“Funny” is a subjective thing. Some of these authors and books are laugh-out-loud funny, some are snicker-behind-your-hand funny. Some are witty and literate, some are gross-out humorous. Some are laugh-until-your-sides-split books and others are laugh-through-your-tears books. Gentle and light, or dark and twisty, there’s a flavor of funny for every reader!
Jennifer Crusie’s best-selling Contemporary Romance novels offer humor, interesting and well-developed characters in complex and satisfying relationships. Elements of Mystery and Suspense meet a satisfying love story. Her characters are strong, quirky types with modern values. Readers will find steamy sex and snappy dialogue, with female characters that speak frankly and take pleasure in sexual relationships. These are fast-paced, upbeat, humorous stories that address issues in human relationships — among lovers, families, and friends.
Janet Evanovich is best known for her mystery series featuring bounty-hunter-in-training Stephanie Plum, who is often assisted by her eccentric grandmother and equally inept friends and co-workers. While she’s sassy and “smart-mouthed,” Stephanie’s incompetence invites both sympathy and humor. The villains are also more incompetent than evil, and solving the mystery simply creates a backdrop for Stephanie’s antics. Though set in urban New Jersey, these slapstick mysteries have a small town feel as the neighborhood’s denizens play minor roles. Evanovich also wrote humorous contemporary romances and has produced some other slapstick mystery/adventure series.
Originally a journalist, Helen Fielding kicked off the Chick Lit phenomenon in 1997 with her novel Bridget Jones’s Diary. The story of a young British woman trying to make sense of her life, from her weight to her family to her romantic situations, this funny novel touched a nerve with readers across the globe, with a fast-paced diary format and realistic look at a modern young woman striking out on her own. Her other novels are comic satire, with much darker humor, and less breezy in tone than the Bridget Jones books.
Jasper Fforde draws from many genres — detective novels, Mysteries, Police Procedurals, Fantasy, Literary Fiction, Science Fiction, Literary Classics. Tongue-in-cheek language, witty dialogue, and constant literary references strike a lighthearted — but not empty-headed — tone. Characters are likable and quirky. Satire combines with jocularity: corporate group-think and reading’s decline are targets in his popular Thursday Next series; one’s ability to see the color spectrum governs social mobility in his more recent Shades of Grey series. Fforde excels, however, at laugh-aloud improbable situations in all his works.
Carl Hiaasen’s hilarious satiric thrillers for adults combine bizarre characters, madcap antics, caustic wit, and a vivid depiction of Florida as a sultry natural paradise debased by human greed and folly. The violence in his books is not very graphic, with much left to the imagination. Some episodes of extreme cruelty and depravity may be too much for the squeamish, and there is ample sex and profanity. His books for teens feature eco-themes as well, but are very well-suited to younger readers.
Though Johnson’s novels run the gamut in geographical setting, protagonist, and even time period, they are unmistakably of a piece. Her critically acclaimed narrative style makes each scene unshakably real for us, and, more than just presenting a scene, she transmits the feelings and atmosphere of each situation to her readers. A skilled travel writer and essayist, Johnson excels at conveying the look and feel of exotic locations, be they Paris of Persia (Iran) or, perhaps most foreign of all to many Americans, California. (From Penguin Publishers)
The same qualities that endear fans to the radio show A Prairie Home Companion, hosted by Garrison Keillor, characterize the books that Keillor has published. They manage to be folksy and humorous and gentle without diluting the author’s intelligence or message. In his novels, Keillor paints portraits of the ordinary lives of small-town people in a tight community, while in his nonfiction Keillor applies his intriguing social commentaries to politics and current events.
Tom Robbins is the clown prince of the literary counterculture, a freewheeling raconteur whose anti-establishment message champions environmental harmony, consciousness-raising, and freedom from societal, religious and sexual repression and oppression. His works draw on an eclectic array of inspirations, including feminism, Zen Buddhism, pragmatism, primitivism, and his own bright irony and joyous sense of the absurd. Building interesting, if wacky, plots on these themes and attitudes, he appeals to readers who appreciate his trickster philosophy amply illustrated by the screwball antics, zany characters, irrepressible one-liners and word play that run rampant throughout his work.
An Indiana native known for his folksy but biting short stories and commentaries on everyday life.
Fans of irreverent slapstick humor and British social satire will enjoy the work of acclaimed and prolific English humorist P. G. Wodehouse. His comically intricate tales of romantic goofs, eccentric aristocrats, and cunning servants involve hilariously hare-brained schemes that, of course, cause more problems than they solve. Wodehouse has been praised for his elegant, stylish, and witty prose, which blends upper-crust English refinement with colorful contemporary slang, and his ability to write acutely perceptive and inventive witticisms satirizing society and culture.
Science fiction with a sense of humor summarizes Douglas Adams’s well-known Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a satire which follows a human and his alien friend through a series of misadventures. That work and its sequels comically skewer the conventions of science fiction. Adams brings his adoit sense of humor to other genres as well, tackling detective fiction with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, and non-fiction. More than just a satirist, Adams presents well rounded comic characters, not just cardboard cutouts designed for laughs.
Robert Asprin spins fast-paced, plot-driven, and action-packed tales of science fiction or fantasy; often blending the two and adding elements of mystery or military fiction. Dramatic and offbeat in tone, Asprin’s writing is engaging and witty in style. With puns and other wordplay, his fiction is often funny (sometimes with dark humor), and he often spoofs real-world events, places, and characters. Though he has stand-alone novels, most of his books form several different series, and readers have many opportunities to dive into the further adventures of their favorite characters.
Dave Barry. Tricky Business.
The Extravaganza of the Seas is a 5,000-ton cash cow, a top-heavy tub whose sole function is to carry gamblers three miles from the Florida coast, take their money, then bring them back so they can find more money. In the middle of a tropical storm one night, these are among the people who will be involved with it: Fay Benton, a single mom and cocktail waitress desperate for something to go right for a change; Johnny and the Contusions, a ship’s band with so little talent they are, well, the ship’s band; Arnold and Phil, two refugees from the Beaux Arts Senior Center; Lou Tarant, a wide, bald man who has killed nine people, though none recently; and an assortment of uglies with names like Tark and Kaz whose job it is to facilitate the ship’s true business, which is money laundering or drug smuggling or… something. What happens to them all in the midst of the fiercest storm in years, the unpredictable ways in which this trip will change their lives and send them ricocheting off one another like a giant game of pinball, is the story of this astonishing, wickedly satisfying, all-too-human novel.
Olive Ann Burns. Cold Sassy Tree.
The one thing you can depend on in Cold Sassy, Georgia, is that word gets around – fast. When Grandpa E. Rucker Blakeslee announces one July morning in 1906 that he’s aiming to marry the young and freckledy milliner, Miss Love Simpson – a bare three weeks after Granny Blakeslee has gone to her reward – the news is served up all over town with that afternoon’s dinner. And young Will Tweedy suddenly finds himself eyewitness to a major scandal. Boggled by the sheer audacity of it all, and not a little jealous of his grandpa’s new wife, Will nevertheless approves of this May-December match and follows its progress with just a smidgen of youthful prurience. As the newlyweds’ chaperone, conspirator, and confidant, Will is privy to his one-armed, renegade grandfather’s second adolescence; meanwhile, he does some growing up of his own. He gets run over by a train and lives to tell about it; he kisses his first girl, and survives that too.
Tim Dorsey. Florida Roadkill.
Local trivia buff Serge loves inflicting pain. Drug-addled Coleman, his partner in crime, loves cartoons. Hot stripper Sharon Rhodes loves cocaine, especially when purchased with righ dead men’s money. Then there’s Sean and David, who love fishing–and helping turtles cross busy thoroughfares. Unfortunately, they’re about to cross paths with a suitcase filled with $5 million in stolen money. Serge wants the suitcase. Sharon wants the suitcase. Coleman wants more drugs…and the suitcase. A hitman wants Satan to reign supreme. A slimy, insurance-frauding dentist wants his fingers back. In the meantime, there’s murder by gun, Space Shuttle, Barbie doll, and Levi’s 501s.
Fannie Flagg. Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven.
Combining southern warmth with unabashed emotion and side-splitting hilarity, Fannie Flagg takes readers back to Elmwood Springs, Missouri, where the most unlikely and surprising experiences of a high-spirited octogenarian inspire a town to ponder the age-old question: Why are we here? Life is the strangest thing. One minute, Mrs. Elner Shimfissle is up in her tree, picking figs, and the next thing she knows, she is off on an adventure she never dreamed of, running into people she never in a million years expected to meet. Meanwhile, back home, Elner’s nervous, high-strung niece Norma faints and winds up in bed with a cold rag on her head; Elner’s neighbor Verbena rushes immediately to the Bible; her truck driver friend, Luther Griggs, runs his eighteen-wheeler into a ditch–and the entire town is thrown for a loop and left wondering, “What is life all about, anyway?” Except for Tot Whooten, who owns Tot’s Tell It Like It Is Beauty Shop. Her main concern is that the end of the world might come before she can collect her social security.
Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett. Good Omens.
According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .
Richard Hooker. M*A*S*H.
Before the movie, this is the novel that gave life to Hawkeye Pierce, Trapper John, Hot Lips Houlihan, Frank Burns, Radar O’Reilly, and the rest of the gang that made the 4077th MASH like no other place in Korea or on earth.The doctors who worked in the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals (MASH) during the Korean War were well trained but, like most soldiers sent to fight a war, too young for the job. In the words of the author, “a few flipped their lids, but most of them just raised hell, in a variety of ways and degrees.”
WP Kinsella. Box Socials.
Set in the small towns, ball fields, barns and bedrooms of Alberta, Canada, and populated by some of the quirkiest, rowdiest, hottest-blooded folks in fiction, Box Socials paints a brilliantly comic, full-color portrait of North American life in the 1940s. Here’s the story of how Truckbox Al McClintock, a small-town greaser whose claim to fame was hitting a baseball clean across the Pembina River, almost got a tryout with the genuine St. Louis Cardinals – but instead ended up batting against Bob Feller of Cleveland Indian fame in Renfrew Park, Edmonton, Alberta. Along the way to Al’s moment of truth at the plate, we learn about the bizarre, touchingly hilarious lives and loves of just about anyone who ever passed through New Oslo, Fark, or Venusberg. Narrator Jamie O’Day, the young wide-eyed offspring of downwardly mobile hillbillies, plunks us down in the middle of the wild six-day Ukrainian wedding of Lavonia Lakustra and her Little American Soldier. He introduces us to the luscious Velvet Bozniak, who knows more about sex than any girl has a right to and who is determined to share all her wisdom with Jamie. And of course he attends a slew of box socials, whist drives, and community dances, where the women gossip and flirt while the men tank up on Heathen’s Rapture and haul off to engage in the only sport they know aside from baseball – fistfights.
Sophie Kinsella. Confessions of a Shopaholic.
Becky Bloomwood has a fabulous flat in London’s trendiest neighborhood, a troupe of glamorous socialite friends, and a closet brimming with the season’s must-haves. The only trouble is that she can’t actually afford it – not any of it. Her job writing at Successful Savings not only bores her to tears, it doesn’t pay much at all. And lately Becky’s been chased by dismal letters from Visa and the Endwich Bank – letters with large red sums she can’t bear to read – and they’re getting ever harder to ignore. She tries cutting back; she even tries making more money. But none of her efforts succeeds. Becky’s only consolation is to buy herself something…just a little something… Finally a story arises that Becky actually cares about, and her front-page article catalyzes a chain of events that will transform her life – and the lives of those around her – forever. Sophie Kinsella has brilliantly tapped into our collective consumer conscience to deliver a novel of our times – and a heroine who grows stronger every time she weakens. Becky Bloomworth’s hilarious schemes to pay back her debts are as endearing as they are desperate. Her “confessions” are the perfect pick-me-up when life is hanging in the (bank) balance.
Billie Letts. The Honk & Holler Opening Soon.
Caney Paxton wanted his cafe to have the biggest and brightest sign in Eastern Oklahoma-the “opening soon” part was supposed to be just a removable, painted notice. But a fateful misunderstanding gave Vietnam vet Caney the flashiest joke in the entire state. Twelve years later, the once-busy highway is dead and the sign is as worn as Caney, who hasn’t ventured outside the diner since it opened. Then one blustery December day, a thirtyish Crow woman blows in with a three-legged dog in her arms and a long-buried secret on her mind. Hiring on as a carhop, Vena Takes Horse is soon shaking up business, the locals, and Caney’s heart…as she teaches them all about generosity of spirit, love, and the possibility of promise-just like the sign says.
David Lodge. Therapy.
To all appearances, Laurence Passmore is sitting pretty. True, he’s almost bald and his nickname is “Tubby,” but the TV sitcom he writes keeps the money coming in, he has an exclusive house in Rummidge, a state-of-the-art car, a vigorous sex life with his wife of thirty years, a flat in London, and a platonic mistress to talk shop with on his regular business trips. What his money can’t buy, and his many therapists can’t deliver, is contentment. It’s not the trouble behind the scenes of his TV show that is bugging him, or even the persistent pain in his knee which expensive surgery fails to alleviate. It’s a deeper, nameless unease, and his quest for the source of it will lead him into an obsession with Kierkegaard, brushes with the police, gossip-column notoriety, and strange beds and bedrooms worldwide. As his ordered life threatens to unravel, Tubby struggles to tie up the ends by going back to the beginning – to South London, his first love, and an act of bad faith which he had suppressed but never entirely recovered from.
Matthew Norman. Domestic Violets.
With his life in chaos, Tom Violet, pushed to the edge of his sanity due to his possibly unfaithful wife, overly anxious dog, and unfinished novel, enacts a series of plans for revenge and self-improvement that go very wrong.
Richard Russo. Nobody’s Fool.
Ned, the introspective son of the freewheeling World War II veteran Sam Hall struggles for acceptance from his father while trying to avoid adopting the same hedonistic lifestyle.
Cathleen Schine. Three Weissmanns of Westport.
Jane Austen’s beloved Sense and Sensibility has moved to Westport, Connecticut, in this enchanting modern-day homage to the classic novel.
John Kennedy Toole. A Confederacy of Dunces.
Ignatius J. Reilly of New Orleans, –selfish, domineering, deluded, tragic and larger than life– is a noble crusader against a world of dunces. He is a modern-day Quixote beset by giants of the modern age. In magnificent revolt against the twentieth century, Ignatius propels his monstrous bulk among the flesh posts of the fallen city, documenting life on his Big Chief tablets as he goes, until his maroon-haired mother decrees that Ignatius must work.