Recommendations of Humorous Literature?

Just thought I would solicit recommendations for books in which humor plays a key role in the text. The best way for me to explain is to give an example, so I’ll start with one of my favorite books, Catch-22. When I first read this one, I snickered by page 10, and immediately called the friend who’d recommended it and thanked them. The rest of the book didn’t dissappoint. It is the only book that has ever made me laugh out loud, especially after repeated readings. From the cyclical language and inane situations to the over the top characters, I find nearly everything about the book hilarious. But, what really strikes me is that, although there are places that the all the hyperbole seems a bit much, the book had too be funny. The dark, sometimes despairing humor contributed to the statement Heller was trying to make, that being a narration on the absurdity of war and bureaucracy. I know when people think of that book they remember the most absurd scenes, the set pieces if you will, but I find as much, or possibly more, humor in the descriptions of the Yossarrian’s claustrophobic reactions to his station in the bomber, or in the ascription of sentience and inherent wickedness to the flak which he reviles, or in his insistence that he is the only sane person left, seemingly in the whole of the world-in other words, the parts of the book which seem to flow with, and directly from, the action.

After that book, in my opinion, the falloff to the next is huge. I’ve attempted to read most of Heller’s other novels-but found them all lacking. Without the urgency of war as a backdrop, it seems the jokes are forced and the humor contrived. I’ve read Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces, which I would recommend as a distant second to Catch-22, as well as various books by Kurt Vonnegutt and Hunter S. Thompson, each of whom can be funny, but whose writings are largely too fragmentary to agree with my sense of the concrete. After that, my list pretty much dries up.

So here is the rub-My sense of humor is irreverent, anthracitic and tinged with psychosis; can you recommend a book, with a genuine plot, that will make me laugh, or at least smile?

Ooh, I get to be the first to recommend “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I nearly hurt myself laughing the first time I read it. If you like irreverent humor (especially of the British variety) you’ll love this one.


The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books from Douglas Adams should keep you going quite a while.

Straight Man by Richard Moore

Pratchett is lighter reading than the ones you named, but is ridiculously funny. If you like the light stuff, I would recommend just about anything from Christopher Moore except his last book. Christopher Buckley does fantastic political satire. Carl Hiassen and Tom Dorsey do humorous mystery. I just started reading Jasper Fforde, and I’ve heard good things about P.J. Wodehouse, but haven’t gotten around to him yet.

If you find anything else that’s a weightier read but funny, let me know. I’m always on the lookout for more.

1.) Mark Twain – Not the classics Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, but things like A Connecticut Yankee, or his Travels (** The Innocents Abroad, Roughing it, A Tramp Abroad, Following the Equator**, or a great many others.
2.) Cjristopher Moore – Absolutely wild stuff. A friend gave us The Stupidest Angel: a Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror, and found myself quoting something to Pepper Mill from at least every other page.

I second the Chris Moore. Sick, warped, hilarious stuff. I recommend Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.

Almost anything by Patrick McManus: McManus listing at

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman (much better than the movie, although the movie is entertaining enough). Mark Twain’s The Bible According to Mark Twain and Tom Robbin’s Still Life with Woodpecker are excellent. Also, pick up one of the books by Carl Hiassen. If you’ve read one, you’ve pretty much read all of them, but he’s worth at least one read.

Thanks for all the responses so far, you’ve given me a quite a list for my next visit to the library.

BTW-Sorry if this is a thread which you guys have seen too often and are sick of, but I’ve been lurking (apologies-I’ll sign up as soon as I fit it in my budget-yes I am that poor) for a while and haven’t seen a similar one. I have seen Pratchett’s name quite a bit in other threads, but from the context I assumed he was a sci-fi author. I’m not really a ‘genre’ reader, but if you guys say its entertaining, I’ll give it a shot.

Any book by Tim Dorsey. Serge A. Storms is my hero!

I love Donald Westlake’s books, though I haven’t had a chance to read one in a while.

The Pyrates, by George MacDonald Frasier, is great. It’s a send up of all the classic Errol Flynn-era pirate movies that’s just pitch perfect, but also backed up by Frasier’s formidable grasp of historical detail. Frasier’s more famous for his Flashman novels, which are also very good (and more numerous), but The Pyrates has always been my favorite book of his.

If you don’t mind books that consist of 25% plot and 75% meaningless but entertaining digression, check out anything by Neal Stephenson. His cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash, is probably his most accessible, but his historical novels are where he really comes into his own as one of the pre-eminent authors of the 21st century. The Cryptonomicon has two parrallel stories, one in the present day, one during WWII, both about a search for stolen gold. The Baroque Cycle, a kinda-sorta prequel to The Cryptonomicon, is a swashbuckling, historical, Romantic, erotic, satirical, dissertation on economics, set in the 17th century. I don’t think I’ve ever read anything else quite like it.

Lastly, I’ll echo the recommendations for Terry Pratchett. He started out writing light-weight sword & sorcery parodies, but somewhere along the line he metamorphosed in a modern Dickens, writing breezy, accesible, capital-L Literature for the masses. He’s most famous for his Discworld novels, and has written dozens of them, but there’s no particular continuity to them, and about half of them are completely self-contained. I’d recommend Small Gods as an entry point, or the aforementioned Good Omens, which has a more conventional setting than the Discworld. “Conventional,” in this case, meaning “not set on a planet carried on the backs of four gigantic elephants, all of which are standing on the shell of a vast, interstellar turtle,” so you understand that’s a very relative term.

Jean Shepard is an old classic- his stories were the basis of the Christmas classic A Christmas story (and he narrates that movie, too). He’s funniest if you’ve actually lived in the Midwest, but everything he’s written has made me laugh out loud. Try some of his stories about being a kid, they’re the funniest. Wanda Hickey’s Night of Golden Memories and Other Disasters is excellent, as are In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash and Fist Full of Fig Newtons

Another vote for Mark Twain. Stuff all over the humor map, from ridculous to very dark - not that those are necessarily very different.

Sorry to hijack my own thread, but upon reading this name…

…I couldn’t resist. A Christmas Story is my all time favorite movie…to watch for 16 consecutive hours in a nearly catatonic trance on Christmas. (Yes my parents and siblings still despise me for this, as will my future wife, whenever she is unfortunate enough to discover what happens when you combine OCD tendencies with corny movies.) The line, “In the heat of battle, my old man wove a tapestry of obscenity which, to this day, still hangs in space somewhere over Lake Michigan.” I swear, that is my father. Anyway, if you want to hear some of ‘Shep’s’ old radio broadcasts, try-

I’d particularly suggest “Ludlow Kissell and the Dago Bomb”, a little less than 2/3 of the way down the Pupuplayer list.

End hijack.

Dave Barry - everything you can get your hands on. We were listening to “Dave Barry Turns 50” on tape while driving one car trip, and just about drove off the road we were laughing so hard. If you don’t think he has any psychoses, just listen to what he has to say about lobsters.

One of my personal favourite books is “The Toxic Spell Dump” by Harry Turtledove (I don’t think his other books are as light-hearted). I know puns are the lowest form of humour, but some of the ones in this book made me laugh out loud, they were so clever.

(I just re-read “Catch-22” for about the fourth time. The scene with McWatt mowing down Kid Sampson - damn. It shocked me again, fourth time around.)

ETA: Forgot a Canadian classic humour author - Stephen Leacock.

It sounds like you might like Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. For a smaller, shorter intro to Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 is good but not IMO as funny.

The Pirates: in an Adventure with Scientists
The Pirates: in an Adventure with Ahab

I third Chris Moore. I just read A Dirty Job, and found it both bizarre and hilarious.

I also second Patrick McManus. He writes humorous essays, so there’s no plot per se, but he is hilarious. Surprisingly, he writes about outdoorsy pursuits (hunting, fishing) but does it so so well that people who don’t know the first thing about killing woodland creatures can enjoy it.

You may also want to check out To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. It’s not as, let’s say jaded as the other books you’ve named, but the humor is dry and the tone is light. A book that makes me smile and laugh every time I read it.