Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Fun(ny) In The Sun

Ahhh, Summer.

The season of vacation adventures both domestic and exotic, of applying one's backside to a webbed lawn chair while listening to the hypnotic chish-chish-chish of the neighbor's sprinkler, of waiting for the local DJ to remind you to turn over as you sprawl on your Scooby Doo towel at the beach and collect future age spots.

Summer. What better time to lose oneself in a delightful book? (Okay, I promise not to use the word "oneself" again 'till Spring 2011.)

Often, friends ask me to recommend books to them. "Something funny," they say. And it's a good thing they're specific like that, because my standard on-deck book recommenda
tion is, you know, Tolstoy. And Shakespeare. Or sometimes Kafka. Damn, I dig me some Kafka.

But, no, they want funny and, luckily, I also include funny books in my super-smarty-pants bathroom nightstand rotation, so I'm happy to share those as well.

Which got me thinking (during the very limited times when I am not thinking about Kafka) that in celebration of the arrival of summer, I might do a blog post about some of my favorite funny books.

And Here It Is.

So whether you're summering in Brenham, Texas or Budapest, um, Europe...or even if you'll simply be spending the summer house-sitting your neighbor's gila monster and cruising the local pool on your trusty 10-speed (which sounds like a good way to end up on some sketchy national registry but is actually a completely legitimate way to pass a couple of months)...I hope you'll find a book or two here that becomes a fond memory of Summer 2010 or even - who knows? - a lifelong favorite.

As for the selections below, this is by no means an exhaustive list. I know I'll forget some and overlook others. These are just the books on my shelf that I find myself recommending again and again. Also, they are in no particular order. I'm just going to "roll with it," as the kids today say. And, if I've overlooked your favorite funny book, please let 'er rip in the comments section so we can all check it out. It's the Internet, for crying out loud, right?

The Books.

by Steve Martin

I'm a HUGE fan of all things Steve Martin, and this novella is right there at the top of that heap. Funny, soulful and unexpectedly tender, THE PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY is one that I re-read every year, and not just because it's set in my neighborhood.

Hint words: savant, neuroses, Rite-Aid

by John Kennedy Toole

A wondrous confection of a novel that grows more hilarious with each re-reading. It's been the Mack Daddy of my bookshelf for decades now. Ignatius J. Reilly is an outrageous, unforgettable character. Don't be surprised if you find yourself making your "o-face" while reading this one. Pulitzer prize-winning funny.

Hint words: green hunting cap, fleshy balloon of a head, weenie cart

by Will Ferguson

Not to be confused with the reportedly dreary movie of the same name, this is a clever and entertaining satire in which a self-help book actually works and all of America becomes rampantly happy and well-adjusted, thus endangering the very fabric of our society.

Hint words: chain-smoking squirrels, The Age of Nice, "Live! Love! Learn!"

by Dave Barry

(Many) years ago at one of my corporate communications jobs, I ran across an excerpt from this book - a piece entitled "How to Take A Client to Lunch." I read it, fell out of my chair laughing, then raced down the hall to xerox it so I would never have to live without it again. (Oh, and I billed all that time to my least-favorite client, but that's another story. *ahem*) The article sits right now in a desk drawer not six inches from this keyboard. Sometimes I sleep with it.

Hint words: Commander Taco, Thad, "fish"

by Douglas Adams

The legendary sci-fi "trilogy in four parts" has so much great stuff jammed into it I don't even know where to start. I've been reading this one since college (yes, I finished it - I mean reading it over and over) and every time I wish I could memorize the whole thing so I could quote it at length on any occasion. All of Adams' books are fantastic - I think I'm soft for this one because it was my first.

Hint words: Zaphod Beeblebrox, Ford Prefect, 42

by David Lodge

In this delicious comedy of bad manners, academic rivals circle the globe while vying for a coveted and richly endowed academic chair. As their paths cross in unexpected ways and locales, hi-jinks of every kind ensue. A very funny story written by a master storyteller.

Hint words: the cruellest month, medieval banquet, Morris Zapp

by Jincy Willett

I just discovered this gem of a novel last summer and I had my nose in it through most of our vacation. I love that the main character is a fat, middle-aged recluse and I also love the jumble of varyingly talented students in her extension course. Uh-oh, someone has killed two of the students. (I know - it doesn't sound funny but, believe me, it is.)

Hint words: Froggie, Number One Fan, blog

by David Sedaris

Okay, I picked this one of his, but everything David Sedaris has published is pure gold in my opinion. As humorous essayists go, he is a rock star, and you won't have to read very far into this volume to see why. Tasty and irreverent.

Hint words: "Is them the thoughts of cows?"

by Rodney Rothman

After Rodney Rothman lost his job as a TV comedy writer at the age of 28, he decided that - since he would eventually end up in Florida in a retirement village anyway - he might as well go ahead and move into one right away. So he did. This collection of his experiences there comprise a tender, raucous and always entertaining book.

Hint words: canasta game, cat guard, Century Village

by Daniel Lyons

Screamingly funny, no matter which side of the apple you're on. This is one of the few books that had Jon Bon Jovi (not my husband's real name) clutching his sides with laughter. Based on the uber-popular Fake Steve Jobs blog.

Hint words: non-thinking meditation, frigtard

by Steven Carter

I just read this book last month, which (fun fact!) makes it the most recent on this list. A very funny send-up of a correspondence course woven with a gritty crime story that the instructor tries to lift for himself. This is a lively mash-up that had me turning pages well into the night.

Hint words: Wendell Newton, "blues and torch," "he must steal brilliantly"

All right, things are getting out of hand so I'm stopping now before this post turns into its own novel.

Thanks for indulging me and happy summer reading to you all!


Swirl Girl said...

If I get a chance to read actual written words printed on real paper that is NOT illustrated or about fairies and rainbows - well, then it will be a fun in the sun summer!

YAYday countdown...5 days til {full day} summer camp!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

You know - I just saw Happiness and yeah - not exactly a romantic comedy... As a movie, I would say it was American Beauty meets Little Children - but long before either were produced. Creepy - but inappropriately funny at times.

And that concludes my comment that has absolutely nothing to do with your post...

Relevent comment: Great list. Thanks for the suggestions! And you know - have a great summer.

Vatche said...

Hey, Anna, cool list. I'm definitely going to hit Amazon right now after writing this comment, of course. Love David Sedaris. I actually met him and he's a cool guy. I wrote a post about it actually...hold on...let me go find the link...


Check it out, if you can, he actually pulled a joke on me while signing my book. I'm sure you'll get a good laugh out of his antics.

Also, another funny novel is "Good Omens" by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. It's about the apocalypse and the hilarious things that occur that include aliens, the Anti-Christ, the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, witches, witch hunters, and explosions. Lots and lots of explosions, really. So, check that out.

Write on!

Brutalism said...

Confederacy of Dunces and all things Sedaris are some of my favorites, too. Now I'm interested to read some of these other suggestions...especially "Hitchhikers Guide" since I bought it and it is sitting on my bookshelf and I have never even cracked it open. Thanks for the recommendations.

Cheryl said...

I haven't read anything funny in a long time. Thanks for the comprehensive list. These look like winners to me.

CatLadyLarew said...

Great list! Can't go wrong with Dave Barry!

Anonymous said...

Ooh... a list!

Some of favorite people are lists.

And I've almost abandoned trying to pick books out for myself. Not as bad as trying to figure out if, at 42, I'm supposed to be wearing flared jeans or sweater sets, but it's up there. Just because I'm tired of spending my heard earned dough on crapola.

And since a handful of these already perch upon my own much-loved list, I will brand these as "Trustworthy." (And no, no actual books were scorched with cattle irons during the writing of this comment.)

Thank ye, ma'am!

Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

I actually bought a copy of Confederacy of Dunces about a year ago and haven't read it yet (it's a real "book" and ever since I got my Kindle, I've been kind of a snob about it). So I'll have to slum it I guess.

The Steve Martin one sounds good too. You can't go wrong with Dave Barry of course.

I'd also add to your list anything by Carl Hiassen and Chris Moore, and a new one called "Sh*t My Dad Says" by Justin Halpern. I just finished it, and it's a riot.

Marinka said...

Love this list and I will follow the suggestions because I already read Martin, Lodge and O'Toole. Hysterical.

Have you read James Wilcox? Modern Baptists is hysterical.

Anonymous said...

i summered in brenham, texas yesterday. well i spent a few hours there. i didn't do any reading unless you count when i read the ice cream flavors as i picked out my free scoop after touring the bluebell ice cream factory!

Mouthy Housewife said...

Great list, La Lefler. Confederacy is in my personal Top 2.

And I just finished Diana Joseph's "I'm Sorry You Feel That Way" and loved it.


Ann Imig said...

Need to read a lot now.


Your Literary Inferior

K A B L O O E Y said...

The first time I read Sedaris' Santaland Diaries, I cried with laughter. And Confederacy of Dunces is one of my top five novels. Oh, one other name for hysterical essays: Fran Lebowitz. Also notable for having writers' block for twenty years. (I like that in a woman.)

The Retired One said...

These sound fabulous! I shall print out your list and start reading! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Great list! Thanks so much! I have every one of David Sedaris' books and LOVE them, so can't wait to try others on this list!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, a summer reading list! There is nothing I love better than a good book. Except a good, funny book.

Maybe I'll take a break from translating my James Joyce library into pig latin.

The Empress said...

Me Talk Pretty One Day had me laughing myself into an asthmatic attack.

The chapter on the Jesus talk with the frenchies, lost in translation...oh, I could just die. "Jesus. Him nice man. Him carry wood on back for you. He dies."

I loved it.

Jun said...

Thank you so much for the list. Your writing is as funny as ever.
Jun Kitatani

Shari said...

Sweet list! I too love all things Steve Martin and most things David Sedaris. I just finished "Mennonite in a Little Black Dress" and it made me laugh out loud at least once a page. Have you read it? Think you would like it, Miss Anna.

Joanie Hollabaugh said...

If you like to laugh when you cook (and cooking with wine often makes me do this)check out Ann Hodgman's Beat This! cookbook or sequel, (of course) Beat That! Funny, good recipes. I stole her meatloaf recipe that she stole from The Silver Palate gals - it's fair if you change 3 things, she claims.

Anonymous said...

keep update, please..bless you!!........................................

Jeanne said...

Bookmarking this so I can come back and work through the list.

HermanTurnip said...

Thumbs up on Hitchhiker's Guide and Early Bird (I thought I was the only one who had read this book). My personal reading list for this summer is all sci-fi (A Fire Upon The Deep, Newton's Wake, and Glasshouse).


Fragrant Liar said...

What a GREAT list! I have several of those already on my list, but will eagerly get into the others. On the top of my list is *Me Talk Pretty One Day*, but also *Skinny Dip* by Carl Hiaassen. Hint words: Snarky, spouse overboard, payback, and hysterical.

Anna Lefler said...

Geez, I can't believe I left Carl Hiaasen off this list. Another favorite!

Thanks for reminding me, guys!



Anonymous said...

Always looking for a laugh! Thanks for the book reviews-especially the hints!

When Pigs Fly said...

Many thanks. I'm always looking for more great, funny things to read. I too pick up anything David Sedaris puts out. I am a fan particularly since I have a similar sense of humor. I'm going to actually print out this blog post of yours!

Kathy said...

I love Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy so much that I named my daughter Trillian. :)

Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for this awesome list of recomendations!

I see a few books I'd like to check out...

actually, Im still in the process of reading "me talk pretty one day".

Jenn-Jenn said...

I realise I'm a little late here - whatwithit being August and all, but if you enjoyed Douglas Adams you'll enjoy Terry Pratchett - Mort is the first of his books I read, and since you're manic about Shakespear (erm...) you may find Weird Sisters (same author) delightful too.