What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?
Good question. I love to read books with lots of humor in them, and looking back over my lists of reads from the last few years I realize there's not much humor to be found. And for this year alone, the line-up is positively grim. I suppose, out of this year's crop, the books with the most humor have been Drawers & Booths by Ara 13, and Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons – and the humor in that second book is not exactly of the uproarious variety. And from last year, I'd probably pick Barbara Pym's Civil To Strangers; although again, we're talking about a very subtle and unique brand of humor. Well, it's Barbara Pym.
But in order to find any really funny books on my reading lists, I'd have to go back a couple of years – back to my pre-blogging days. Probably the funniest books I've read in recent memory were Pontoon: A Lake Wobegon Novel by Garrison Keillor, Publish and Perish: Three Tales of Tenure and Terror by James Hynes, and The Hills At Home by Nancy Clark.
Publish and Perish includes three different stories of professor types in various stages of falling apart, so the humor is acerbic and firmly rooted in the world of academe. Probably not for everybody. But if you're an English professor (or an English professor's wife), you might actually laugh out loud at lines like:
And then she smiled and tossed her head back and started to laugh, walking toward him beaming, with that certain glow that only tenure gives a woman. [p. 66]or:
"I never mix my metaphors," Gregory said, with some heat. He prided himself on the elegance of his prose. His first book had been called "lucid" by Edward Said. [p. 99]The humor in Pontoon is, of course, that very special Keillor variety; and the book has one of my favorite opening lines:
Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that.I first read Nancy Clark's wonderful novel The Hills At Home three years ago, and it immediately became one of my all-time favorites. It's a modern comedy of manners about the elderly Lily Hill who is visited one summer by just about every member of her far-flung family. One by one, they come to spend a few days or weeks, and then when autumn arrives they just never leave. And the book follows the goings-on in the family's big New England home during the ensuing year. Not a situation I'd want to find myself in, but it makes for some very funny reading. In fact, I think it might be time to give it a second look – I could really use some laughs right now.