To be fair, this one actually came out late 2011, so I should clarify that my favorite book read in 2012 is And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life by biographer Charles J. Shields.
I am not normally drawn to biographies. While I expected to be interested in the life of Kurt Vonnegut Jr., I did not anticipate how much I would enjoy following his life’s journey for over 500 pages. In short, I simply couldn’t put this title down.
Having consumed most of Vonnegut’s work over the years, I knew some of the details already because he often inserts himself in his stories. There are occasional references to his childhood, his family, and most notably, heart-breaking details from his time in Dresden. But Shields masterfully brings the author to life in a way that I hadn’t anticipated.
Vonnegut as a character gains many dimensions as we learn about his motivations, fears, triumphs, and shortcomings. Rather than just read this biography as a series of events that happened, Shields builds one part of his history on top of another, enveloping readers into the world of a brilliant, frustrated, fascinating, and long-suffering individual who’s words continue to have tremendous influence.
Maybe I enjoyed this book so much because at times I felt I could relate to his trials and tribulations as a writer. Perhaps it’s because I already admired Kurt Vonnegut Jr. tremendously. Or maybe it’s because I appreciate the candor with which Shields describes the way Vonnegut’s ideas and values were at times, at odds with the way he actually lived. It’s most likely some combination of all of these and more.
What I know is that this is a title that I finished many, many months ago and continue to think about. It’s left a lasting impression. And as the holidays approach, And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life is the perfect gift for any avid reader – and perhaps, the perfect gift for you.