If you’ve been reading my posts in this challenge you’ll probably have a fairly good idea of what my favourite book of all time might be, and if you read my answer to this question a couple of years ago when I first completed this challenge you’ll also know my answer because it hasn’t changed.
My favourite book of all time is indeed Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. I’ve mentioned it numerous times on my blog and for good reason. The book centres around Yossarian, a bombardier in WWII (Heller himself was a bombardier and you can kind of tell when you read the novel). Yossarian is struck by the complete lunacy of the war as he struggles to grasp why he’s there, why his friends and comrades just suddenly disappear and most importantly how he can get out of there. While most of the novel is really quite funny, it does become quite overwhelmingly tragic towards the end – even though the book is not in chronological order it’s as if Heller purposely arranged a lot of the saddest parts to be later in the book, so that the humour disarms you first and then you feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach over and over again towards the end of the story. The writing is amazing and almost manic, capturing the atmosphere of the war perfectly, and it’s one of those novels that you’ll remember long after you’ve put it down.
So why is it my favourite, though? Apart from all these obviously good things I’ve said about it, it had some pretty significant impacts on my life. I read it in my early twenties, something which feels alarmingly far away now, and at the time I was going through a phase of not reading much and being creatively uninspired. When I read this book it swept me off my feet, brought me to tears and made me want to write after years of not writing for my own leisure. On its own this book reignited my reading and writing habits and it’s something I won’t ever forget.
Is Catch-22 for everyone? Not really. I know a lot of people who loved it as much as I did, but I know some people who don’t like it at all. Having said that, a lot of the people who dislike it also admit they never finished the book – I do wonder if their opinions of Heller’s masterpiece would change if they read it until the very last page. I think ultimately this is one to decide for yourself, but if you think you might like it then you really should try it – it might just blow you away too.
One final word. Once, in an interview, Heller was told “you’ve never written a book as good as Catch-22,” to which he cleverly retorted “Who has?” Touché Mr Heller.
What’s your favourite book of all time? Why do you love this book so much?