Books That Inspire 2011

Mother Night
Kurt Vonnegut

Vonnegut's novel offers a simple lesson that has resonated with me ever since I first read it: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be."

Vonnegut's protagonist, Howard Campbell, is an American spy who inadvertently becomes Nazi Germany's most effective propaganda writer. As the novel begins, Howard awaits trial for crimes against humanity, and he and the reader must decide if his work as a spy negates the fact that he was also a highly influential Nazi. Through Howard’s story, Vonnegut forces us to examine the ways our actions and their consequences define us, regardless of our motives, self-perceptions, and rationalizations.

George Cusack
Edith Kinney Gaylord Expository Writing Program