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 recommendation 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
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 PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY
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
A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES
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!"
CLAW YOUR WAY TO THE TOP: HOW TO BECOME THE HEAD
OF A MAJOR CORPORATION IN ROUGHLY A WEEK
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"
THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY
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
THE WRITING CLASS
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
ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY
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?"
EARLY BIRD: A MEMOIR OF PREMATURE RETIREMENT
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
OPTIONS: THE SECRET LIFE OF STEVE JOBS (A Parody)
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
FAMOUS WRITERS SCHOOL
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!