In what I hope is one of the more enjoyable requirements of the 2016 Library Challenge, participants are asked to read a funny book. We’re celebrating humorous reads all month long at the Berryville Public Library, with a display up front that highlights humorous essays, memoirs, and other things sure to make you laugh (or at least think about the power of a laugh).
We have a lot of great books written by humor writers, including all of David Sedaris’s books and many Dave Barry books, but we also have some others in our collection that you may not be aware of. As always, if you’re interested in any of these books, please check out our online catalog to learn more about availability and to place holds.
If you enjoy funny essays:
Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened (2013)
Allie Brosh’s humor writing first garnered attention on her blog, Hyperbole and a Half, a few years ago. I discovered her when a friend suggested I read her hilarious post about grammatical errors. I promptly read all of her other posts, which frequently focused on amusing stories from her life and especially her childhood, complete with Brosh’s own intentionally bad illustrations. I looked forward to each new update, though I stopped following as I got busy with school. Sadly, Brosh also stopped posting for quite some time as she battled severe depression.
As a result, I didn’t realize that she had released a book until I was researching suggestions for this post. I read it to fulfill this challenge, and though it includes a few posts from the blog, a lot of the content was never posted online and is just as engaging. And I enjoyed all of her blog posts so much that it was a nice treat to revisit the ones that are reprinted in the book. In fact, I devoured it all in one sitting. And in what I hope is a good sign in Brosh’s recovery from her depression, she is slated to release a new book of adventures and drawings this fall. I’ll definitely be reading that one too.
Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and Other Thoughts On Being a Woman (2006)
You may know Nora Ephron better as the screenwriter for popular romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle. But she also wrote several humor collections, including her most famous one, I Feel Bad About My Neck. In it, Ephron writeswith humor and insight about aging, though she also touches on other topics, such as parenting. And at only 175 pages, it’s also a quick read.
If you prefer humorous novels:
Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2007):
If you like humorous literary fiction–and, no, that is not an oxymoron–try this book. The debut novel of Junot Díaz, it chronicles the life of Oscar, a hapless and socially awkward but endearing nerd, who harbors dreams of writing the next big fantasy epic. Unfortunately for Oscar, he doesn’t just have bad luck–he’s also afflicted by a curse that has followed his family from their native Dominican Republic to their current life in New Jersey. Beyond Oscar’s trials and tribulations, the book also follows the misadventures of his relatives, who are also battling the bad luck brought on by the family curse.
Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments (2011)
If you enjoy sweet and funny romantic comedies, then you might like Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments. Lincoln, a computer tech who has been hired to monitor employee emails, is supposed to be on the lookout for inappropriate content or emails that are not work-related. He quickly discovers that friends Beth and Jennifer frequently email each other gossipy stories about their lives, and even though the women’s correspondence is not work-related, Lincoln can’t bring himself to get them in trouble. Especially since the lonely Lincoln has become addicted to reading the emails himself and may be falling in love with Beth, despite never having met her. The novel rotates between the emails Beth and Jennifer exchange and Lincoln’s own narrative.
Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series
If you like bizarrely funny science fiction about books, you might want to give Jasper Fforde a try. Granted, “bizarrely funny science fiction about books” is an oddly-specific category, but Fforde’s Thursday Next series combines several genres that don’t usually coexist in the same book. An alternate history/comic fantasy world set in its own version of the 80s, the Thursday Next series follows the eponymous heroine, a Literary Detective whose job allows her to “jump” in and out of books. Famous literary characters can also leave their books and join our world, and that’s the appeal of this series for anyone familiar with the classic stories and characters being referenced.
The series of adventures/mysteries follows Next as she works on a variety of cases. I’ve read almost all the books in the series and must confess that the latter ones do get a bit convoluted, though the plot isn’t so much the draw as the delightfully weird vignettes Fforde presents. Like the famously indecisive Hamlet being forced to order a coffee from a fiendishly extensive cafe menu or a hilarious and much-needed group counseling session between the characters from Wuthering Heights, which is every bit as awkward as you’d expect.
If you like comics:
Bill Waterston’s Calvin and Hobbes anthologies (1990s)
If you go to the library, you’re not just limited to more traditional novels and essay collections. Earlier, I mentioned Allie Brosh’s book, which is not quite a graphic novel yet is definitely more heavily-illustrated than other essay collections. But we also have an extensive collection of graphic novels and comics–many of which will definitely make you laugh. For instance, you might want to revisit Bill Waterston’s classic Calvin and Hobbes comics, which we have in several anthologies.
Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant (2011)
Of if you’re looking for a graphic novel/comic that is funny but is new to you, consider Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant. For a few years now, Beaton has created a web comic of the same name, which delivers comics about history and literature. It’s not to everyone’s taste, admittedly, but if witty comics about famous literary and historical figures are something you’ll enjoy, you’ll love Beaton’s work. I was introduced to her when I was taking a class on literature from England’s Romantic period. We’d been discussing a biography about Percy Shelley and Lord Byron in class, when a friend/classmate asked me if I wanted to see a comic about their friendship that seemed to sum up both men’s personalities rather well. My first thought was, “What comic have you been reading that talks about Percy Shelley and Lord Byron?” And, thus, was I introduced to the Hark! A Vagrant web comic. As is the case with Brosh, I wasn’t aware that Beaton had released a book until I was researching this post, but I am looking forward to reading it!
If you want to read or reread humor classics:
Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad (1869) and Roughing It (1872)
If you want to read a classic American humorist, you can’t do much better than Mark Twain, particularly with his famous travelogues. Depending on what mood you’re in, you can travel overseas with Twain’s hilarious send-up of American tourists in Europe and the Middle East in The Innocents Abroad. Or you can stay closer to home and read Roughing It, his humorous reminiscences of his travels throughout the American West in the years immediately following the American Civil War.
Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)
Still unsure what to read? Don’t panic! You can always revisit Douglas Adams’s classic science fiction comedy The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–or discover it for the first time. Join Arthur Dent and his friends on his adventures throughout the galaxy after he is rescued from Earth moments before the planet is destroyed. As you can imagine, hilarious complications ensue.
Which of these books have you read? What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read? Who’s your favorite humorist? Tell us all about it in the comments!