If you’re anything like me, your typical reading material is pretty heavy. Not that serious books can’t contain the occasional gag, but a truly funny book can be a great palate cleanser. Here are five I recommend, organized by humor style so you can find your bookish soulmate.
If your sense of humor is…
Off-color and sarcastic
…you should read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.
“Someday, Locke Lamora,” he said, “someday, you’re going to fuck up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will shit comets with glee. And I just hope I’m still around to see it.”
Locke Lamora and his gang, the Gentleman Bastards, are thieves. “A different sort of thief,” as Locke’s mentor would explain, who “don’t believe in hard work when a false face and a good line of bullshit can do so much more.”
This series has it all. Suspense! Adventure! Fight scenes! Insults! Fart jokes! I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Clever and deadpan
…you should read Hogfather by Terry Pratchett.
“And there’s the sign, Ridcully,” said the Dean. “You have read it, I assume. You know? The sign which says ‘Do not, under any circumstances, open this door’?”
“Of course I’ve read it,” said Ridcully. “Why d’yer think I want it opened?”
“Er…why?” said the Lecturer in Recent Runes.
“To see why they wanted it shut, of course.”
This exchange contains almost all you need to know about human civilization. At least, those bits of it that are now under the sea, fenced off, or still smoking.
Is it cheating to put Terry Pratchett on a list of funny book recommendations? Maybe it is. Sue me.
Pratchett’s Discworld series is up there with Hitchhiker’s Guide when it comes to sci-fi/fantasy humor legends. But I’m sure there are still a few people in the world, like me, who haven’t read every Pratchett book in existence already, and to those people I say: get to work.
…you should read Winterdance by Gary Paulsen.
They hit the end of the driveway wide open, hung a left, or started to. Cookie pulled them out trying to get down the road and recognized our old trapline sled trail from the year before (we had not run it yet because there had been no snow) and with great joy left the road and ripped into the woods followed by fourteen wild dogs and one screaming man on a sled. […]
I had seen a U.S. Forestry Service survey of the tree count in the north woods—tens of thousands per square mile—and I hit every single one of them. Or so it seemed.
Winterdance is 272 pages of pure chaos, interspersed with descriptions of nature and dogs that read like love poetry.
Despite Paulsen’s clearly heartfelt reverence for the wilderness and its inhabitants, it’s frankly a damn miracle that he survived his preparation for and participation in the Iditarod. It’s a trainwreck from start to finish. What makes the book even funnier is that his account, even when it acknowledges the insanity of his choices, contains not a single trace of either chagrin or self-deprecation.
Satirical and dark
…you should read Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut.
“No wonder kids grow up crazy. A cat’s cradle is nothing but a bunch of X’s between somebody’s hands, and little kids look and look and look at all those X’s…”
“No damn cat, and no damn cradle.”
Vonnegut was my first brush with satire. I’d venture a guess that he might’ve been for other readers as well. It’s been a long time since I first read Cat’s Cradle, but paging through to find a suitably descriptive quote has made me want to dive back in.
Why didn’t I pick Slaughterhouse-Five? It’s arguably more famous—and its popularity is deserved—but I preferred this one. (Vonnegut himself apparently couldn’t decide; he once undertook to give each of his books a letter grade, and both Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle received the coveted A+). There’s just something about a good Armageddon story, especially when it’s told with as much pithy wit and irony as this one.
Witty and self-deprecating
…you should read Bossypants by Tina Fey.
Because I am nothing if not an amazing businesswoman, I researched what kind of content makes for bestselling books. It turns out the answer is “one-night stands,” drug addictions, and recipes. Here, we are out of luck. But I can offer you lurid tales of anxiety and cowardice.
Confession: I haven’t actually read this one yet. It’s high on my TBR list, and in fact will be factoring into the 24-hour Readathon this Saturday—if interlibrary loan manages to come through for me in time. The quote above is taken from the book’s introduction, which I read using Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, and only managed to tear myself away from with the greatest of effort in order to come back here and finish this blog post (there are a few additional chapters available to browse as well). I can’t wait to read the whole thing!
What are your favorite funny books? Hit me with some recommendations!
This post was inspired by Top Ten Tuesday, a meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.