One of the saddest moments of an art connoisseur’s life is the one when he realizes there isn’t enough time to read all the great books that have ever been written.
You can listen to the best music ever composed, from Bach to the Beatles and beach house in less than 10 years time.
You can watch the finest movies ever made in less than 5 years, even at a leisurely pace of a movie a day.
But reading all the great novels, biographies, history and science books? Forget it.
Just Ploughing through the classic Russian authors is a herculean ordeal that will set you back a decade.
There’s too many Shane!
Unfortunately no such problem exists with funny books.
The real funny book, not the amusing one or the one that makes you chuckle once in a while, is a rare beast indeed.
I’m talking about the books that will have people looking at you funny when you read them in public places; the kind that make you laugh out loud and even tear up a little.
If the first sad conclusion of funny books is that there aren’t enough of them, then the second one is that there are no really funny novels, at least none that I encountered.
If Brevity is the soul of wit as Shakespeare wrote, then the short story is the soul of LOL.
All the books which made my list are either collections of short stories, a bunch of radio-plays and a few novellas by a very special fella.
So here are the usual suspects which appear on pretty much every list of funniest books that you Google.
Some are not very funny and some are quite funny but none are that funny, or at least nowhere near as funny as my personal favorites which will follow in the second part.
Three men in a boat (to say nothing of the dog) by Jerome
It really pains me that this didn’t make the cut.
This is the most classic funny book ever and I grew up on it, this was the first book I read that really made me laugh out-loud and I’d still recommend it to anyone as a good entertaining read.
Unfortunately time has not been kind to me as I don’t find it as funny anymore, it’s more quaint than anything nowadays.
The three episodes I remembered as being very funny hold up pretty well (hanging the picture, transporting the cheese and the fish plaster), but nothing else in the book matches up.
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
I read this ages ago and never found it particularly good or funny.
Maybe it’s the years that passed and took away the shock value it had 50 years ago; or maybe it’s the fact that I read it after my military service, but this was really not my cup of tea and very little in it was funny or amusing.
The hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy by Douglas Adams
Whenever the writers of the TV show Blackadder needed a laugh, they would have Rowan Atkinson utter one of his convoluted similes.
“I’m as poor as a church mouse, that’s just had an enormous tax bill on the very day his wife ran off with another mouse, taking all the cheese”.
On-screen this works since Rowan Atkinson is a comic genius, but when more than half of the jokes in your book are the same kind of descriptive joke, don’t expect too much laughter, at least not from me.
Not every character voice in your head can be Atkinson’s and the jokes fall flat with an increasing thud.
Jeeves and Wooster by P.G Wodehouse
The quintessential British comedy author, he can still hack it even after almost 90 years.
The stories are still entertaining and light and the prose flows like bubbly.
But in humor it’s the Cynics who preserve best over time, that’s why Billy Wilder is comedy God.
Good-natured comedy gets dated quicker and overall there isn’t enough funny here to go round.
Discworld series and Good omens by Terry Pratchett
I’ve only read a few Discworld novels and never made it through Good omens, still, It’s all very very similar to Douglas Adams in the way it tries too hard to make us laugh based on similes and long elaborate descriptions.
Gold for geeks but meh for me.
David Sedaris books by David Sedaris.
I actually appreciate these more for the touching parts in them than for the funny stuff.
Most of his books document his personal experiences: growing up awkward and gay, going through shitty jobs (he was a Christmas elf at Macy’s) and not knowing what to do with his life until he discovered writing.
Some of the stories are very funny like his dad’s habit of storing ancient bits of food and being identified as a French pickpocket by American tourists in a Paris subway, but there are also long poignant passages that are not meant to be funny but are worth listening to just the same.
I wrote listening to instead of reading because the audio books are better than the books, David is a wonderful reader and presenter with an endearing character.
That about wraps it up for the first part.
Part Deux should follow in a week or two and it’s worth waiting for.