Friday, October 17, 2008

A love letter to books that made me laugh out loud

As I was racking my brain and browsing my shelves for five books to put on this list, I realized that some of my picks are actually quite specific to my experience. What makes me laugh may not make others laugh. I tend to like a lot of snark, sarcasm, and black humor.

Are you experienced? by William Suttcliffe
This is a must read for anyone who has ever gone backpacking, hung out with backpackers or wants to see the realities of backpacking viciously made fun of. In the book, British teen David Greenfield follows his current crush Liz on a 3 month backpacking tour to India, not so much because he cares about expanding his horizons, but more because he wants a relationship with Liz. Along the way, David meets an “enlightened” backpacker who calls himself J, two “selfless” (and hopelessly misguided) girls who volunteer at a leper colony, a wealthy Indian Ranj who is running away from his prominent family, and an extremely hostile journalist. Good times!

The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey
This is a macabre rhyming alphabet book that features illustrations of 26 children either dead, dying, or about to die in a variety of ways. “A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil assaulted by bears.” I think my favorite is “Neville who died of ennui” but they are all so delightful absurd, that I come back to this book again and again.

Thank You For Smoking by Christopher Buckley
I am a militant anti-smoker, but I’m also annoyed by much of the whole PC movement. I picked this book up while I was working on a project for Philip Morris (advertising for a potential reduced exposure product or PREP that is billed as “the polite way to smoke” because it reduces secondhand smoke so dramatically – unfortunately, it also looks like a medical device) and the way it skewered the cigarette industry really fit my own experience. In the book, the main character, Nick Naylor, is a reviled tobacco lobbyist who hangs out with his fellow “merchants of death” – a firearm lobbyist and an alcohol lobbyist. When someone tries to kill Nick with an overdose of nicotine patches, it’s up to the MOD squad to get to the bottom of it. It’s very over the top and very funny.

Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same: The Life and Times of Some Chickens
Visual artist Sloane Tanen painstakingly arranged plastic chicks in elaborate dioramas and then wrote hilarious captions to accompany them. It’s kind of hard to explain how funny this is to someone who hasn’t seen it, but it is very funny. One of my favorites is a diorama with the chicks packed into a toy station wagon with suitcases on top and there is a sign for a fried chicken restaurant. The caption says “An eerie silence quickly enveloped the Cohen family wagon. That last turn had been a grave mistake. They were no longer en route to California but heading south, deep into the heart of Kentucky.”

The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson
Ok, this is cheating a bit, but I love the Far Side. This massive volume purports to contain every published Far Side cartoon and a few unpublished ones as well. LOVE!

Honorable mentions: Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, David Sedaris, Jasper Fforde’s Tuesday Next series, Tom Robbins.

What books made you laugh so hard you fell out of your chair or snorted milk out your nose?


Alea said...

Oooh! I love Edward Gorey! The Gashlycrumb Tinies is a good one for sure! I also love Bitter with Baggage Seeks Same! I actually had the calendar to go along with it one year!

And also in agreement about Lemony Snicket and David Sedaris!

I can't think of any to add right now, too early in the morning :D

Beth Kephart said...

Lenore, you are so darned consistently interesting.

allisonmariecat said...

Oh, Edward Gorey is so disturbing...yet hilarious.

Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series has cracked me up. Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. A memoir of a television writer who retires in his twenties called Early Bird by Rodney Rothman had the guy next to me on the plane trying to inch away from me as I laughed and snorted through it (a twentysomething overwhelmed by BINGO is pretty funny). A couple of recent mysteries: Brigadom! by Susan Goodwill and Death of a Cozy Writer by G.M. Mailliet. David Sedaris, obviously. Well, I've gone over five...

Just added Thank You For Smoking to my amazon cart :)

Amy said...

That is so true about how the books that make us laugh come out of our own experience! :)

I often find great humor that no one else gets!

Lenore said...

Alea - Isn't Gorey great?! Bitter with Baggage must have been quite successful because there are a lot of sequels and merchendice.

Beth - I'm blushing!

Allion - You mention a couple I don't know - will have to check them out :)

Amy - yes, I am often laughing by myself.

Alea said...

I have the Bitter with Baggage sequel but about 2 months ago I discovered several other books of hers! It is crazy! One time on vacation I happened on a box of teeny tiny chickens like those and totally bought them! So cute! I think it was around Easter!

Jena said...

Happiness by Will Ferguson. Reviews at my blog and at Kittling: Books ( When I think of funny books, this is the first one that comes to mind, every time. And Harry Potter. Those Weasley twins cracked me up.

Lenore said...

alea - what, are you going to make some of your own? Book reviewing chickens who are addicted to books? That would be so wicked!

Jena - Happiness does sound really funny! Wishlisted :)

Alea said...

LOL! Who knows! I did take this picture of them though!

Does that link work?

alisonwonderland said...

i'm reading my first Thursday Next book for the read-a-thon today. i've laughed out loud several times! :)

joanna said...

some really good suggestions there, thanks!
Listening to Bill Bryson's The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid made me laugh out loud!

Ali said...

Christopher Moore's "Lamb" and "Fluke" both made me laugh out loud many times.

Michele said...

My first thought was Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series. That is some serious laughing, especially in the first 5 or 6 books in the series. I also enjoy Thursday Next!

Lenore said...

alea - that's great!

alison - they are funny aren't they? Jasper is entertaining in person too. I met him a few years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

joanna - I need to read some of Bill Bryson for sure.

ali - I read his Blood Sucking Fiends and thought it was quite fun.

Michele - I never read any of the Stephanie Plum series. Will have to check it out someday.