by Kurt Vonnegut
Slaughterhouse Five gets on all the High School reading lists, and it's certainly an important book full of insight into humanity's tendency towards tribalism, violence, cruelty, and self-deception. But I never wanted to read it a second time. I've probably read Cat's Cradle fifteen times, and it's always hilarious, cogent, and heartbreaking.
Vonnegut was a prolific writer who combined serious literature and science fiction with mass appeal. He spawned countless imitators, but none can match his cynical sadness as he cracks cosmic jokes to make life tolerable. Cat's Cradle is short, with short chapters — 127 chapters crammed into 300 pages, and each chapter is a brilliant nugget of economical prose in its own right. Put together, they add up to a brilliant, rambling tale of an unnamed protagonist and his growing entanglements with the bizarre children of one of the creators of the atomic bomb. The tenets and rituals of the Caribbean religion of Bokononism were my first exposure to a religion that I could really get behind (too bad it's fictional).
Read this book. Then read it again. Then give it to a friend.