The 21 greatest Kurt Vonnegut quotes as voted by Goodreads


Arguably one of the greatest American writers of the 20th century, Kurt Vonnegut created some of the most memorable novels of our time. In a career spanning more than half a century he wrote fourteen books including timeless classics such as Cat’s Cradle, Breakfast Of Champions, and Slaughterhouse Five. His work is a mesh of contradictions, both science fiction and literary, dark and funny, classic and counter-culture.

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Unsurprisingly, these characteristics are reflected in the man himself.  A passionate supporter of the American Civil Liberties Union, a humanist and pacifist, his musings on life, politics and religion are both inspiring and thought provoking. Perhaps for this reason, he’s one of the Internet’s most widely quoted authors.

Happily the vast online book community Goodreads, which has over 20 million avid readers, has voted on his finest words. Here’s their selection, in reverse order, of Vonnegut greatest quotes, both from his writings and from the man himself.

21. “1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.”

20. “I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

A Man Without a Country

19. “How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.”


18. “Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning do to do afterward.”

17. “Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, “It might have been.”

16. “Dear future generations: Please accept our apologies. We were rolling drunk on petroleum.”


15. “And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

A Man Without a Country

14. “The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.”

13. “If you want to really hurt you parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

A Man Without a Country

12. “A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.”

The Sirens of Titan

11. “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies-“God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

10. “And I asked myself about the present: how wide it was, how deep it was, how much was mine to keep.”


9. “And so it goes…”


8. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”

A Man Without a Country

7. “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.”

6. “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

5. “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.”



4. “And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”

A Man Without a Country

3. “I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.”

Player Piano

2. “Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.”

1. “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

Mother Night

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