the Elric brothers. I read the series this year and the “redo” of the anime series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, is a faithful adaptation to the series and is fantastic. This story is incredible overall and will always get five stars from me.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins was a happy surprise for me when I read it last year. I consider this book a hidden treasure since I haven’t come across many people discussing it.

Norse Mythology with this being Neil Gaiman’s retelling of several Norse myths. I am a fan of mythologies and the Norse myths are my favorite. It is an added bonus that Neil wrote a version and narrated it himself. Definitely worth a listen/read.

Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida is a manga series I first encountered via the anime adaptation as well. There is a lot I enjoyed in the series that was omitted in the adaptation and overall I have a fascination with the series despite some shortcomings. It almost didn’t make this list but it is one of those series that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Network Effect is a novel that is part of The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. I enjoy this series immensely for many reasons. This novel ironically is a “side quest” of the series which is currently comprised of five novellas. Murderbot is a great character and the universe they inhabit is both chilling yet hopeful for humans.

Art Matters is a little book by Neil Gaiman illustrated by Chris Riddell. This little book is a great, quick read about why art is important and that we should “make good art” if we feel so inclined. I recommend giving this a read (should only take an hour at the most) just to get the message and inspiration that pours from this tiny volume.

That is my list of books I’ve given five stars to as of this date. Many I have not read in some time but I think I would still enjoy them if/when I give them a re-read. Perhaps some of these may become favorites of yours if they aren’t already. Perhaps you disliked several on this list that I enjoyed which is absolutely valid as reading is subjective. Regardless, I hope you find something fun to read.

Happy Reading.

Cat’s Cradle

Cat's CradleMy Vonnegut trend continues and this time it had me reading his fourth novel Cat’s Cradle. If the novel wasn’t satire, it’d be one hell of a depressing story. However, with Vonnegut’s interjection of humor and ways of pinpointing the absurdity of humanity, the novel is introspective of how we make a mess of things and at its core is a hope of pointing out what is really important.

First published in 1963, Cat’s Cradle is where many of Vonnegut’s fictitious words originate. His creation of the religion of Bokonon also created words such as foma, granfalloon, and karass. This novel is also the origination of ice-nine. All become relevant to the central story but I won’t delve into them to avoid potential spoilers.

One feature I found I really liked about this book is the incredibly short chapters. Right now, time for reading is hard to come by for me and this ~300 page book has 127 chapters leaving many to be only a page or two in length and therefore easier to pick up and put down. Although the book itself is easy enough to read in one sitting if you feel so inclined.

The more I think on the events of this book the more I come to like it as a novel, social commentary, and overall poke in the ribs to every reader. I understand why this is one of his more popular novels. Perhaps it will be one of your favorites.

Happy Reading.