O Captain my Captain
Kurt Vonnegut was the man. I fell in love with his insane rambling imagination the minute I cracked open Slaughterhouse Five. Before that point, I'd never been much into history. I always thought it was bombs in Hitler's Germany, and racial slurs against the Japanese. I didn't know how truly momentous it all was, until I read about it from the mind of someone a lot like me. An agnostic (or even an atheist), someone who held human kindness up to be the highest virtue. Someone smart, someone funny, and someone sad. He was like my literary soulmate, someone whose books always made me smile.
My favorite has to be Cat's Cradle, just because I've always loved stories that deal with apocalypse. Mother Night was great, because it dealt with propaganda and Nazism, two things I find fascinating. Slaughterhouse is of course the greatest achievement in a literary sense, but they are all incredibly delicious works of art.
I never got to meet Mr. Vonnegut, but I hope that he was wrong about heaven, and that someday we do get to meet and share our views of the world. I feel like I knew him, but I'm sure there's a lot more to get to know.
It's funny - I just read a book of his recently about a spoiled rich kid that accidentally shoots someone with a rifle. Deadeye Dick. Not his best, by far, but not bad. After reading it, I kept thinking "When is Vonnegut gonna get his own show? This guy is friggin' hilarious!" He was the Daily Show and the Colbert Report long before media had become the complete right-wing propaganda machine it is today. He provoked thought. He sparked conversation. He demanded involvement from the reader.
If you really want a good belly laugh, pick up Breakfast of Champions. That book is freakin' hilarious. And really kind of dirty in parts.
But heck, they're all good. Wherever you start, whichever book of his captures your imagination first, remember that moment. Because life will never be the same.