Catch-22 by Joseph Heller: Book Review

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller Book Cover

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Catch-22 Book Cover

4 Stars

This is the story of Captain Yossarian, who is serving in World War II as a navigator on a bomber based in Italy. Yossarian is caught in a “Catch-22” where he wants to be grounded, but he can only get out of flying more missions if he’s crazy, but if he was crazy, he wouldn’t mind flying missions.

The book really skips around, so that you’re never quite sure whether you’re reading something that happened in the past, or if the story has now moved forward from the beginning point. But it’s not really confusing, it all does make some sort of sense in the end. Don’t let the whole “World War II bomber” thing mislead you. The book is generally one big farce, that, to me, has an underlying theme about the absurdity of war.

I read this when I was a senior in high school. I remember enjoying it then, and I enjoyed it this time. It was a little bit of a different experience this time around. The first time I had no idea what to expect, so the humor was generally more humorous and the suddenly serious parts were definitely more of a slap in the face. This time, I have a few more years on me, so I can appreciate the frustration of bureaucracies and “superiors” who don’t have any idea what they’re doing. And, knowing what it was that broke Yossarian gave everything a little bit of a different feel.

There was one part that just went on too long. It moved past funny and got into tiresome.

Other than that, I just loved it.

Reviewed December 6, 2007 and slightly revised September 24, 2010

Banned Books Week Poster
According to the American Library Association website, Catch-22 was “banned in Strongsville, OH (1972), but the school board’s action was overturned in 1976 by a U.S. District Court in Minarcini v. Strongsville City School District. Challenged at the Dallas, TX Independent School District high school libraries (1974); in Snoqualmie, WA (1979) because of its several references to women as ‘whores.'”

Okay, that was a while ago, but I can’t imagine that people have changed that much. Do I object to the word whore? Yes. Do people say it? Yes. I’m guessing that soldiers in WWII probably threw it around pretty easily.

You can’t sugarcoat people and still try to make the point that Heller was making with this book. He needed to put us in the war with his characters, and to do that he needed to reflect their experiences. He was a WWII vet himself, so he knew what he was writing about.

Life isn’t always pretty and politically correct, and our books have to reflect that sometimes.

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  1. i literally JUST had this book in my hand at a tag sale in vermont over the weekend…and i put it down! argh. i 'read' it while in high school but know that i need to give it another chance. i can't believe i passed it by only to read about it online the next day! typical. thanks for the review. 🙂 you've inspired me to give it another try.

  2. I have had this on my owned TBR forever!

    I tried reading Catch 22 in high school, but could never really get through it.

    Maybe this will be the year I actually read it, your review is quite convincing after all!

  3. Great review! I started reading this a few years ago and for some reason got distracted from it, although I remember enjoying the third or so I did read. I must start it again sometime and this time actually finish it lol.

    Regarding the reason behind the ban on this book, I agree that while certain words can be offensive, people do use them and books need to be realistic in this way.

  4. I can imagine this book getting banned. I object strongly to the word 'whore' but the reality is that people still use that word excessively and women still get called that for any or no reason. Like you said, life is not always pretty. The earlier people accept it, the better.

    I haven't read this one to-date, but I love the title and how it spawned a whole new phrase that stuck! Looking forward to it.

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