Reading for the Laughs
Laughter is a difficult thing to draw from a page. Humor is subjective, fickle, cultural and not always timeless. It follows trends - is it fashionable to be sarcastic, dry, satirical, or crass? Is it bound to a certain language or a particular moment in history? Below you will find a list of books and stories that showcase a range of types humor and are at times side-splittingly funny.
David Sedaris is a master of his craft. His essays feel extremely honest, are painfully human and are often embarrassingly funny. If you are not familiar with his wit, beware! You will find yourself laughing out loud wherever you happen to be reading. Start with a classic like Naked or Me Talk Pretty One Day.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is a unique work of brilliance. Acquaint yourself with Ignatius J. Reilly, the "hero" in this Pulitzer Prize-winning tragicomedy, as he sloths his way through the world with nothing but irrelevant philosophy, relentless criticism for everything, and his faulty "valve". Somewhere in the seams of this hilarious and intricately woven story is a deep satirical commentary on our own futile wars with culture, society, and existence.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon examines Christopher Boone at a formative moment in this autistic 15-year-old's life. It is at times brilliantly funny, touching, and sad. This is the kind of book that allows you to walk in another’s shoes and empathize in a way that is a reminder of the humanity that exists in all of us, while subtly (and humorously) criticizing a society that demands conformity. Mark Haddon’s novel has been adapted into a Tony award-winning Broadway play that is well worth the ticket if you have the opportunity.
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is the first in a trilogy by Douglas Adams. If you enjoyed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (or Doctor Who) you will find more of Adam’s silly brand of bizarre humor and ludicrous storytelling between the pages of this wonderful "detective-ghost-horror-whodunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic". The BBC has recently adapted it into a show that is different enough from the books that neither will be ruined by the other - though I always recommend reading the book first.