Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969, Delacorte; 288 pages)
Kurt Vonnegut's absurdist classic introduces us to Billy Pilgrim, a man who becomes unstuck in time after he is abducted by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore. In a plot-scrambling display of virtuosity, we follow Pilgrim simultaneously through all phases of his life, concentrating on his (and Vonnegut's) shattering experience as an American prisoner of war who witnesses the firebombing of Dresden during World War 2.
Vonnegut exquisitely tells a war-time tale that is resonant and intriguing, and that focuses on human emotion and incentive, not just on gruesome facts of war.
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Recommended by: Ariadne
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE -- the influential and widely acclaimed novel details two days in the life of 16-year-old Holden Caulfield, confused and disillusioned, searching for the truth and railing against the "phoniness" of the adult world
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1951, Little, Brown and Company; 240 pages)
Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, the hero-narrator of this classic novel, has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists.
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."
His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.
Salinger's storytelling is truly reminiscent of a teenage mind. His use of anecdotes also aids in the story's development, and allows the apathetic Holden Caulfield to better express his motives.
Find this title in our catalog: The Catcher in the Rye
Recommended by: Ariadne