Where to Start with Kurt Vonnegut?

This post is part of our Kurt Vonnegut Reading Day: a celebration of one of our favorite authors on the occasion of the publication of his letters. Check out the full line-up here.

I have a confession to make. I hope you won’t judge me for it. I’ve never read Kurt Vonnegut.

I tried, in eighth grade, when my boyfriend said Slaughterhouse-Five was his favorite book. I didn’t get it at all (in those days, I was big into Lois Duncan), and I’m relatively certain now that he wasn’t being completely truthful. I was never assigned Vonnegut in school (a crime of omission on my instructors’ parts, no doubt), and the memory of feeling spinny-headed and confused from my first attempt at solo reading put me off giving him a second try. Now, I find myself surrounded people who love Vonnegut so much they have his words tattooed on their bodies, and married to a well-read man who counts Vonnegut among his favorite writers, and I want what they have.

I want to feel the magic. I want to know WHY “so it goes” is so freakin’ profound. I want to look at the collection of Vonnegut books on my living room shelf and have something to say about them besides, “Where should I start?” And that’s where you come in, dear readers.

I’ve heard that I should start with Slaughterhouse-Five because it’s different from the rest of Vonnegut’s books; I’ve heard that I shouldn’t start with Slaughterhouse-Five for the exact same reason. My husband loves The Sirens of Titan (and the title sounds kind of sexy and appealing), and I think maybe I should read Cat’s Cradle so I can differentiate it from the super-depressing folk song once and for all. I could walk over to my husband’s shelf and pick any Vonnegut book and get started, but if I’m going to spend several hundred pages with something, I want a better reason than random selection.

So tell me: where should I start with Vonnegut, and why?

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