Unforgettable reads: Books that made us laugh out loud

Erin Kodicek on May 14, 2020

Unforgettable reads: Books that made us laugh out loud

Each month we choose the best books of the month: an overall top ten of favorites, plus picks in popular genres like biography and memoir, history, mystery, romance, science fiction and more. This is great fun for us because we relish recommending great reads, but we didn’t want to be limited to just endorsing new titles. All bookworms have special gems we can't forget—beloved books that over the years we are still telling people: You gotta read this! So we launched a feature at the beginning of the year called Unforgettable Reads.

To rein ourselves in we decided to choose a different theme each month. For May it's books that made us laugh out loud, because I think we could all use a good guffaw right now.

They Call Me Naughty Lola: Personal Ads from the London Review of Books by David Rose

Ask me about the book that makes me laugh out loud and my mind immediately, even thirteen years after it published, goes to They Call Me Naughty Lola. Many papers have personal ads where people earnestly describe their best attributes: love of children, reading, and long walks, for instance. That approach was too pedestrian for the readers of the The London Review of Books. Too pedestrian by far. They took a different tack, submitting hilariously self-denigrating appeals for companionship. "Bald, short, fat and ugly male, 53, seeks short-sighted woman with tremendous sexual appetite. Box no. 9612," reads one. Or another: "More than just a personal ad! This is your ticket to a world of pleasure. Write now to Putney personal care assistant and weekend league bowler (48) Box no. 7721." There are much longer ones that extol the delights of cats, mining, mulligatawny soup, mothers who keep sons at home by faking heart attacks, and more. Of course, these ads have long since closed, so too bad if you're intrigued by the following: "I'm an intelligent, attractive, cultured, recently-divorced woman in her early forties, looking for a man whose maxim in life isn't 'pull my finger' or 'smelt it, dealt it' Box no. 5022." You can still read this book and have a good laugh, though. —Vannessa Cronin

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I’ll be honest; when I’m reading, I don’t laugh out loud very often. Maybe I’m too busy trying to read the words, which seem to grow smaller every six months. Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy. Maybe those last two sentences are redundant. The last book I read that actually made me laugh out loud was Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime. Anyone who has read the book probably knows the scene: it involves a kitchen, poop, and his grandmother. I also thought other parts of the book were funny, and I was deeply moved, too. I might even have cried, which comes more easily when I’m reading. Anyway, the book is great, and I’ve recommended it to many people. You will laugh and cry. —Chris Schluep

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces is a madcap, riotous novel about Ignatius J. Reilly, who is teeteringly off-kilter, self-absorbed, and one hundred percent hilarious. He can rarely hold on to a job, lives with his mother (despite being a grown man), and wanders the streets of New Orleans starting up arguments and conversations about the inane and the farcical. The physical comedy, and his piercingly delusional observations on his place in life, make not just for entertainment but a break from the rational. I first read A Confederacy of Dunces a decade ago and let’s just say Ignatius J. Reilly with his protruding tummy, ferocious zeal, and lumbering walk is unforgettably comic. —Al Woodworth

Skink—No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen

In Skink—No Surrender, Clinton Tyree, aka Skink—"a half-crazed, half-feral, one-eyed ex-governor" who takes on poachers, litterbugs, and pretty much anyone who messes with the environment of his beloved Florida—makes his first appearance in a Carl Hiaasen young adult novel. A girl has gone missing and her cousin, Richard, enlists Skink to help find her. Along the way the duo have wild adventures, save baby turtles, and find perfectly edible road kill. Hiaasen’s wacky characters, swamp justice, and snappy dialogue had me laughing all the way through. —Seira Wilson

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