God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)
by Kurt Vonnegut
Like Robert Heinlein, Kurt Vonnegut is one of those authors who emerged from the genre ghetto of science fiction to obtain something like critical acclaim. I didn't live through the 1960's, so I can't testify to how I went down, but I know that growing up in the Bay Area in the 1980's and 90's, Vonnegut was very much a well read author whose works were much in evidence in used books stores and private homes alike. He never made much of an impression on me. I read a ton of science fiction in junior high school, and in college I read most of the beats and the existentialists but I took a pass on Vonnegut and his ilk, except as he was presented in school.
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is the first of four titles by Vonnegut that made the 2006 edition of the 1001 Books list. He lost two of those in the 2008 revision, and God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater is one of those two. I think, probably that God Bless You made it onto the 2006 list because it is a "first"- the first Vonnegut book to feature his alter ego, Kilgore Trout, and even though it wasn't the breakthrough hit of Slaughter-House Five, it introduces many of the themes that he would ride to glory in the later 1960's. One aspect of God Bless You that is striking is the near absence of anything that you could remotely call "science fiction." Other than a brief stop by the main character at any out of the way convention of science fiction writers, God Bless You is firmly grounded in the present. No aliens, no time travel, just everyday reality.