It’s important to laugh. It’s essential. It can provide a welcome escape from all the chaos in the world. It’s a survival tactic that helps us get through difficult times when we don’t know-how. It helps us to make connections. Laughing together creates a bond and brings us closer. While a genuinely funny book is one of the best pleasures in life, it is not always as simple to find the true standouts. You can read on to find out more about the best funny books.
The Funniest Books Ever Written To Make You Laugh Out Loud
In 2009, we asked leading figures in comedy and literature for their nominations of the books that made them laugh out loud. We revisit the results and add some additional information from the Esquire team.
|Me Talk Pretty One Day||$11.29||Buy on Amazon|
|The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4||$9.99||Buy on Amazon|
|Foreskin's Lament: A Memoir||$16.00||Buy on Amazon|
|Lucky Jim (New York Review Books Classics)||$13.99||Buy on Amazon|
|The Nose||$7.99||Buy on Amazon|
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (2000)
Sedaris has written many funny books, and each one is hilarious in its own way. But this collection of Me Talk Pretty One Day of 27 essays will always remain our favorite.
Legally, it’s not allowed to compile a lust for funny books without at minimum one David Sedaris entry. Ipso is very, very passionate about this kind of thing. Me Talk Pretty One Day collection is divided into two parts. The first part is about Sedaris’ upbringing in North Carolina and his move to New York City. The second is about Sedaris’s move to France and his failed attempts to learn French and integrate. His French teacher tells him that “every day spent with you” is like having a cesarean. Magnifique.
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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend (1982)
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole may be British fiction’s best-known insight into the wildly egotistical mind of a teenage boy. Remarkably, it was written by an older woman. As the lonely teenager in suburban America writes, we can see his private thoughts and observations. We are forever aware that he is lying to us as well as himself. The series spanned eight funny books and ended with 2009’s The Prostrate Years. This book was published five years before Sue Townsend’s passing.
Foreskin’s Lament: A Memoir by Shalom Auslander (2009)
The title of Shalom Auslander’s memoir about his childhood in an ultra-Orthdox Jewish community, Monsey (New York), may seem a little outlandish. But don’t worry, there’s more. Auslander’s feisty, funny, and sometimes apoplectic memoir about his early family and spiritual experiences takes no prisoners. One reviewer said that it made The God Delusion look a lot like a parish newsletter. You might also enjoy Auslander’s comic book Hope about Anne Frank (yes, that was a “comic novel”). Or his latest, Mother For Lunch, about cannibals. This is not for the faint-hearted, but it is so delicious.
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (1954)
Kingsley Amis’s debut novel is his most funny and, despite the intense competition, his best. It features Jim Dixon, a young university lecturer, who is persecuted by Neddy’s son Bertrand (one of the most incredible comic bosses in literary history) and Margaret (who thinks she’s Jim’s girlfriend but who’s the most fist-gnawingly nervous bint in literature).
Will Jim throw Margaret away without Margaret topping herself? He can he keep his job as a sanitation worker? Why doesn’t he go out with Christine Bertrand, Bertrand’s gorgeous, large-breasted girl? Because that’s what it is, the formal nomination for most excellent comedy since the Second World War.
- New York Review of Books
The Nose by Nikolai Gogol (1836)
Since the mid-1800s, Russian literature has been influenced by Gogol’s bizarre, provocative, and constantly warping short stories. He doesn’t care about giving you huge lessons, like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. His diversionary, rambling style creates worlds around pompous, small-minded men who are trapped in ever more bizarre situations. The Nose is one example.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
This hilarious memoir is about coming of age and tells horrifying stories about falling in love and trying to fit in and realizing that many of life’s most absurd and embarrassing moments are the very same moments that shape who we are.
Born Standing Up By Steve Martin
Steve Martin was an entertainer at Disneyland and a magician before becoming the famous comedian you see today. This is a fun and charming retelling of his days.
I Can Make You Hate by Charlie Brooker
If you are a dark and twisted-sense person who loves sarcasm, I Can Make You Hate will be a great read. Brooker will make you laugh even if you are laughing at yourself.
I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, And Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith In Beyonce By Michael Arceneaux
Arceneaux grew up gay and black in Houston, Texas. He had to learn how to accept himself in a world that was constantly changing. His debut book covers everything, from coming out to his mother to how he nearly ended up in the priesthood.
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
This satirical novel about race was the first American author to win Man Booker Prize, the most significant literary award globally. Although it deals with a topic not ripe for comedy (suffering and racism aren’t funny), it makes every absurd premise and gag feel essential. The story centers on a black man living in Los Angeles who attempts to save his dying community by introducing slavery and segregation. He ends up in front of the Supreme Court. The main character, who is unidentified, observes that history has its problems. We like to believe it’s a book that we can turn the pages and continue.
- The Sellout
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
Yes, we know you have seen John Cusack’s movie version. Trust us, Nick Hornby’s novel has 1,000% more. It explores the delicious nerddom of one man, his obsession with his records, and the women that he hopes to win over by his songs. “What came first? The music or the misery?” Rob, the main character, wonders at one point. “Did the music make me miserable?” Or was it that I was miserable because I listened? This best-selling novel is filled with funny and familiar moments that you may have heard a lot about.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
After watching a rerun of the TV series, I read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. As a young man, my appreciation for humor was changed when I discovered the radio play and the original four funny books. Adams created Hitchhiker’s, a delightful blend of science fiction and wit that would continue to entertain people of all ages. It was full of brilliantly ironic characters, imagination, and esoteric tech. It also provided the answer to everything, including life and the universe: 42.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith (2000)
White Teeth’s subtle humor is found in the everyday flaws and absurd fates two multicultural families navigate post-war London’s complex realities of race roots religion. Her debut novel is light on heavy topics, which she accomplished at just 18 years old.
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Not That Kind Of Girl by Lena Dunham
This hilariously wise collection of personal essays from Lena Dunham will appeal to Tina Fey, Nora Ephron, and David Sedaris fans. You will find yourself both laughing and learning from her insightful anecdotes.
Based on a True Story by Norm Macdonald (2016)
Norm Macdonald, a stand-up veteran, and former Saturday Night Live cast member, inspires cultish devotion in America but has never made much of a name. It’s our loss. David Letterman, a late-night host who has shared a stage alongside some of the most famous comedians over the past 40 years, described Macdonald “funny” in a way that makes people exhale and inhale […] Although there may be others as funny as Norm (or anyone else), I don’t know anyone funnier.
Weird, But Normal: Essays
This book is a must-read for all weirdos. Mia Mercado’s relatable and refreshing brand of humor tackles the daily foibles of human existence and recasts them in a way that is both harrowing yet hilarious. Her intelligence and wit combine with insightful observations about race, gender, and identity through honest observations about the norms and weirdnesses of our modern world and what that is even about. To be a book lover, you must read these 16 funny books.
- Mercado, Mia (Author)
I Was Told There’d Be Cake By Sloane Crosley
Crosley’s first essay collection is funny and wise. It covers everything, from her horrible first job (where she accidentally provokes anger at her boss), to siccing cops on her mysterious neighbor to the Oregon Trail computer games. You can ford the river!
In Persuasion Nation by George Saunders
You can imagine George Orwell as a man with a wicked sense of humor. This is how you will get a sense of precisely what to expect in a George Saunders story. Saunders cleverly satirizes our consumer culture and the media-saturated world, whether it’s parents attaching masks to their children to make them more appealing and verbal or selling orphans off to a market research company where they become “Tastemakers & Trendsetters.”
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
When a book starts with “We were somewhere around Barstow at the edge of the desert when the drugs began taking hold,” you know you are in for a wild ride. Thompson, the late Thompson, recounts his adventures in Las Vegas as a lawyer. They broke more laws and consumed more illegal drugs than is humanly possible. Although it is possible to argue that the whole story is a hallucination, and it doesn’t happen as Thompson describes it, it’s hard not to care with prose so funny and outrageous.
Sex, Drugs, And Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman
This “low culture manifesto,” which is hilarious, covers everything from the importance and power of breakfast to the charming power of Dixie Chicks.
A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace (1997)
Although Infinite Jest is his most famous work, this collection of essays highlights his talents as literature’s best pop culture critic. His best stories include his explorations of the underbelly and luxuries of Middle American tourism. He visited the Illinois State Fair or took a seven-day luxury cruise to the Caribbean. He writes, “I have seen sucrose beaches and water that is a very bright color.” I have seen a red leisure suit with flared sleeves and all-red color. “what suntan lotion smells like spread over 21,000 pounds of hot flesh.”
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
Twain’s humorous and often shrewd observations of Europe while on tour are surprisingly satirical, especially since he mocks tourists who don’t know much about travel. This book is timeless, and it’s a delight to read. Continue reading for the best Mark Twain Books.
The World According to Garp by John Irving
John Irving, as a child, never knew his biological father. He once said to his mother that he would fabricate his father’s story if his mother refused to reveal anything. She told him, “Go ahead dear,” and the novel about T.S., a man, came to be. Garp is the son of a feminist icon and a soldier who died before Garp was born (it’s a long tale), and he struggles to find his identity in a world that treats him as an outsider. He meets a variety of misfits, including a transsexual ex-football player and a dog who loves to lick his ears (who must be careful about his ears).
Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris (2007)
Extract: Jim Jackers worked hard on the pro bono ads. He had been steadily working on them for a few hours since his return from Chris Yop’s throw of his chair in Lake Michigan. He looked up at the blank page and saw that it was only three-fifteen. He concluded that today was the longest day in his entire life. He was not only called an idiot, but he couldn’t even come up with a funny comment about breast cancer.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
A Confederacy of Dunces, if you can accept the tragedy of its publication, then it is a comedy masterpiece whose pages sing with one of literature’s most fabulous fictional creations. John Kennedy Toole was the author of the novel, set in New Orleans in the 1960s. His failure to find a publisher for it led to Toole’s suicide in 1969. The irony is only made worse by the novel’s success and subsequent Pulitzer award in ’81.
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I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
Nora Ephron is the author behind rom-com classics like Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally. She writes in this essay collection with witty humor, relatable honesty, and observations about being a woman of a certain age. You will feel close to your friend and laugh with them, especially in I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Allie Brosh started the blog to create bizarre Microsoft Paint illustrations of dogs, cakes, and her struggles with depression. She quickly gained a following, and her best work was featured in this fantastic collection. Even Bill Gates, the billionaire Microsoft co-founder, praised it as “funny” and “smart.” I must have stopped (my wife) Melinda at least a dozen times to listen to the passages that made me laugh out loud.
Shrill by Lindy West
The brilliant and funny book by Lindy West about being a woman who has lots to say was made into a TV show on Hulu. It stars Aidy Bryant from SNL. West shares her journey as a writer and comedian in a world that doesn’t consider women funny. With scathing wit, West writes about misogyny and fatphobia. She also shares her experiences with internet trolls. She has met one of them in person. West will encourage you to be brave and show you how to find your inner strength.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
This book is a shameless look at the childhood of Tina Fey as an awkward nerd. It also includes her Saturday Night Live breakthrough and her personal experiences as a mom eating off the floor. It’s impossible not to laugh at her tales about her nearly-fatal honeymoon.
The White Boy Shuffle By Paul Beatty
This is a hilarious debut novel about an awkward black surfer who becomes a basketball star and a reluctant messiah.
The Importance of Being Ernest
Oscar Wilde’s 1915 play is still a rollicking read. Wilde was the original creator of witty banter, and this dialogue delivers. This story is about two men who fall in love with two women. It’s full of hilarious twists, turns, and madcap chaos. Enjoy timeless language that will still bring you a lot of laughter.
Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin
This collection of short stories will make you feel like you are reuniting old friends. It isn’t easy to pick a favorite story. Stories like “Poodles…Great Eating” and “How To Fold Soup” are favorites. But, we love the title story about a pair of “hideous black and white pumps” that were made to torture feet with razor blades and impossible angles. The story ends happily, spoiler alert.
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (2006)
Although I was a convert to Bill Bryson, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid was the only book I could find. After only three pages, I was laughing out loud. I can’t remember the last time a book made it so easy for me to do this. The Lost Continent was Bryson’s first book, published in 1989. He was a huge success, but his funny books became increasingly lame, filled with stereotypes and formulaic. They were a cozy laugh for boring old farts.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman (2017)
Elif Batuman, a New Yorker writer, has accomplished something remarkable with her sophomore novel. Despite it describing the love life of Selin and several of her self-absorbed classmates at Harvard in the Nineties, it is so well written that you won’t want it to be thrown across the room. It is hard to believe that young people can ramble on about linguistics, dropping Russian literary references in every sentence. Batuman’s skill in undermining the pretentiousness of her characters at the right time, and with observations that are honest-sounding but never mean – you can root for them until the end.
- Batuman, Elif (Author)
Good Omens By Terry Pratchett And Neil Gaiman
This unlikely pairing of writers produced a bizarre, Good Omens – a fake-serious book about Satan’s birth and the coming of the end.
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons (1932)
Stella Gibbon’s debut novel, Stella Gibbon, is a comedic tour de force for anyone who hears “Duelling Banjos” when they enter the country. It’s an iced Martini against the bucolic English literary tradition. The book is a kind of 1930s cousin to Withnail & I. It describes a season that Flora Poste, an orphaned London socialite, spent with her rural relations, the Starkadders.
Every stereotype about rural life is subverted in this hilarious farce. If you don’t weep with delight at the short, brilliant farce, then you are genuinely devoid of souls. Flora is beautiful, charmingly funny, and arch. Flora could be the sexiest female in English fiction 20th century.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Mindy Kaling’s trademark wit is accompanied by a lot of brilliance in this memoir. It details Mindy’s life as the daughter of immigrants and how she got her fame for her comedy. She was a writer and performer on the critically-acclaimed, ever-ironic, and hilariously soulful The Office. She was also the star of, executive producer, and writer for her hit show, The Mindy Project. She is a funny, honest, and tell-it-like-it-is, hilarious comedian.
A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
Charlie Asher is the protagonist in this absurdist tale. He is an ordinary man who is selected to be a “death dealer” to rescue the souls of the dead and protect them against the forces of the underworld. The new job changes Charlie’s life and leads the reader on a crazy journey full of lunacy that is impossible to not laugh at.
- Harper Paperbacks
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (2018)
Although not lacking in heart-stopping suspense, this dark comedy is about Korede, an African woman whose sister Ayoola has a bad habit of killing her boyfriends.
Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café by Fannie Flagg (1987)
An affection story about a family and a generation centers on a cafe in Alabama’s railroad town of Whistle Stop. Harper Lee called Flagg “richly comic,” and he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Flagg employs humor and cruelty to discuss race, lesbianism, and family in America’s Deep South.
Born A Crime: Stories From A South African Childhood By Trevor Noah
Trevor Noah was born to a white Swiss mother and a black Xhosa mother. His unlikely journey from apartheid South Africa to The Daily Show desk began with a crime: Noah’s birth. His parents’ union was punishable by five years in prison. His touching and hilarious memoir tell the story of how he navigated a complex world with funny and his mother’s unorthodox, unconditional love.
We Are Never Meeting In Real Life: Essays By Samantha Irby
This book will make you laugh. In this collection of essays, one of the funniest writers of our time covers how her difficult childhood led to a problem in making “adult” budgets, a disastrous pilgrimage-slash-romantic-vacation to Nashville to scatter her estranged father’s ashes, how to navigate friendships with former drinking buddies who are now suburban moms and more.
Comedy can change the way we think and how we act the funniest books about something that matters can be a hugely effective way of reaching people. Learning to laugh at yourself is a powerful tool throughout life and being silly now and then is fun.
Last update on 2021-10-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API