Sunday, October 14, 2007

Top Five Funny Titles I Picked in a Pinch: And Two Honorable Mentions I Didn't

A few random notes...

A friend emailed me asking for five funny books I would suggest to a coworker. I spent a few minutes thinking and then sent it off. I decided I might as well put it up here as well.

TOP 5 Funny Books I Picked in a Pinch:
Plus Two Honorable Mentions I Didn't

#1 Lamb by Christopher Moore

If you don't mind church humor (and by that I mean poking a little fun at religion) I always suggest Lamb by Christopher Moore the story of the thirteenth apostle, Biff, being brought to life to tell his story. He was a childhood friend of Jesus who spent a majority of his life running around trying to keep the "man who could not lie" out of trouble. Biff writes the thirteenth apostle in which he writes about meeting Jesus as a child resurrecting frogs and killing them again. The characters are funny and ... human. Biff falls victim to a pair of crushes, Mary the Virgin, Jesus' mother, and Mary Magdelene. Don't miss this book or any books by Moore.

#2 A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole

I also think that A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kenney Toole is really funny. The book follows a thirty-something super intellectual but inevitably lacking in common sense guy who still lives at home with this mother who happens to drink wine from time to time. The main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, has grown up in New Orleans, has a very strange view of life and ends up in hilarious, and embarrassing, situations on a frequent basis. I think that Will Farrell has been in negotiations to play Ignatius for the last few years (if someone knows more about this please leave a comment and let me know!) -- that'll give you some kind of idea of what you're in for. It comes highly rated, though, and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It's poignant, sometimes sad, but always witty.

#3 The Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell

Another funny author is Sarah Vowell who is a frequent guest on David Letterman andwho has worked quite a bit on NPR's This American Life. She has written four or five books but the best one to start with is Take the Cannoli which is a book about her eccentric Italian family (which I couldn't find a photo of). If you like something with more action she has written two books about thoughtful family vacations gone wrong, The Partly Cloudy Patriot and Assassination Vacation. The later is a trip with her sister and nephew in which they travel the US to visit the places where important politicians, presidents, and leaders have been assassinated. Sounds deep but Sarah makes a lot of things funny. There's another book entitled Radio On which is a kind of diary she wrote about listening to the radio but she's actually told me once herself that it's not really any good!

#4 Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
by David Sedaris

I always suggest David Sedaris. His most recent book, in which he writes about his crazy family and equally crazy adult life is Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. I happen to think he's the funniest author alive today. If you're feeling like getting ready for the holidays read Holidays on Ice with stories like "Dinah the Christmas Whore". It certainly warms my heart. Having trouble learning languages or suffering from OCD? Me Talk Pretty One Day is a great choice while Naked deals with traveling the northwestern states and spending some time at a nudist park. As always there are stories of David's upbringing with a strangely wonderful family scattered throughout. I would love to someday do an interview with David - if you have information about how to reach him, I have a right arm.

#5 Notes from a Small Island - The Mother Tounge, The Lost Continent, and In a Sunburned Country
by Bill Bryson

Hmm. I realize that I don't really read all that many funny books. Let see. Bill Bryson is funny. He writes book about traveling to Europe, Australia and around the world that are always fully of funny observations, stories, and predicaments he gets himself caught in. Traveling to England he wrote: Notes from a Small Island, The Lost Continent while traveling in small town America, The Mother Tongue which covers the history of English, and In a Sunburned Country while traveling in Australia. They may not always *sound* funny but they are... he's a great author.

Honorable Mentions (Shorter Funny Books I didn't Add Because They are Short and Perhaps More Controversial)

Yiddish with Dick and Jane
by Ellis Weiner and
Barbara Davilman

I love this book and bought it the moment I laid eyes on it. The synopsis on the website is better than I could do. So here goes:

Dick and Jane are all grown up, and they’re living in the real world--and it’s full of tsuris (troubles). That’s the premise of this hilarious little book, which functions both as a humorous tale and a genuine guide to a language with a sentiment and world view all its own. Jane is married to Bob and has two perfect children. Dick schmoozes with business people over golf: "Schmooze, Dick. Schmooze...." Their sister, Sally, who teaches a course in "Transgressive Feminist Ceramics," can see that life is not perfect, even though dear Dick and Jane cannot. Their mother has a stroke ("Oy vey, Jane," says Dick when he learns the news). Bob’s best friend’s wife is having an affair because the best friend himself is gay ("‘Tom is more than gay, Sally,’ says Dick. ‘He is overjoyed.’... ‘Oy Gotenyu [oh, God help us],’ sighs Sally.")

Here is an even funner online book trailer where you can get to see some of the scenes in the book in cartoon format! Yiddish with Dick and Jane Online.

How to Be Pope by Piers Marchant

This is another one of my big time favorites. It's a book for big dreamers. Have you ever thought that it might be nice to be in fallible or to wear gold slippers? I admitt that I certainly have. And so this book offers you tips on getting elected and then what to do once you've gone through one of the biggest job interviews of your career. I personally love that Amazon has a "Buy this with" feature that pairs the book with Inisde the Vatican National Geographic pamphlet. This is serious business.

Here's the book's synopsis from the back cover:

Congratulations, Your Holiness, and welcome to your first day at the Holy See. After being elected by the College of Cardinals, you'll need to don the papal vestments and get right to work. Armed with this manual, compiled over the last 2,000 years, you'll be able to navigate the Why's, How's, and Who's of your new life as Pontifex Maximus. What is your official job title? Why do you need to choose a papal name? Who does your laundry? While the church has long maintained an aura of complete secrecy to outsiders, the facts, figures, and historical anecdotes found here give the crucial information you'll need to fulfill your papal duties.


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