Yet another book recommendation question
November 17, 2011 1:33 PM   Subscribe

Book recommendation filter: If you've enjoyed reading The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, tell me what other books in a similar vein you've also enjoyed.

Looking for another book to read, but I'm having trouble pinning down exactly what kind of books I enjoy. One of my favorite books has been the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, in that it's humourously philosophical and makes for an interesting read.

Other books I've enjoyed are
- Good Omens (Pratchett & Gaiman)
- Catch-22 (Heller)
- One Hundred Years of Solitude (Marquez)
- A Hero of Our Times (Lermontov)
- Life of Pi (Martel)

(Hmm, now that I look at the list, they are all fiction with philosophical component, yes? )

I'm ok with all genres & styles. If you are making a specific recommendation based on one of the books from the list above, please mention it. If you are recommending an author, it would be great if you could mention one or two of his/her works that would be a good starting point. Thanks!
posted by oracle bone to Writing & Language (52 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Non-fiction, but David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day would be right up your alley. Hell, you can just pretend it's a bunch of short stories written in the first person.
posted by griphus at 1:37 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Sirens of Titan. So many interesting parallels although Douglas Adams denied being very influenced by it.
posted by steinsaltz at 1:38 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Discworld books (earlier ones are generally better) and the couple of Pratchett sci-fi novels (Stata and Dark Side Of The Sun) is the obvious recommendation.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 1:43 PM on November 17, 2011

Douglas Adams also wrote Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul. Both very funny and certainly reminiscent of the Hitchhiker's Guide.
posted by General Tonic at 1:43 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu.
posted by Jairus at 1:44 PM on November 17, 2011

Try reading Carl Hiaasen.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:45 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

I just read and really enjoyed Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, which is set in a future world where everyone logs into OASIS, a sort of massive-scale online game/community heavily influenced by '80s pop culture. It has its moments of humor (though not quite as breezy as Hitchhiker's Guide or Good Omens, it kind of reminds me of them). It's also reasonably philosophical about reality vs virtual reality.
posted by mlle valentine at 1:46 PM on November 17, 2011

I've just finished reading "How to Live Safely..." - definitely a good recommendation if you like Douglas Adams.
posted by apolune at 1:47 PM on November 17, 2011

LaGuin's Earthsea books are fictional and philosophical.
posted by bdc34 at 1:48 PM on November 17, 2011

I also wanted to suggest the Discworld books, except I favor the later ones (which is to say, the first ten or so in the series are not my favorites.) Small Gods would be a good place to start, I think.
posted by pemberkins at 1:53 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

A Confederacy of Dunces.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:57 PM on November 17, 2011

The Good Soldier Ċ vejk, especially since you enjoyed both Catch-22 and A Hero of Our Times.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:58 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

In the Hitchiker vein, Austin Grossman's Soon I Will Be Invincible is very funny fantasy with an interesting perspective. It's told partly through the eyes of a super-villain and is a great read. I am not usually a sci-fi/fantasy reader, but I loved it.
posted by charmedimsure at 2:00 PM on November 17, 2011

Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog is an excellent suggestion, but before you read it I suggest the book it's inspired by, Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog).

It's a masterpiece of Victorian humor that's aged rather well (the philosophical digressions can be a little startling, but might be right up your alley). Soon you too will be wondering why you don't have housemaid's knee.
posted by McCoy Pauley at 2:10 PM on November 17, 2011

Nthing Pratchett and also Soon I will Be Invincible. I kind of also want to recommend Lev Grossman's series, The Magicians and its sequel, The Magician King; they're not as funny as H2G2, but they've got their moments, and I think there's a bit of philosophical stuff in them.
posted by Janta at 2:11 PM on November 17, 2011

I've enjoyed a number of the books on your list, and a book I've enjoyed recently is Christopher Moore's Fool. I actually read it twice, which is something I almost never do with fiction.

My husband has also read a number of your favorites, and he's read everything Christopher Moore has ever done, multiple times.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I like Jasper Fforde. His Thursday Next series is funny and literary. I found Shades of Grey much more along the funny/philosophical line. I also like Haruki Murakami. I quite enjoyed A Wild Sheep Chase: A Novel. I also heartily recommend Marquez's autobiography Living to Tell the Tale. Oh yeah, Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog was wonderful.
posted by omphale27 at 2:17 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

Nthing Discworld books.
Most of the books are in "series" meaning they follow and develop a recurring set of character (like the Wizards, the Witches or the Watch...never noticed all the W's before.) But really you can dive in just about anywhere.

Small Gods, mentioned above is good because it's a standalone with none of the "standard" characters. Pyramids, the first one I ever read, is also good for that.

There's also a third-ish Dirk Gently book called the Salmon of Doubt. It's actually only the first...I think 10 or 11 chapters and then it ends because Adams died while writing it. The remainder of the book is a bunch of essays written by Douglas Adams on a variety of topics which may interest you.
posted by Mister_Sleight_of_Hand at 2:20 PM on November 17, 2011

Also, if you like the magical realism aspect of One Hundred Years of Solitude, you might like The Night Circus.

You might also like Caramba. It combines magical realism with humor and very colorful characters.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:25 PM on November 17, 2011

posted by supercres at 2:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing Terry Pratchett. For some reason right now I am loving A. Lee Martinez's books...which skirt the fantasy genre, which I usually despise, but his books are humorously philosophical and the characters are pretty great. Have you read The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov? I think it has all those elements and is one of the best novels of all time in my humble opinion.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 2:33 PM on November 17, 2011

Nick Harkaway's Gone-Away World was a rollicking read with a philosophical bent and a very Adamsian feel to it. It's built around a sort of Dr. Strangelove/Catch-22 scenario where paranoid nations in a comical proxy war deploy advanced weapons called "go-away bombs" that erase the information content of reality, leaving the globe Swiss-cheesed with vast absences of matter. The fallout is a metaphysical substance called Stuff that takes the form of the unconscious thoughts of any nearby humans, resulting in wastelands full of bizarre monsters and abstractions such as literal fogs of war.

The survivors cling to a corporate-owned pipeline that sprays out a Stuff-dispelling chemical called FOX, but when the pipe is sabotaged the narrator and his pal Gonzo are dispatched into the mutating wilderness to find a way to fix it. Their life stories from before the war are intertwined with the pipeline mission. It's way over the top, full of ninjas and mimes and conspiracies and satire with a tinge of sci-fi horror, but it was clever and quite well-written. Highly recommended.
posted by Rhaomi at 2:37 PM on November 17, 2011

The Sheriff of Yrnameer I kind of can't believe it hasn't been recommended already. It's a fun, goofy space opera type book that has some thought to it.
posted by shesbookish at 2:45 PM on November 17, 2011

Nthing Terry Pratchett & Douglas Adams Diek Gently series. David Sedaris Me Talk Pretty One Day made me snort & cry with laughter. I also LOVED Stephen Fry's Making History , which I think fits the bill quite well.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2011

Humble apologies for bad typing... the above should be Dirk Gently.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 3:03 PM on November 17, 2011

Definitely the Discworld series.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:10 PM on November 17, 2011

Last Chance to Seeis Douglas Adams' best work, IMHO.
posted by BrashTech at 3:15 PM on November 17, 2011

The Illuminatus! Trilogy - The trilogy was originally written between 1969 and 1971 while Wilson and Shea were both associate editors for Playboy magazine. As part of the role, they dealt with correspondence from the general public on the subject of civil liberties, much of which involved paranoid rants about imagined conspiracies. The pair began to write a novel with the premise that "all these nuts are right, and every single conspiracy they complain about really exists". (wiki)
posted by carsonb at 3:23 PM on November 17, 2011

Jorge Luis Borges has short fiction that alternates between magical realism and weirdly funny. I think all those authors are on my bookshelf close together. Friends recommended Even Cowgirls Get the Blues or other books by Tom Robbins as being along the same line - tho I did not care for him.
posted by midmarch snowman at 3:34 PM on November 17, 2011

Tom Robbins being along the lines of irreverant, full of digressions, funny and philosophical that is found in Hitchhiker or Catch-22. Sorry, should mention that.

Also: Confederacy of Dunces was recommended to me by someone based on my enjoyment of HHGTTG, but first 100 pages I HATED it. Then, I read Flannery O'Connor, and realized the Dunces was written before Homer Simpson and thus a lot more fresh and original when it was written than it seems now, and I think I finally "got" it. I guess in summary, its a Great book, but it strikes some people more than others.

Also, this being Metafilter, I'm surprised no one's mentioned David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest for being both funny, philosophical, digressive and good.
posted by midmarch snowman at 3:44 PM on November 17, 2011

Robert Asprin's MYTH series is good up to and including "Sweet Myth-Tery of Life". read beyond this point at your own peril, but they're really good (in a lightish, funnyish way) up until then.
posted by radiosilents at 3:50 PM on November 17, 2011

Seconding Tom Robbins. Fun and fanciful, but very well written with a lot of philosophizing. Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates was my fav.
posted by auto-correct at 3:52 PM on November 17, 2011

You should check out Garcia Marquez's other works. I'm rereading Of Love and Other Demons right now, which is MUCH shorter than 100 Years Of Solitude, but just as well written.

Stanislaw Lem has some good satirical Science fiction, Peace on Earth, Memoirs Found in a Bath Tub, and The Futurological Congress. Although honestly with Lem it's hard to go wrong, most of his work is pretty philosophical and quite a few are absurdist.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (yes that Hugh Laurie) is great and very British in its humor.
posted by Gygesringtone at 4:13 PM on November 17, 2011

Jasper FForde's Thursday Next series is a lot of fun, if not as laugh-out-loud funny as Adams or Pratchett.

Based on the books you listed, I would also suggest Julian Barnes's A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters and Flaubert's Parrot.
posted by Mchelly at 4:16 PM on November 17, 2011

Rudy Rucker's work is not as overtly humorous as Hitchhiker's but it has a nice sense of the bizarre and absurd. I highly recommend him.
posted by brundlefly at 4:22 PM on November 17, 2011

You might like Stephen Fry's "Making History". It involves creating an alternative history in which Hitler was never born, which ends up being not quite as rosy as you'd expect. It's rather funny as well, 'cause it's Fry.
posted by easternblot at 4:41 PM on November 17, 2011

Another Connie Willis fan here. Watch what you get, though, if you are looking for happy-comical. Some of her stuff is light and fluffy and laugh-out-loud funny(Bellweather) and some of it can be, well, upsetting (Lincoln's Dreams). All worth reading, though.

And I have only just discovered A. Lee Martinez myself and am enjoying his books.
posted by AMyNameIs at 5:06 PM on November 17, 2011

Discworld! and I think they get better as the series progresses

Neil Gaiman - American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2011

My recommendation for anybody who likes Douglas Adams is Tom Holt.
I agree with Jasper Fford, especially Shades of Gray (I love you, omphale27!)
posted by No Shmoobles at 6:03 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Put Out More Flags is by way of being a British precursor to Catch 22.

Also entertaining are Scoop, Decline and Fall, and Black Mischief. All of their time, but Douglas Adams et all didn't come out of nowhere. (Not sure how "philosophical" your requirement is.)

(On preview - TOm HOlt did updates of E.F.Benson's Mapp and Lucia books. His was a valiant effort, but not a touch on the originals, which are wildly funny for those who enjoy them.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:08 PM on November 17, 2011

The Sirens of Titan. So many interesting parallels although Douglas Adams denied being very influenced by it.

When you requested "humorously philosophical," Kurt Vonnegut was my thought, too.
posted by Snerd at 6:59 PM on November 17, 2011

I'm shocked - SHOCKED! - That no one's mentioned the Godhead trilogy by James Morrow.

God is dead.

And it's nothing to do with Nietzsche.
posted by droplet at 7:06 PM on November 17, 2011

Bill, the Galactic Hero and sequels.
posted by XMLicious at 7:16 PM on November 17, 2011

Wow. I think all y'all done snooped through my shelves.... some good stuff here!
I thoroughly enjoyed Alexander McCall Smith's Number 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.
posted by drhydro at 9:04 PM on November 17, 2011

On your list, I love Hitchhiker's, Good Omens, and One Hundred Years Of Solitude (which I am actually doing my yearly re-read of right now).

I will extrapolate from my own taste. So. Maybe you would like:
*Discworld books - Small Gods is my standard "start with" recommendation (Terry Pratchett)
*Of Love And Other Demons and Strange Pilgrims (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
*The French Lieutenant's Woman (John Fowles)
*Like Water For Chocolate (Laura Esquivel)
*Snow Crash and The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson)
*Jitterbug Perfume or Still Life With Woodpecker (Tom Robbins)
*The House Of The Spirits (Isabel Allende)
*this may be a stretch, but Gaudy Night (Dorothy Sayers)
*this may also be a stretch, but try Douglas Coupland
*this may also also be a stretch, but try Susan Orlean
posted by flex at 9:55 PM on November 17, 2011

No Shmoobles: "My recommendation for anybody who likes Douglas Adams is Tom Holt"

Came here to say just this, including a recommendation for Expecting Someone Taller...
posted by benzo8 at 4:45 AM on November 18, 2011

Go to the source and listen to the original Radio 4 radio broadcasts, IMHO the books and (much, much worse) the TV programmes were a pale shadow of this magnificent radio comedy.
posted by epo at 8:09 AM on November 18, 2011

I loved Hitchhiker's Guide and Good Omens. Have you tried other Neil Gaiman novels (American Gods, etc.?)? I also loved:
-The Diamond Age and the Dirk Gently books (mentioned above)
-Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
-The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (not sci fi or fantasy, but found this super enjoyable)
-The Hunger Games (juvenile fiction, but really enjoyed these)
-I'm listening to the audiobook of the Night Circus right now and liking it a lot.
-The Picture of Dorian Gray
-Zod Wallop

Thought I would enjoy but didn't:
-Super Sad True Love Story
-Yiddish Policeman's Union
-The Book of Lost Things: A Novel (I bought this, and then I hated this one so much that I drove directly to the library and donated it)
-Titus Groan
posted by Acer_saccharum at 9:38 AM on November 18, 2011

I asked a book recommendation question a while back. My criteria were somewhat different from yours, but I got a lot of great suggestions, a lot of which would probably also fit the bill for you.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:05 PM on November 18, 2011

Charles Stross' Laundry series is less laugh-out-loud funny than Douglas Adams' work, but it's got a somewhat similar satirical streak.

Also, not a novel but: Douglas Adams has worked on Doctor Who, and City of Death, which was written by someone else but heavily rewritten by Adams, is a keeper.
posted by rjs at 2:55 AM on November 19, 2011

Robert Sheckley, namely Dimensions of Miracles, which is very H2G2-like and William Tenn. Both are old school SF satirists/humorists and DNA has stated that he was influenced by Sheckley.
posted by Francis7 at 11:51 AM on November 23, 2011

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