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If This Isn't Nice, What Is?: Advice for the Young [Kindle Edition]

Kurt Vonnegut , Dan Wakefield
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $21.95
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Book Description

Master storyteller and satirist Kurt Vonnegut was one of the most in-demand commencement speakers of his time. For each occasion, Vonnegut’s words were unfailingly unique, insightful, and witty, and they stayed with audience members long after graduation.

As edited by Dan Wakefield, this book reads like a narrative in the unique voice that made Vonnegut a hero to readers of all ages. At times hilarious, razor-sharp, freewheeling, and deeply serious, these reflections are ideal for anyone undergoing what Vonnegut would call their “long-delayed puberty ceremony”—marking the passage from student to full-time adult.

This book makes the perfect gift for high school or college graduates—or for parents and grandparents who remember Vonnegut fondly and want to connect with him in a new context.


Kurt Vonnegut is a unique voice in the American canon—a writer whose works are hard to categorize, often straddling the space between literature and science fiction, and filled with cutting satire and dark humor. Like Mark Twain before him, Vonnegut's reputation and impact on American writing and reading will continue to grow steadily and increase in relevance as new insights are made.

Vonnegut was born in 1922 in Indianapolis, and studied at the University of Chicago and the University of Tennessee. In the Second World War, he became a German prisoner of war and was present during the bombing of Dresden. This experience provided inspiration for his most successful and influential novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. Vonnegut—admired as much for his views and his “Vonnegutisms” as for his publications—wrote extensively in many forms, including novels, short stories, essays, plays, articles, speeches, and correspondence, some of which was published posthumously.


A lifelong friend of Kurt Vonnegut’s, Dan Wakefield both edited and wrote the Introduction to the bestselling collection of Vonnegut’s personal correspondence, Kurt Vonnegut: Letters. In addition, Wakefield is the author of the memoir New York in the Fifties, which was made into a documentary film, as well as Returning: A Spiritual Journey. He created the NBC prime time series “James at Fifteen” and wrote the script for the movie based on his novel Going All The Way, starring Ben Affleck.

Editorial Reviews


“Like [that of] his literary ancestor Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut’s crankiness is good-humored and sharp-witted.”—A.O. ScottThe New York Times Book Review

"The material here offers us a slightly different lens, a different window, extending across a wide range of time and geography, from Fredonia College in Fredonia New York in 1978 to Eastern Washington University in Spokane in 2004, and framed by not just Vonnegut’s sense of humor but also of humanity, his faith in our essential decency."—David Ulin, The Los Angeles Times

"These delightful scattershot commencement speeches offer fresh clues to what lay behind Kurt Vonnegut's twinkly visage—clues that are well worth celebrating."—Peter Matthiessen

About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut (1922–2007) was among the few grandmasters of late 20th century American letters. Vonnegut’s other books from Seven Stories Press include his last major bestseller A Man without a Country, God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian and, with Lee Stringer, Like Shaking Hands with God. Seven Stories also publishes Kurt’s son Mark Vonnegut’s bestselling memoir, Eden Express: a Memoir of Insanity, with a foreword by Kurt Vonnegut, and Gregory D. Sumner’s Unstuck in Time: A Journey through Kurt Vonnegut’s Life and Novels.
A longtime friend of Kurt Vonnegut’s, Dan Wakefield edited and introduced Kurt Vonnegut Letters. Wakefield is the author of the memoirs New York in the Fifties and Returning: A Spiritual Journey. His novel, Going All the Way was made into a movie starring Ben Affleck. Wakefield also created the NBC prime time series, James at Fifteen. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Product Details

  • File Size: 7250 KB
  • Print Length: 116 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (April 11, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CC1TF8S
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,544 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to like? April 13, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I love Vonnegut. Reading his grocery shopping list would be enjoyable, entertaining and informative. This book is all of that and more.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good for Vonnegut lovers December 28, 2013
By rwags
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you love Vonnegut, of course you’ll love this. A lot of it will seem familiar, but who cares. A lot of it is repeated. Again, who cares? He is smart, witty, cynical, genius. If you don’t have everything by Vonnegut yet, this should not be at the top of your list, but once you've read everything by him and you want more, get it. It’s not Vonnegut at his best, but even when he’s mediocre, he’s better than most.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Indeed March 22, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
This was a quick and interesting collection of speeches given by Kurt Vonnegut, mostly to graduating college classes. Though every speech was different, there were definitely a few repeating themes. Well worth a read, and uplifting for the most part. I enjoyed it and I think some of the ideas will stick with me.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the greatest contemporary American writers. December 5, 2013
By carcar
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Vonnegut is a brilliant and thoughtful writer and lecturer. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Vonnegut, read this book as an introduction to his style, philosophy and wit.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Kurt Vonnegut was a wise and hilarious man, as well as a creative genius, so I was glad to read his graduation speeches. Still, having several of his speeches in one book reminded me that even geniuses have formulas, and Vonnegut certainly had his own version of a speech. I found the formula a bit tiring after the first few speeches, but I did appreciate the chance to read some of Vonnegut's words of wisdom, and I have found myself saying, "If this isn't nice, what is?" all the time now!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wisdom is hard to find May 15, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Wisdom is hard to find especially when mixed with a sense of humor. I am giving to my granddaughter as she goes off to college. What a great start for developing one's personal philosophy. He hits the nail on the head every time. In fact, it makes a great gift for any occasion
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut's advice for the young: December 5, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting to read what Vonnegut had to say to recent college graduates at various universities across the country. A little different than what you might expect.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good, quick read. September 25, 2013
I give Vonnegut's compilation of speeches a solid three stars, as it was a very quick and enjoyable read. Although mildly redundant--how could it not be given the similar themes throughout most of his speeches--and sometimes a bit too sarcastic-ly cynical in my opinion, I still appreciated his thoughts and perspective. What I liked best was his assertion that being happy and not realizing it is the most tragic waste of all. So, he pleads, notice when little things make you smile. Remember and recount these moments, for they are happiness.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars YES, to Kurt
I wanted to say a huge "Yes yes yes," as I read every page. Most insightful, pleasurable read for me in a while.
Published 4 days ago by Nell
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Vonnegut - Needed for a complete collection
I personally love Kurt Vonnegut. This particular volume is a collection of speeches given mostly at graduation ceremonies. Read more
Published 4 days ago by Richard Y.
5.0 out of 5 stars A good dose of Vonnegut - warms the heart and soul!
As a Vonnegut fan from way back, I found these speeches to graduating classes to be wise, witty and wonderful. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Ruth T. Shapiro
5.0 out of 5 stars Outrageously inspiring!
This should be required reading for all high school students. What insight for the human soul. I read over as soon as I'd finished it.
Published 21 days ago by D Welch
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
The only downside is, if you've read 'a man without a country', there's too much overlap between the two and you will find it repetitive.
Published 23 days ago by khyati
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, delectable
Good for high school grads as well. And this grandmother who bought it for granddaughter and, of course, read it before she sent it. Loved the comments, advice and good stories. Read more
Published 27 days ago by Jeanne Gerritsen
5.0 out of 5 stars What's next?
I've been a Vonnegut fan almost all my life. I got a chuckle out of this particular collection because I work in academia and was reading it just before our commencement. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Larry Adams
4.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut's Voice Said By Another
I had seen Vonnegut speak live many times. His timing, delivery, timbre of his voice, and sparkle in his eye was as much a part of the wisdom and humor as the words he spoke. Read more
Published 1 month ago by P Squared
5.0 out of 5 stars It's nice advice
Easy to read but very insightful about a lot of issues. Not just for the young. The book spans the ages.
Published 1 month ago by Anne Paget
5.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Vonnegut
Great collection. Wry, wise, and funny. Love his line that those who want to post the Ten Commandments in public places never suggest that we post the Beatitudes. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael P. Maslanka
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More About the Author

Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922. He studied at the universities of Chicago and Tennessee and later began to write short stories for magazines. His first novel, Player Piano, was published in 1951 and since then he has written many novels, among them: The Sirens of Titan (1959), Mother Night (1961), Cat's Cradle (1963), God Bless You Mr Rosewater (1964), Welcome to the Monkey House; a collection of short stories (1968), Breakfast of Champions (1973), Slapstick, or Lonesome No More (1976), Jailbird (1979), Deadeye Dick (1982), Galapagos (1985), Bluebeard (1988) and Hocus Pocus (1990). During the Second World War he was held prisoner in Germany and was present at the bombing of Dresden, an experience which provided the setting for his most famous work to date, Slaughterhouse Five (1969). He has also published a volume of autobiography entitled Palm Sunday (1981) and a collection of essays and speeches, Fates Worse Than Death (1991).

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