Everyone knows that the library is a good place to visit if you’re in need of some Serious Literature. Sure, we have the books that have won the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, the Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott (for kids), the Printz (for teens), and dozens of others.
But what about when you want something light, funny, and entertaining? Well, we’ve got you covered there, too. To start with, Kirkus just published a list of “10 Great Books That Will Make You Laugh Out Loud.”
A list of ten is only a beginning. Here are a few authors to try if you’re in the mood for a laugh:
Heather Armstrong: Better known to the Internet as Dooce, Heather Armstrong is a blogger and a mother, but to call her a “mommy blogger” would be misleading. Ex-Mormon Armstrong writes with passion, humor, obscenity, and honesty about her life, her family, and her mental health. Her 2009 book, It Sucked and Then I Cried: How I Had a Baby, a Breakdown, and a Much Needed Margarita, is probably the funniest book about post-partum depression in existence.
Sloane Crosley: The titles of her two essay collections, I Was Told There’d Be Cake (2008) and How Did You Get This Number? (2010) should give an indication of Crosley’s wit, attitude, and willingness to write about situations so embarrassing that most of us would never speak of them aloud, let alone commit them to paper and make them publicly available. After reading either of these books, you will probably want her to be your new best friend.
Tina Fey: The star of 30 Rock and one of the reigning queens of comedy, Tina Fey’s Bossypants (2011) chronicles her childhood, adolescence, and her entry into the world of comedy. She’s matter-of-fact, down to earth, and extremely funny. (“If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important Rule of Beauty: ‘Who cares?'”) The audiobook version of Bossypants is also excellent.
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett: These two sci-fi/fantasy geniuses collaborated on the 1990 novel Good Omens: the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, which begins: “Current theories on the creation of the Universe state that, if it was created at all and didn’t just start, as it were, unofficially, it came into being between ten and twenty thousand million years ago. By the same token the earth itself is generally supposed to be about four and a half thousand million years old. These dates are incorrect.” And away we go.
Justin Halpern: You might be inclined to write off Sh*t My Dad Says as no more than flash-in-the-pan Twitter material, but give this book a chance: Halpern’s dad’s quotes are grouped by theme, and the sections are divided by short, heartfelt, insightful essays that make it really worthwhile. Plus, the essays give your laughing muscles a break.
On My First Day of Kindergarten: “You thought it was hard? If kindergarten is busting your ass, I got some bad news for you about the rest of life.” –Sh*t My Dad Says
Jack Handey: Jack Handey’s “Deep Thoughts” have been published in the National Lampoon and featured on Saturday Night Live. What I’d Say to the Martians: And Other Veiled Threats is a collection of short essays and ramblings that are just as twisted and surreal as “Deep Thoughts,” if not as concise.
Mindy Kaling: She was a writer for (and actress on) hit TV show The Office, and is now the star of her own show The Mindy Project. Her memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) (2011) reads like the younger generation’s Bossypants. Her writing style is casual and conversational; Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me is amusing (“The staircase in our third-floor walk-up was the steepest, hardest, metal-est staircase I have ever encountered in my life. It was a staircase for killing someone and making it seem like an accident”) and at times even wise (“One friend with whom you have a lot in common is better than three with whom you struggle to find things to talk about”).
Jenny Lawson: Otherwise known as The Bloggess, Lawson’s first book, published last year, is called Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir). I have yet to meet someone who has read this hilarious and bizarre book without laughing. For a little taste what you’re in for, check out this blog post: “Would you like to buy a monkey?”
Simon Rich: Former Harvard Lampoon president and a writer for SNL, the prolific Rich is also the author of several short story collections and short novels, including Ant Farm: and Other Desperate Situations, Free Range Chickens, Elliot Allagash, and What in God’s Name. From what the dalmatians on the fire truck are really thinking to what angels do in heaven, Rich has a wildly humorous explanation for things it hasn’t even occurred to you to wonder about yet.
David Sedaris: Where to begin? Sedaris has written many books, including essay collections, memoirs, and short stories; his work has often appeared in The New Yorker. Start with a relatively recent essay collection, When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008), or go earlier and check out Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000). If you’re feeling festive, try Holidays on Ice (1997). Also good as audiobooks, though they won’t lead to careful driving – you’ll be laughing too hard.
Lynne Truss: Do you insist on good grammar and good manners? Does it infuriate you when you see “your” when it should be “you’re,” or when someone answers a cell phone in the middle of dinner? English author Lynne Truss is on your side – and she’s very clever about it, too. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (2004) is “a book for people who love punctuation and get upset when it is mishandled”; Talk to the Hand (2005) is Truss’s “rallying cry for courtesy.”
Sarah Vowell: Laugh and learn as Sarah Vowell explains history with a modern perspective and incisive sense of humor. From the Massachusetts Bay Colony (The Wordy Shipmates, 2008) to Hawaii (Unfamiliar Fishes, 2011) to dead presidents (Assassination Vacation, 2005), Vowell provides some of the most entertaining scholarship out there. Like David Sedaris and Tina Fey, she narrates her own audiobooks.
Now we want to hear your recommendations. What’s your favorite funny book? Leave suggestions in the comments.