Books That Made Us Laugh

Sarah Harrison Smith on August 01, 2017

H5Well, no one is going to blame you for keeping up with the news, even on your smart phone, even under the covers at 2 a.m. These are interesting times, to be sure. But perhaps you have forgotten how hilariously, goofily pleasurable a good book can be – even goofier than what you might be watching on the news. As Groucho Marx said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”

The Amazon Books editors adore funny, and we’ve compiled a short list of the funniest books we’ve read this year, including two novels, two memoirs, and one romance. When you start to giggle, or chortle, or snort, think of us – and then get back to reading.

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

H1Katherine Heiny’s novel, which Knopf published this spring, is one of the funniest, most cheering books I’ve read in years, and I recommend it for malaise the way doctors recommend aspirin for headaches. Ask yourself: do I enjoy books about generally happy people who have real problems but get through them with good humor? Do I enjoy a writer whose slightest turn of phrase can makes me laugh out loud, even after midnight, even on a plane? If so, then Standard Deviation is the book for you. Plot is really not the point, but to give you a sense of Heiny’s cast of characters, they are Graham, a reserved but loving businessman who is married to Audra, a warm-hearted, super outgoing freelance designer who has absolutely no filter when it comes to conversation. And then there is Graham’s ex-wife Elspeth, who is rather more like Graham than Audra is, and Audra and Graham’s origami-obsessed son, who is somewhere on the autism spectrum. Like good friends at a dinner party, their company is a blast, and you will be very sorry to say goodbye.

Man of the Year by Lou Cove

H2Published by Flatiron Books in May, Man of the Year is a hilarious evocation of a teenage boy’s life in 1970s Salem, Massachusetts. Amazon Books senior editor Jon Foro says, “Man of the Year calls itself ‘a memoir,’ but it reads more like Portnoy’s Complaint via Gary Shteyngart: In 1978, 12-year-old Lou Cove preoccupies himself with the standard boy-tweener obsessions of girls and bullies, when a friend of his father’s--handsome ‘Howie Gordon’--descends on his house with a plan to become the ‘next Burt Reynolds.’ Phase One is already complete. The big reveal? Howie is Playgirl magazine’s Mr. November. Phase Two: Become Playgirl’s Man of Year, with Lou as his campaign manager.” The two set out to collect votes from the locals, while Lou’s parents’ marriage falters, and certain banned substances are consumed. Man of the Year seems to appeal most to readers who came of age in the '70s themselves, for whom Lou’s experience seems horribly, wonderfully familiar. Perhaps you’re one of them?

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak

H3Amazon Books senior editor Seira Wilson says The Impossible Fortress, published by Simon and Schuster in February, “is one of those books—one of those rare and special few where, once you have finished it, you want all your friends to read it immediately. This is especially true if you grew up in the 1980s, because The Impossible Fortress is a coming-of-age story tucked inside a love letter to that strange and wonderful decade. The novel is set in 1987 when computer games had only recently entered our homes, Jolt cola (the predecessor of modern energy drinks) was still a thing, and Playboy magazine had countless 14-year-old boys across the country trying to get their hands on a copy of the Vanna White (of "Wheel of Fortune" fame) issue. Billy Martin and his two best friends are three such boys, and their pursuit of the epic magazine leads them to the local office supply store, computer whiz Mary Zelinsky, and a hero’s quest to save a princess. Author Jason Rekulak’s ability to conjure powerful adolescent feelings of friendship, first love, and that difficult place where the two collide, is impressive. Laughter comes from page after page, and some clever surprises too—all of it with a 1980s mix tape running in the background.”

The Undateable by Sarah Title

H4Sarah Title’s romance, published by Zebra Shout at the end of February, is the first in her three-book “Librarians in Love” series. It’s a tickler. Amazon Books senior editor Adrian Liang writes, “I think I snort-giggled all the way through Title's contemporary romance set in the dating landscape of San Francisco. Wise, funny, and spot-on in its gleeful puncturing of male and female stereotypes, this tale of a librarian who unwittingly becomes the face of a ‘Disapproving librarian disapproves’ meme will have you cheering on Bertie as she agrees to go on thirty dates in thirty days to prove to herself that she's not undateable. Bertie is helped/hindered by Colin, a staff writer for locally-based fashion magazine Glaze, who is sponsoring Bertie's makeover as a publicity stunt. You might think that Bertie is being set up for a My Fair Ladyish ending, wherein conforming to society's expectations of how a Woman Should Be/Look/Talk allows Bertie to Finally Find True Love. Pish. Though Colin has bro tendencies, he's fairly enlightened and aware, making him Bertie's perfect sparring partner as he briefs her and then debriefs her for her dates. It'll be no surprise that eventually Bertie debriefs Colin as well, but it's supremely satisfying.”

Sting-Ray Afternoons by Steve Rushin

H5Published by Little, Brown in July, Steve Rushin’s memoir Sting Ray Afternoons is getting great reviews—especially from readers old enough to remember the Ford administration. Amazon Books senior editor Jon Foro wrote, “I am a child of the '70s, and for me, the years before I became burdened with job/girls/nuclear holocaust-based insomnia were filled with the Six-Million Dollar Man, Evel Knievel, baseball cards, and Gilligan’s Island reruns, all set to a soundtrack featuring both Led Zeppelin and the soulless, sexless croonings of the Brothers Gibb. If you can relate to any or all of that last paragraph (and it’s perfectly understandable if you can’t) imagine it extended to over 300 pages. Sting-Ray Afternoons - Steve Rushin’s memoir of the Golden Age of candy cigarettes, sugar on your grapefruit, and Nixon on the TV - is an exhaustively thorough, exuberant recollection of growing up in the Me Decade. Exhaustive might have been just exhausting, but Rushin’s takes on artificially colored culture are laced equally with humor and affection, and he captures both the wonder and fear at the tipping point between childhood and adolescence. Sting-Ray Afternoons is the best kind of nostalgia: celebratory yet clear-eyed, wistful but not overly sentimental.”



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