In last Thursday’s issue of REaD ALERT, I asked readers to share the books that made them laugh again and again. The responses were many and varied, including new titles and old, fiction and nonfiction, adults and youth reading, and even a few books that wouldn’t ordinarily be thought of as humor. Some of the authors’ names won’t surprise you (Dave Barry, Bill Bryson), but others probably will. Have recommendations to add? Share them in the comments!
Shatnerquake, by Jeff Burk
This one, while not perfect, was pretty darned funny. Concept and execution thereof: I laughed a lot.
—Patrick Provant, Multnomah County Library
Oddballs, by William Sleator
Love this one! I read it out loud to many classes when I was librarianing. Not a big fan of science fiction, but was able to enjoy many of his novels, and introduce them to middle-schoolers. Interstellar Pig being a favorite. Oddballs was a delight.
My Family and Other Animals, by Gerald Durrell
Dave Barry’s Babies and other Hazards of Sex, by Dave Barry
All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot
Probably not your usual selections for humor except for Dave Barry. But Durrell made me laugh out loud, and Herriot isn’t really a book of humor but the stories are great. I was eight months pregnant when I read Barry’s book.
—Beth Doud, Mims-Scottsmoor Public Library
A Walk in the Woods, Bill Bryson
Makes me laugh out loud.
—Deb Cooper, Stark County District Library
In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
Lamb, the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore
Read both of these on separate vacations and I had to be careful where I was reading—definitely on public transport or on a plane—because I found myself bursting into belly laughs without warning.
—Jeanne Kelly O’Grady, Santa Cruz Public Libraries
An Autobiography, by Agatha Christie
I always knew Agatha Christie led an interesting life, but I never imagined she’d bring me giggling out of lunch to read excerpts to my assistant. Humorous autobiography? Absolutely! Sly asides, outright hilarity, social commentary . . . she has it all. This 622-page tome makes me smile in the morning as I anticipate its pleasures as a lunchtime read and makes me smile in the afternoon remembering her memories.
When discussing her courtship by Archie Christie, her future husband, she noted that even though he’d invited her to a ball, he didn’t seem to want to be with her. She was perplexed but then realization came: “I was rather stupid, really. I should have known by now that when a man looks like a sick sheep, completely bemused, stupid and unable to listen to what you say to him, he has, vulgarly, got it badly.”
—Susan A. Snyder, Williston High School
Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
Avenue of Mysteries, by John Irving
There are two books that have made (and still make) me laugh out loud. Catch-22, taking something so serious, the war, military service and showing how irrational it is and putting it in the perspective of the ridiculous. I was introduced to it by my 11th-grade students when I was first a teacher and we read it together (without school permission). What a gift they gave me.
Avenue of Mysteries, which I just finished, also made me laugh out loud throughout. Again, these are serious subjects—the role of religion, relationships, responsibilities (especially those of the author—and as always Irving gets to the irony and foolishness of such much of it. The translations that the serious brother (a future writer) makes of his sister’s great observations about life (she in unintelligible to everyone but him) were a hoot.
—Edith Ching, The University of Maryland
The Agnes Browne Trilogy, by Brendan O’Carroll
I just love the trilogy (adult) written by Irish writer Brendan O’Carroll: The Mammy, The Chisellers, and The Granny. Laugh-out-loud funny! I’ll think on this further.
—Kathy Mincz, Henrico County Public Library
Stephanie Plum Series, by Janet Evanovich
Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books (starting with One for the Money) always have at least one laugh-out-loud moment.
While I don’t consider any of these to be in the humor category, I certainly read them for the the laugh lift. There are serious moments in A Civil Campaign, but mostly it’s like a particularly crazy episode of I Love Lucy. And maybe I snigger more than laugh at Deception, but I return to this romance like a favorite vacation spot. I am also fond of Jayne Ann Krentz’s futuristic romances which feature dust bunnies (like Silver Master).
Dear Committee Members, by Julie Schumacher
Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories, by Jean Shepherd
Dear Committee Members has made most of the people to whom I recommended it laugh out loud, also.
Sea Legs, by Alex Shearer
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson
I work in the youth services section of Transylvania County Library, in Brevard, North Carolina, and have a particular love for funny J-FIC books. I find that for reader’s advisory, this helps our patrons, too, as often they are looking for something funny to read. It used to be pretty hard to come up with books, but as of late, there is a lot available!
I love to read and laugh at Sea Legs, by Alex Shearer. It is an older book about a set of British twins who stow away on the cruise ship where their dad works. We only ever learn the name of the youngest twin (Clive, who has a face like a cow pie), as the story is told from the older, more responsible twin. This is quirky British humor at its best. There are lines that my boys still quote at home—for example, when someone is seen putting on airs, they are dubbed “Swankerwatsons” as in the book. You just have to read it to get it!
Another book that is wacky, funny, AND adventurous is Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson. This is a series in which a young man finds out he is part of a family with special powers—his is breaking things. This causes him a great deal of trouble until he finds out that the world he is living in is run by evil librarians who try to control knowledge that other worlds exist. All of Alcatraz’s family are named after prisons! Some of the family talents include: dancing spasmodically when music is played, falling right before something bad is about to happen, and getting lost (that is, disappearing unexpectedly). Also funny, if sometimes annoying, is the way the author will break in with his own agenda in the middle of a tense scene.
Well, there you have it: two funny J-FIC books that would probably be better understood by, and more funny to, adults!
Care of Wooden Floors, by Will Wiles
This is my favorite funny book. It is a tightly written story of a man who seems to have one strange and humorous mishap after another. He is apartment-sitting for his meticulous friend in a dingy, unnamed European city. The events are not funny in and of themselves (wine spilling and staining a very expensive floor), but the author (the apartment sitter) manages to present things in a delightfully wacky way. One catastrophe leads to another, and even the death of a cat becomes hilarious in Wiles’ hand(writing).
Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie
Most sci-fi fans will love the Leckie’s Imperial Radch trilogy, but the last book, Ancillary Mercy, made me laugh repeatedly at the behavior of the Translator, who is mostly human but was grown by an alien race for the purpose of communicating with humans. I must have laughed out loud a dozen times.
Also, and of course, almost anything by the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett!
The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion
I laughed out loud MANY times while I was reading The Rosie Project. Some situations were just so madcap and absurd. The whole fish-out-of-water, socially awkward person trying to fit in just does it for me, I guess. Like Bridget Jones. But I think sense of humor is like taste in music—very subjective. I’ll be interested to see what others have laughed at.
—Jori Frazier, Charlotte Mecklenburg Library
Other than Listening to the writings of David Sedaris (and having to pull off the road because I am laughing so hard), the following items have made me smile and laugh while reading them. The adult title, Thunderbolt Kid, captures life growing up in the Midwest during the mid-Twentieth Century. The trials and errors that the landscape of that place and time provided truly are worth remembering and celebrating. Sometimes it amazes me that we all made it to adulthood.
Though the other novels are written for teens, all three pull on the nostalgia strings of readers who were teens or young adults in the late-Twentieth Century century. References to and about the various cultural icons of that time make these novels truly fun reads.
—Renate Bernstein, Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Washington High School
Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome
The book that always makes me laugh is Three Men in a Boat—and just about anything by David Sedaris.
—Rita M. Moore, Roman Catholic High School, Philadelphia, PA
Us, by David Nicholls
I put this book first only because it’s the one I’d most recently read. I was fascinated by its first page because it sets itself like a depressing cry of a middle-aged man cast adrift. After a few chapters, however, I was tempted to call it subversive humor as the protagonist starts to describe how his life ended up at this point. But by the middle of the book, I was outright guffawing at scenes (especially one particular restaurant scene). Though the book is truly poignant, Nicholls breaks up the sappiness with these scenes that border on inane in the same vein of Little Miss Sunshine. I had little trouble imagining Martin Freeman (The Hobbit, Fargo, Watson BBC’s Sherlock Holmes) in the lead role if this were made into a movie.
—Candice C. Floyd, Prince George’s Community College Library, Largo, MD