Top Picks: Celebrating Kurt Vonnegut

The protagonist in Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions says, "As I approached my 50th birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen." One can only imagine what type of novel Vonnegut would write about today's polarized United States.

Celebrate the famed Midwesterner as we approach his 95th birth anniversary on November 11 with these top picks, including never-before-published short stories.

Complete Stories includes 97 short stories written by Vonnegut between 1941 and 2007, including five previously unpublished works. The stories are divided into various themes such as "War,” “Women,” “Science,” “Romance,” “Work Ethic v. Fame and Fortune,” “Behavior,” “The Band Director” and “Futuristic.”

“This is a tale of a meeting of two lonesome, skinny, fairly old white men on a planet which was dying fast…. One of them was a science fiction writer named Kilgore Trout…. The man he met was an automobile dealer, a Pontiac dealer named Dwayne Hoover. Dwayne Hoover was on the brink of going insane.” Thus begins Breakfast of Champions, Or, Goodbye Blue Monday.

Slaughterhouse-five is arguably Vonnegut's most well-known and challenged novel. An absurd satire of World War II, Slaughterhouse follows Billy Pilgrim as he gets unstuck in time after being abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. Much of the novel concentrates on Billy's (and Vonnegut's) experiences as a prisoner of war who witnesses the aftermath of the bombing of Dresden.

Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle is a cult classic that one literary critic said any self-respecting hippie should have on on their coffee table. Dr Felix Hoenikker, one of the founders of the atomic bomb, has left another deadly legacy, ice-nine, a substance capable of freezing the entire world. The novel satirizes the arms race, religion, madness, despots, science, technology and basically the stupidity and absurdity of humankind.

What's your favorite Vonnegut book?