Thursday, April 7, 2016
F is for Funny
Many books include humor, but I don't tend to read many books that are billed solely as comedy. Here are ten books that I have found funny enough to laugh out loud. (Which always seems to freak out people around me. "What's so funny?" they ask, as if I could possibly convey the entire buildup of character and situation that led up to the moment that jolted actual laughter from me.)
1. Mr. Putter and Tabby Pick the Pears by Cynthia Rylant. My kids and I love these easy readers, all of which include plenty of gentle humor. But this book caught us all off guard when, the day after Mr. Putter spends an afternoon merrily slingshotting apples over his roof, his neighbor shows up completely bewildered by the sudden appearance of fruit all over her yard. It doesn't sound that funny when I write it like that, but as part of the book, it struck us all as absolutely hilarious.
2. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Silly, silly people doing and saying funny, funny things. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes obliviously. I went through a stage in high school where I read a lot of plays, and I will always have a soft spot for this one. There's a particular brand of humor I associate with Brits of a certain era--Jeeves and Wooster, Three Men in a Boat--and this play has it all.
3. The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America and Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson. My introduction to Bryson's humor came from these two travelogues, one set on a youthful backpacking trip in Europe with the same guy he later hiked part of the Appalachian Trail with, and the other a reflection on returning to the USA after a dozen years in England. These books are among the few that made my shelf tidying binge a few years back, because unlike fiction, I don't read them to find out what happens next, so they bear up to re-reading. Come to think of it, I should pull one off the shelf and read a few chapters next time I'm feeling grumpy.
4. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things that Happened by Allie Bosch. So, part of this book is a pretty direct and painful look at depression, which just ain't that funny. The rest of it--oh my god. The title does a great job at describing the hilarious memories she shares. (The depression part is really good too, in case you were wondering.)
5. Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems. When my daughter came home from kindergarten and asked if we could go to the library and look for books by Mo Willems, I rushed to comply, although I suspected we would be looking for a Maurice Williams. Turns out she was exactly right. Gerald and Piggie books are great for beginning readers, with natural repetition, all sorts of helpful text features, etc. etc., but really, they are just funny. So funny. If I didn't have kids, I would still get these books at the library. That funny.
6. Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli. This book is sweet and cute and charming, and it's also full of cheeky one-liners and zingy repartee. I chuckled my way through it.
7. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. Surely you've read this series. The trials and tribulations of teenaged Georgia Nicolson are made all the funnier by her gorgeously British voice. Is "full frontal snogging" as funny if you're British? It can't be.
8. I A a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want To Be Your Class President by Josh Lieb. Next in my trio of books whose names alone would have gotten them onto this list, IAAGOUEAIWTBYCP tells the story of a cynical 8th grade genius with decidedly comic book worthy secrets who, against his own better judgement, sets out to try to prove himself to his dad by competing with the subpar for the adoration and respect of his inferiors.
9. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. A book about a middle school kid whose little brother gets cancer. And I put this on my funny list why? Well, because like Albertelli, Sonnenblick writes hilarious dialogue and wry internal commentary for his teenaged protagonist.
10. A Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible by A. J. Jacobs. This is one of those books where somebody undergoes an extreme lifestyle change for the sake of getting a book deal out of it. Jacobs is well suited for this career, embracing his challenge with gusto and writing with self awareness and compassion that keeps him from coming off as a giant jerk. My favorite bit is probably when his wife, fed up with the situation, sits on every chair and couch in their apartment while on her period, since he can't sit anywhere a menstruating woman has sat. I think he's reduced to crouching on some boxes, well aware that he completely deserves it.