Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Funny Books You Should Be Reading

All right. So now for my grown-up book recommendations, which, you know, are just so obvious that I pretty much walk around with a list of them in my head. No, the exact opposite is true. Ask me on any specific day to recommend some books and I’ll probably think of ones I just read that were good or books from many years ago that I never forgot or something else. I thought it would be a good idea to write some down here, but it turns out that again the exact opposite is true. I don’t know where to begin. The following authors and books are all pretty much funny. That’s where I’m starting.

1. David Sedaris. You know how certain books and almost all music can become heartbreaking if you’re in the wrong state of mind? Well, if you’ve come to that, it’s time for some David Sedaris. He is the cure for what ails you. I wrote a letter to him once many years ago (It was so long ago that I actually looked up his address in a Manhattan phone book and mailed him an actual letter. And he wrote one back to me from France!). Anyway, the letter started out, Could you be the funniest person alive? And I still kind of feel that way. In case you’re not familiar with David Sedaris (is this possible?) he writes essays about his family and incidents from his life and pretty much whatever happens to occur to him. Any book is fine, really. But be careful not to read him on the subway unless you don't mind laughing uncontrollably in front of strangers.

2. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris. Have you ever worked in an office? Then you will like, or rather love, this book. And even though the book is written in that potentially problematic first person plural (“we”) it works perfectly. See for yourself: “While waiting for Lynn to arrive, we killed time listening to Chris Yop tell us the story of Tom Mota's chair. We loved killing time and had perfected several ways of doing so. We wandered the hallways carrying papers that indicated some mission of business when in reality we were in search of free candy. We refilled our coffee mugs on floors we didn't belong on.” And did I mention that this book will make you truly laugh out loud? It’s one of those books that I think I need to read again, that is, whenever we unpack our 60 plus boxes of books.

3. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach. This book is about dead bodies and it’s hilarious. If I compare Mary Roach to David Sedaris, it’ll do you no good, but I’m afraid I’ll have to do just that. To be honest, this is the exact sort of book I think David Sedaris wished he wrote, what with his fascination with bizarre medical equipment and human oddities and such. Basically Mary Roach went around checking out what exactly happens to bodies after they are dead, whether they are simply fancied up at a funeral home or used for medical research. And her observations are really pretty great. For example: “The human head is of the same approximate size and weight as a roaster chicken. I have never before had the occasion to make the comparison, for never before today have I seen a head in a roasting pan.” I mean, there is just so much here to love.

4. I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. All right, fine. If you think I got this book mostly because of the title, you’d be correct. But can I describe this book without referring again to David Sedaris? Um. Let me just say that this is a collection of very very funny essays about Crosley's life as a twenty-something living in New York. Oh my god, that sounds totally awful, doesn’t it? Except it’s not! She is genuinely funny and her topics are mostly unexpected or at least unexpectedly good. And here’s what made me like her even more: she turned three of the essays in the book into little plexiglass dioramas that she posted on her website. I mean, jeez, what’s not to like?

And now for my next post, I plan to write about the saddest books ever!


SZ said...

Ooh, nice list! I totally agree on Sedaris. Interestingly, I found myself laughing out loud on the subway while reading... The Adventures of Tom Sawyer! That Mark Twain is a funny mf-er.

I wasn't sure about this Crosley character since she's some sort of publicist, but since a) you recommend her and b) she makes dioramas, I will check her out.

Also, if I may put it in a plug for my own (sadly in need of updating) blog, there are more funny books here:

Reyna said...

Oh man, I can't believe I forgot the Adrian Mole books! You are so right!

Kendra Lyris said...

The last laugh-out-loud funny book I read was Straight Man, by Russo. But he's not even sort of the same kind of funny as Sedaris. Well, maybe sort of. They're both straight men in their own ways.