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Poll: The Funniest Books?

laughing monkeyHumor is a slippery animal. Tough to pin down, to define, to describe. And what makes me laugh might make you groan or outrage you, or vice versa. But when it’s done right there’s nothing better. That’s one of the problems with just listing books that are funny. There is no “best” when it comes to funny books. Just best for me. Or you.

What I’m going to give you is a list of books that make me laugh every single time I pick them up (assuming I open them, of course). Not books that were funny to me in the past, but that were funny and still are funny to me.

I define humor as something that makes me laugh. that’s about it.

Humor ages poorly, but I feel like the medium of literature holds up a lot better than something like film. Movies that made me laugh in the 80s are, for the most part, the antidote for my smiles these days.

  • Don Quixote
  • Catch 22
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • A Confederate Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day
  • Every anthology of The Onion
  • Very Bad Poetry (my review)
  • The Stupidest Things Ever Said books by the Petras siblings
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy
  • Gargantua and Pantagruel
  • Gulliver’s Travels
  • His Monkey Wife
  • The Angry Clam
  • Candide
  • Out of Sheer Rage (my review)

I’m going to leave it there for now. If you have ever read a book that made you laugh, please help fill in the blanks and give everyone (meaning me!) some recommendations.


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  • Pim December 14, 2010, 2:39 am

    Terry Pratchet’s books are very funny, I thoroughly recommend them.
    Bill Bryson is very funny. After readiing his books I am now listening to them as I re”read” them as ausiobooks.

    There’s a new installment of the Hitchhiker’s guide written by Eoin Colfer which is pretty good.

    Those are the first books that I can think of.

  • Laurie December 14, 2010, 8:08 am

    The 13 Clocks, by James Thurber. Maybe not laugh-out-loud, but witty. Thurber has fun with words. Something probably both kids and adults can enjoy, for different reasons. I haven’t read it in awhile, but it is a lot of fun. Don’t miss it if you can.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 14, 2010, 11:28 am

      Thurber is as good as it gets. I love the 13 Clocks and so few people have even heard of it.

  • Heather December 14, 2010, 8:48 am

    I second A Confederacy of Dunces. I also would suggest Daniel Pinkwater’s “Young Adult Novel” and “Wempires.” “Breakfast of Champions” always makes me giggle like an idiot too. I also like Tom Robbins’ stuff.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 14, 2010, 11:28 am

      I haven’t heard of either of those Pinkwater books. I love Robbins and Breakfast of Champions is absolutely spot on, you’re right.

    • Will December 15, 2010, 12:57 pm

      Hell yeah Heather! I posted my reply before reading the other ones. You are good to go by me.

  • Michelle December 14, 2010, 10:07 am

    The first few of the Jhereg series by Steven Brust. The later ones still have their funny moments, but they get pretty serious too. The books are about a hired assassin in a fantasy world who has a familiar, a dragon like creature named Loiosh that usually sits on his shoulder and makes cynical comments that only the assassin can hear. Probably the most repeated line in the series is, “Shut up Loiosh.”

    • Josh Hanagarne December 14, 2010, 11:27 am

      I have never heard of those. I’ll check them out, thank you.

  • Boris December 14, 2010, 12:38 pm

    I read Jherig back in the day – most D&D kids did. Not sure how well it would hold up now – I’ll have to see if I can dig up my copy. There were others in the genre that I liked and were funny – “Myth Adventures” and the Xanth series come to mind.

    Candide and Hitchhiker’s Guide are a couple favorites. I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read Don Quixote, but I will now.

    Recently, I really liked “Sh*t My Dad Says”. Not exactly literature, but very funny.

  • Tomas December 14, 2010, 1:09 pm

    Bored of the Rings comes to my mind. It made me laugh in tears!
    I read the Finnish translation. The book had the kind of retarded humor I laugh at.

    Then there’s this “diary” of a Finnish alcoholic. It’s a very famous book in my country. It’s not a real life story, though. I almost died from laughter when I read the first part at 15 years old. Hasn’t been translated to English, unfortunately!

  • mario December 14, 2010, 8:48 pm

    Read Lamb the gospel according to biff, jesus’ best friend by christoher moore. You will literally pee your pants. Most of his stuff is like that.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 14, 2010, 9:34 pm

      I’m a huge Christopher Moore fan. I think I’ve read them all except the most recent. I loved Lamb, you’re absolutely right.

      • Pim December 15, 2010, 3:29 am

        I had never heard of Christopher Moore, but after reading this and looking at his website and reading some reviews I think I’ll ask Santa for some of his books.

        Thanks for the tip!


  • Will December 15, 2010, 12:56 pm

    “Breakfast Of Champions”, by Kurt Vonnegut
    The race related humor is too sharp to let the kids read it in public schools. Wayne Hoobler talking to the freeway from his hiding spot in the used car lot and sounding out the name on the bracelet had me laughing out loud.

    “Welcome to the Monkey House”, also by Vonnegut.

    “Invisible Monsters” by Chuck Palahniuk. The “fletching” conversation at Thanksgiving Dinner is, well, disgusting, but way way clever. And gross.

  • Mark Barber December 16, 2010, 4:59 pm

    I’ll admit I haven never been a reader. One of the few books I have actually finished because I wanted to, was “The Princess Bride”. I still laugh thinking about that book.

  • josh wilson December 17, 2010, 11:22 am

    Richard Brautigun

    ‘A Confederate General from Big Sur’ and ‘Trout Fishing in America’ both got me.

    Otherwise Catch-22 is wholly genius.

    • Josh Hanagarne December 17, 2010, 5:42 pm

      Josh, you make me happy. I’m a huge Brautigan fan and not enough people know about him.

      • josh wilson December 17, 2010, 8:58 pm

        Oh god. I love the Brautigaunt. So much nicer to read than Kerouac I think.

        Jeeeees. I have just started my first attempts at creative writing, and if I could write like that I would be sooooo happy.

        I love Pynchon for his hilarious moments too, but I would never go so far as to call his books ‘funny’. They are, but they aren’t, eh.

  • Matthew September 12, 2012, 8:32 am

    I humbly submit “Monkey” by Wu-Ch’eng-En and “the Life of an Amorous Woman” by Ihara Saikaku. Laugh out loud, tell all your friends funny.

    • Josh Hanagarne September 12, 2012, 8:35 am

      Great, thank you. I’m going to try and track them both down today.