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A Novel

Book - 1995
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Set on a tiny Mediterranean island during World War II, this comic novel recounts the amazing adventures of the 256th bombing squadron and its lead bombardier, Captain Yossarian.
Publisher: New York : Knopf ; 1995
ISBN: 9780684865133
Branch Call Number: F HEL
FICTION Heller 1995


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Apr 21, 2021

It was World War II and Captain Yossarian was panicking because everyone was trying to kill him. He served as a US Army bombardier and each mission he flew brought the deadly anti-aircraft fire from the Germans. In addition, his commanding officers repeatedly raised the required number of missions before Yossarian could go home.

So Yossarian approached Doc Daneeka to seek a discharge by reason of insanity. This was allowed, but there was a catch: Catch-22. Catch-22 states that recognizing the dangers of war is the act of a rational mind, so requesting to leave the war was proof of sanity and made one ineligible for discharge on those grounds.

From Joseph Heller's 1961 novel "Catch-22":

"Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to, he was sane and had to."

This is the first of many absurd rules enforced and defended by the military bureaucracy. The soldiers are illogical, the orders are nonsensical, the officers are incompetent, and the rules are meaningless but must be followed.

"Catch-22" recounts these absurd incidents, rules, and conversations - often with laugh-out-loud hilarity. The logic presented is often circular and usually contradictory. The most common spoken phrases are "Are you crazy?" and "You're crazy!" and in many cases, they are crazy. Virtually every character suffers from some degree of neurosis or psychosis.

Heller introduces some of the most memorable characters in literature, including:

- Milo Minderbinder, an unchecked capitalist who is so greedy, he accepts contracts from the German to bomb his own air base and to help them shoot down American fighter planes.

- Major Major Major Major, who will never agree to see anyone in his office until after he leaves his office.

- Doc Daneeka, who dismisses the complaints of his patients because they don't compare to the agony of his being drafted and having to give up a lucrative practice.

This is not an easy novel to read. Dozens of characters come and go, and each has an interesting story, and many have a disturbing backstory. In addition, the story is told non-chronologically, often looping back on the same events, providing more detail with each pass. I found it nearly impossible to determine the actual order of events. Multiple readings help understand the details of the story, but re-reading is not necessary to enjoy Heller's language and the overall messages he strives to convey. These situations are absurd because war is absurd. And you would be crazy to think otherwise. Individual scenes could stand on their own as a short story; but together they weave a classic as each of the numerous threads come together.

After three readings, "Catch-22" remains one of my favourite novels of all time. I found myself teetering between Heller's hilarious dialogue and the poignantly tragic circumstances he portrays.

"That's some catch, that Catch-22," he observed.
"It's the best there is," Doc Daneeka agreed.”

"Catch-22" is an anti-war novel, written before anti-war novels were cool. It succeeds brilliantly.

Apr 17, 2021


Oct 14, 2020

Catch-22 is a story about war and bureaucracy, where a soldier can’t tell who’s really on his side. A novel set in WWII, it follows the fictional Captain Yossarian through his journey in the war, where it seems that everyone is out to get him. He lives in a twisted system where he can never escape flying on life threatening and scarring missions, as his superiors seem determined to get every use out of their soldiers. Written by Joseph Heller, Catch-22 is a satire on the modern war machine, where lives are counted as a metric rather than something precious. With heavy anti-war themes, Catch-22 is a read that can make you laugh when you need to and make you think when you thought you didn’t.

Sep 10, 2020

Recommended by Loyd Grossman on a podcast interview.

Jul 15, 2020

One of my all time favorites. Love it.

Jun 11, 2020

Catch-22 is a satirical war novel written by Joseph heller in 1961. The book centers around protagonist Captain John Yossarian. He's an american bombardier who was stationed at an island in the meditarrianen during World War II. The book describes his fight to survive the war as he believes that the entire war is an elaborate plot to deliberately send John to his death. I greatly enjoyed reading through this book and anyone who enjoys World War II history will as well. It delivers a satirical almost comedic version of the war but at the same time it still contains all the dark elements that were present in the war as well. The first pages were a struggle to get through in my opinion but the pace quickly picks up as well as the violence and action. There isn't exactly an overall story in the book, rather a loose collection of stories starring several characters. Some may enjoy this change and others might find the book confusing as a result. In conclusion, Catch-22 is one of those books where you either love it or hate it. It definitely isn't for everyone and people of the newer generation might not appreciate what it has to offer. I greatly enjoyed reading it however and I would think an audiobook version would help readers greatly. I give this book a 4/5.
@Moebooks of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Mar 06, 2020

Even though it has been more than 50 years since I read Catch-22, the story remains strongly in my mind. I frequently use the phrase in appropriate circumstances. Highly recommend the book to all!! Kristi & Abby Tabby

Aug 04, 2019

While I did not find this book enjoyable I can understand how it has maintained its stature in the literary world.

May 12, 2019

A book filled with dark humour and satire, for anyone interested in that stuff. This book has some humour that I personally found offensive, but not offensive enough to make me stop reading the book immediately. The book also seems nonsensical at the beginning, eventually providing you with enough information to allow you to understand the various (maybe dubious) actions of the different characters. I did not finish the book, only getting up to the point where Yossarian almost gets killed by Nately's whore and her kid sister. This was towards the end of the book

Apr 11, 2019

I tried reading Catch-22 in junior high. I couldn't finish it, and the only thing I remembered was how Major Major got his rank. Fast forward 4 decades, and I decide to give it the ol' junior high try. I got through it this time, but it was a slog.

I didn't find the continuous repetition funny; I didn't enjoy the antics; I didn't like the characters. I did, ultimately, find purpose in the final quarter or so of the story; I appreciated the incompetence on display on so many levels, and could see many of life's situations represented on Pianosa. I'm not sure it was worth the journey.

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Jan 04, 2017

"it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything."

Dec 06, 2013

“The frog is almost five hundred million years old. Could you really say with much certainty that America, with all its strength and prosperity, with its fighting man that is second to none, and with its standard of living that is highest in the world, will last as long as...the frog? ”

Jun 08, 2012

The soldier who saw everything twice nodded weakly and sank back on his bed. Yossarian nodded weakly too, eyeing his talented roommate with great humility and admiration. He knew he was in the presence of a master. His talented roommate was obviously a person to be studied and emulated. During the night, his talented roommate died, and Yossarian decided that he had followed him far enough.

"I see everything once!" he cried quickly.

hippyheart Jul 17, 2010

I love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Good morning Vietnam!

Feb 20, 2009

Major Major had been born too late and too mediocre. Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them. With Major Major it had been all three. Even among men lacking all distinction he inevitably stood out as a man lacking more distinction than all the rest, and people who met him were always impressed by how unimpressive he was.

Dylan J. Knoll
Oct 23, 2008

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one's own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn't, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn't have to; but if he didn't want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.


Add Notices
Jan 04, 2017

Frightening or Intense Scenes: There are several scenes that depict a bombardier dying from shrapnel in gruesome detail.

Dylan J. Knoll
Oct 23, 2008

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

Dylan J. Knoll
Oct 23, 2008

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.


Add Age Suitability
Mar 16, 2019

jackycwyeung thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Jan 04, 2017

okridgway thinks this title is suitable for 17 years and over


Add a Summary
Jan 04, 2017

Set in the midst of World War II, Catch-22 is a satirical novel about the folly of humanity and the bureaucratic lunacies that exist throughout society. (Check out for all things catch-22)

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