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Monday, July 19, 2010

Monday Discussion: Books That Make You Laugh

Last week I received a link from RA for All reader, Alan, pointing me to his website's list of "50 Novels to Reader When You Need a Good Laugh."

What I liked about this list is how they broke up the books by appeal and/or genre; there is a funny book for just about any genre fan. The list also takes a wide range of humor into consideration. Which leads me to today's Monday Discussion. What do you read when you are looking for a "funny" book?

I realize this is not as easy a question as it sounds. It depends on what kind of laugh you want. I will start with a few of my humor choices and end with another resource to help you get started.

In Nonfiction I love A.J. Jacobs. In his books he basically makes himself the butt of the jokes, as he tries to, for example, live the bible literally, read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica, or outsource his life. I love that I both learn something AND have a good laugh while reading his books.

In fiction, I tend to look toward some of my favorite humorous, cozy mystery series: the Vish Puri series by Tarquin Hall, the Spellmans series by Lisa Lutz, and the Nursery Crime series by Jasper Fforde are three of my favorites in this category.

I also enjoy tongue-in-cheek humor, especially when it comes to horror novels. Breathers: a Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne (which I wrote about here) and anything by Christopher Moore hits the spot here.

In terms of reliably funny authors, don't forget a great old standby, P. G. Wodehouse, whose Jeeves novels are available at just about every public library and are still funny. In fact, each year since 2000 the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize has been given out for the best comic writing. Click here for a list of past winners. On an interesting side note, the winner has a pig named after him or her. Now that is funny.

So let me know what gives you the giggles.  Andi f you want to follow past Monday Discussions and the comments, click here.


John BPL RA said...

I relish a category of books which I have termed "Unintended Comedy". These are books that the authors and, presumably, the publishers intended to be scary or serious but failed so miserably that the books had the opposite effect. The recent explosion of vampire fiction has generated a lot of books in this category. The entire career of Laurell K. Hamilton makes me laugh as does that of Stephenie Meyer. Any books originating in the 21st century that involve werewolves are hilarious (as opposed to 19th century werewolf stories which are scary as all hell). If you really wanna laugh try reading L.A. Banks or the series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer "novels".

Kathy BPL RA said...

Often this request is pretty hard for me. I have to admit that "funny" is not generally what I look for in a book and when I do find a book funny it seems that this is often not the type of funny meant by the request for a "funny" book. I will say that Alan had two of my all time favorite funny books on his list, "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "Lucky Jim" are both excellent and hilarious. Two recent books that I found funny where "A Guide to the Birds of East Africa" by Nicholas Drayson and "Tomato Rhapsody by Adam Schell. Neither are exactly laugh out loud funny but rather laced with humor throughout. Plus they are both real charmers.
Part of the reason I think this can be difficult is because some of the funniest scenes I have read are found in pretty unfunny books. One of the best funny moments I have ever read I found in "The Corrections" by Jonathan Franzen which I would not recommend to someone looking for funny.

Becky said...

Kathy, you are so right. The Corrections is not a funny book, but has some laugh out loud scenes. Also, John, Laurell K. Hamilton started out being funny on purpose but somewhere along the way, the romance took over her series.

Anonymous said...

The Cincinnati Public Library has the right take on this subject. "Recommending a funny novel is no laughing matter! Ironically, it's one of the hardest reader's advisory questions our fiction librarians get. A book that has one reader dissolved in giggles may leave another completely cold. Some fiction readers like literary satire, others prefer wacky farce, and still others want only gentle humor." See their suggestions at

Personally, I'm in the gentle humor category -- Bailey White and her ilk are for me.

Becky said...

Later in the week, NPR also posted this link of funny books: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128542237

So there is yet another resource.