Your Friday Five
My two favorite kinds of books are those that make me laugh and those that make me supremely uncomfortable. If a book can do both, it has my heart forever.
If you find dark comedies as satisfying as I do, you might want to try one or more of the following titles:
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
Camille and Caleb Fang are performance artists, revered in the art world for causing chaotic scenes in public. Their kids, Buster and Annie, have both worked hard to distance themselves from their parents and their upbringing. But now, as adults, the siblings find themselves with no choice but to return to the home -- and the chaos -- of their childhood. This book both delighted and disturbed me, and its wackiness and wit had me frequently laughing out loud.
White Noise by Don Delillo
This is the story of Jack Gladney, a man who is the chair of the very first department of Hitler Studies but does not speak German, and who wears glasses but doesn't need them. If grappling with the anxiety of being exposed as a fraud in his career, as well as a less-than-stellar family life and the simultaneously overwhelming and humdrum consumerism of the 1980s weren't bad enough, Jack must now also face a potentially apocalyptic event. The darkness in this one is super dark, and the comedy super wry.
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
Seventeen-year-old Austin is a recorder of history. He's also in love with his girlfriend. And his best friend. And oh yeah, his small town in Iowa is being overtaken by six-foot-tall man-eating insects. This 2015 Printz-Award nominee is raunchy, irreverent, honest, and twisted, and is a good choice for both lovers of science fiction and those who don't often dip into the genre.
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
I don't normally enjoy reading plays, but this short absurdist work is an exception. As the title suggests, not a whole lot happens plot-wise (other than a whole lot of waiting around), but lovers of language will delight in the nonsense, wordplay, and tone, which is by turns grim and whimsical. One famous staging cast Robin Williams and Steve Martin as the main characters, an indication of how hilarious this work truly is.
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
Attention, lovers of children's literature, this one's for you. Both homage to and parody of the characters and tropes commonly found in the beloved classics of your youth, this is the story of four siblings -- Tim, Jane, and twins Barnaby A and Barnaby B -- who plot to become orphans when their awful parents leave them to go on a long-term vacation. Look out for nods to Mary Poppins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Secret Garden and more. A note of warning: if you need a story to have likeable characters, this might not be your bag; though there is some character growth, everyone in this book is kind of (and in my opinion, thrillingly) terrible.