Laughter is the best medicine. It’s better to laugh than to cry. These common sayings have stuck around for decades because they’re true. Humans love to laugh. We tell jokes, play pranks, read the Sunday comics, and seek out humor in the form of films, television shows, and comedy acts. Sometimes, we even read really, really funny books.
Humor is an actual section at the bookstore, and has its own Dewey Decimal classification at the library and a best sellers category in The New York Times. As adults, I think we too often view reading as a very serious activity. Sure, we could read The Fountainhead or a Ulysses S. Grant biography and do some heavy thinking, but we could also read any number of laugh-out-loud books and still feel properly nourished in our brains and in our souls.
When looking for a great book to tickle your funny bone, the obvious place to start is with comedians and other celebrities who earn a living by being funny. It shouldn’t surprise us that these masters of comedy would also be able to craft incredible essay compilations or memoirs, with stories that are at times silly and at other times so pointedly honest that you can’t help but laugh. Past readers will know that I am a fan of the celebrity memoir. As a result, I have read some truly funny books, ranging from raunchy (every Chelsea Handler memoir) to witty (Tina Fey’s modern classic, Bossypants), and a whole lot in between. I’ve enjoyed fantastic books from two of my favorite sitcom stars, Mindy Kaling (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me and Why Not Me?) and Amy Poehler (Yes, Please).
Other examples of humorous celebrity memoirs or collected essays–the quality of which I cannot personally vouch for, though I hear they’re awesome– include:
About ten years ago, a friend recommended David Sedaris’ work, which is a particular brand of self-deprecating memoir that’s especially funny. I loved every second of Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and Holidays on Ice. I should note that years later, I still remember laughing out loud during Sedaris’ tale of working as a Macy’s Christmas elf.
Fans of satire can look to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for some political and historical humor, by way of America (the book): A Citizen’s Guide to Inaction, Earth (the book): A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race, I Am America (and So Can You!), America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, and I Am a Pole (And So Can You!).
Fiction, the place of heavy-hitters like War and Peace and Moby Dick is also the place where you can find some classic funny novels, like Bridget Jones’s Diary, Where’d You Go Bernadette, Today will be Different, Skinny Dip, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories, and I Love You, Beth Cooper (a delightfully madcap book I devoured in one sitting and which read like a great John Hughes comedy) to name just a few.
You don’t have to be an adult to read funny books! We have so many great young adult books in the Teen Lounge to keep you in stitches, and here are just a few:
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews (not technically a funny book, as implied by the very serious title, but there are several surprising moments of levity, including some very funny jokes about puppets, that convince me it belongs on this list)
FYI: The Young Adult Department has a binder full of book recommendations and read-alikes available for you to browse at any time.
Finally, I think it’s a pretty established fact that children get to read some of the funniest books ever written! If you haven’t read a picture book in awhile, you should, just for the fun of it. All of Mo Willems’ books are hysterical, including the Elephant & Piggie series and every book featuring The Pigeon. Bob Shea and Jan Thomas often write simple, yet laugh-out-loud picture books sure to make both children and adults giggle. Some other funny picture books include:
This is a Serious Book by Jodie Parachini
For older readers, the laughs continue with chapter book series like Captain Underpants, Timmy Failure, The Terrible Two, I Funny, Dear Dumb Diary, The Princess in Black, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Other standouts include:
Our Children’s Department also has a genre bibliography and a team of librarians ready to hand out recommendations sure to keep you in stitches.
Stop by and have a laugh at the library (just maybe not too loud a laugh). We hope to see you here!