Welcome to the new Oprah Schmoprah blog!
Recommended by: Jen
I didn't want to leave the blog blank, so I thought I'd post my first recommendation: Catch-22. I read this book during one summer when I was in high school, and then it played a prominent role in the most recent season of Lost so I went back to read it again. And it was even better the second time around.
This is a book of the insanity of war and human nature. The main character, Yossarian, is a bombadier in WWII stationed in Pianosa, Italy. Everyone thinks he's crazy because he insists that whenever he's in battle, everyone's trying to kill him, but he's right, and everyone else in his squadron — who ARE crazy — laughs at him like he just said something psychotic. Yossarian's nemesis is the evil Colonel Cathcart. This man doesn't want to get rid of any of his men, so he tells them they have a requisite number of missions they must fly. If he sets the number at 40, and someone reaches 40, he raises the number to 45 or 50 before they can get their papers, and now they have to go fly more. He will always raise those numbers, and Yossarian begins to believe he's going to die, so he fakes illnesses and stays in the hospital.
The title of the book comes from the opening discussion he has with the doctor, when he asks Doc Daneeka to ground him. Doc says he does have the ability — the duty — to ground a man if he's insane. But Catch-22 states that the person must ask for it. If he asks to be grounded, then he must be sane, because only a sane man would want to be grounded, and therefore he can't ground them. Yossarian just stares at him, and says, "That's some catch, that Catch-22." Doc smiles back and says, "It's the best there is."
The whole book is full of little Catch-22's and circular reasoning, most of which is laugh-out-loud hilarious. But by the end of the book Heller's genius is to take all of the comedy we've been watching (think M*A*S*H set in WWII) and show us the reality of it, and the horrors of war. The final three chapters will haunt you.