What to read after P.G. Wodehouse?
July 15, 2012 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Now that I've worked my way through P.G. Wodehouse (I think, some books have different titles so it is difficult to keep track), what should I read for laughs? I like to read books that are so funny that I laugh out loud. For years, that was P.G. Wodehouse (and Saki). I've now read those novels and stories too many times. I need to leave them for a few years. What should I read now?
posted by Area Man to Media & Arts (79 answers total) 146 users marked this as a favorite
Terry Pratchett immediately comes to mind.

Excellent starting points for his books are: Small Gods, Gaurds Gaurds, Wyrd Sisters, The Wee Free Men.
posted by Riemann at 3:25 PM on July 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

I highly recommend Stephen Fry's The Liar; it gave me the same kind of helpless laughter as PGW (but is much naughtier).
posted by languagehat at 3:26 PM on July 15, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If you can stand fantasy, I'd give Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels a shot. Start with the The Colour of Magic
posted by griphus at 3:26 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The absolute, hands-down funniest book I ever read in my life (and I've read it at 10 times now) is Jerome K. Jerome's (for real!), "Three Men in a Boat." I think you'll probably like it if you're already a fan of British humor.

It has made me laugh so hard it hurts. My sister is also an enormous fan. When she and I start talking about it we laugh so hard that we are gasping, clutching our stomachs in pain, and begging each other to stop.

(I'm a little aprehensive talking it up like this, as I have recommended it strongly to people in the past who didn't really get into it. This was so dismaying to me, that I actually questioned our friendship. Sad.)

Good luck.
posted by primate moon at 3:27 PM on July 15, 2012 [19 favorites]

A different kind of laugh can be found in almost anything by David Sedaris.
posted by kinetic at 3:28 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

The Liar is fucking magnificent and has embarrassed me with wild cackling every time I read it in public.
posted by elizardbits at 3:28 PM on July 15, 2012

Oh, and I don't think any book has made me laugh as hard as David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day. His humor is as dry as Wodehouse, I think.
posted by griphus at 3:28 PM on July 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, to chime in again, Sedaris's "Me Talk Pretty One Day." Painfully funny.
posted by primate moon at 3:29 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the Terry Pratchett & David Sedaris recommendations. Would also suggest "The Gun Seller" by Hugh Laurie (yes, that Hugh Laurie) - amazingly well done and hilarious.
posted by dotgirl at 3:31 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the rare chance you haven't read anything by Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, etc.), he was very inspired by Wodehouse. Practically mandatory.
posted by Nelsormensch at 3:31 PM on July 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

I can second "Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)" by JK Jerome. He also has funny one called "Idle Thoughts for an Idle Fellow." The former book is often co-published with "Three Men on a Bummel" which is some sort of bike-trip, but I haven't read that one. If it's half as prone to comedy as "Boat," it should be hilarious.

Also, seconding Douglas Adams. One used to take for granted that smart, rounded people have read the Hitchiker's Guide books, but then one finds oneself having intelligent conversations with people who born in the 1990s and, heaven forfend, the 2000s, and realizing that they haven't gotten around to it.
posted by Sunburnt at 3:35 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If, when you think of John Steinbeck, you only think of dying men suckling on a nursing mother's teat in the back of a dusty wagon, and winters of discontent, you are missing out on some of his lighter work including my personal favorite, the endlessly rereadable Tortilla Flat.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:48 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Warning: All links are to Wikipedia articles - synopsis and plot summary sections may contain spoilers.

Seconding Three Men in a Boat, which was my first thought on reading the question. Diary of a Pilgrimage and Three Men on the Bummel, by the same author, are also delightful - and especially funny if you've ever been to Germany.

In a similar vein, at least in my opinion, is The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by W. E. Bowman, a tale of a mountain climb that never was.

And then there's Connie Willis's brilliant funny To Say Nothing of the Dog, whose title is drawn from the full title of Three Men in a Boat, and whose tone and setting are in keeping.

Also, on preview, yes, Hitchhiker's Guide.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:49 PM on July 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

If a certain facet of Wodehouse's Britishness appeals to you, The Diary of a Nobody might do the trick – plus it's in the public domain.
posted by zadcat at 3:51 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Robertson Davies. He's Canadian. Start with Bred in the Bone, which is part of a trilogy. Then World of Wonders or Fifth Business, each part of another trilogy.
posted by Listener at 3:59 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm a huge fan of Wodehouse, Saki, Pratchett, Adams, and Sedaris, so I'm nthing the latter suggestions. I'll also suggest Tom Holt's The Walled Orchard omnibus (funnier to me than his overtly comic novels) and Frans Bengtsson's The Long Ships.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2012

Sarah Caudwell's mysteries, starting with Thus Was Adonis Murdered have a Wodehousian quality to me.
posted by mskyle at 4:00 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal never fails to leave me howling.
posted by coppermoss at 4:01 PM on July 15, 2012 [4 favorites]

I haven't gotten around to P.G. Wodehouse yet (keep meaning to) so I'm not sure how the humor compares, other than being British, but the three books that I have found laugh out loud funny are Toby Young's memoir How to Lose Friends and Alienate People and Nick Hornby's How to be Good and About a Boy. I like all of Hornby's novels, but to me those two stand out as having the most laugh out loud funny lines.
posted by kaybdc at 4:02 PM on July 15, 2012

Best answer: The Princess Bride by William Goldman, which is funnier than (but also funny in a different way from) the movie. I recommend the 30th anniversary edition.

If it needn't be fiction, I suggest Bill Bryson, particularly his earlier books, like Neither Here Nor There and Notes From a Small Island. I once was laughing so hard rereading one of these (I can't recall which) that a flight attendant thought I was in respiratory distress.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 4:06 PM on July 15, 2012 [5 favorites]

You might enjoy the Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser, and Compton MacKenzie's Highland books - Whisky Galore, The Monarch of the Glen.

I will nth the suggestion of Three Men in a Boat, it's not just a book, it's a part of my psyche, it's just "there" - whenever I google my own symptoms, try and fail to open something, find out that it was the other fellow's shirt after all, daydream so hard I bump into things, try to cook that well known Sandwich Islands dish Scrambled Eggs - and I know just what primate moon means about friends who don't "get" it.
posted by Catch at 4:20 PM on July 15, 2012

James Herriott's books make me laugh out loud. David Sedaris, Bill Bryson, Augusten Burroughs,
Michael Thomas Ford's autobiographical stuff, Douglas Adams. I agree a lot of what was already suggested, including The Princess Bride. A lot of these writers mix sadness and humour and the humour is often wry, but none the less funny for it.
posted by thelastcamel at 4:26 PM on July 15, 2012

Nthing Pratchet, but I would definitely start at The Truth and Thief of Time, with some of the witch-based books tossed in. The earlier books are fine, but they get so wildly wonderful later that I wouldn't initially deprive yourself of them. I also get a kick out of A. Lee Martinez books, although they are not usually my cup of tea. I also love Zazie in the Metro (Queneau), which is funny and multi-layered even in translation, and to me, nothing is a better intelligent snarky fun romp than The Master and Margarita (Bulgakov). These all cause me to laugh out loud over and over in various ways, on various levels.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 4:49 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Stephen Leacock, wrote hilarious satires of Victorian-age novels, also wrote shorter sketches and articles. Kind of Mark Twain-style humor. Influenced Groucho Marx!

And nthing Bulgakov, good stuff.
posted by stoneandstar at 4:53 PM on July 15, 2012

Joe Keenan, Blue Heaven.
posted by scody at 4:57 PM on July 15, 2012

I'll second Monsieur Caution's recommendation of The Long Ships. It isn't primarily comic, but there is a pervasive very dry, very funny humor throughout it. And besides that, it's absolutely fantastic.
posted by junco at 4:59 PM on July 15, 2012

I loved the Bandy books:
Bart Bandy is the creation of author Donald Jack, who won the Leacock Medal for each of the three volumes Three Cheers for Me, That's Me in the Middle, & Me Bandy, You Cissie.
"I enjoyed every word... terrifically funny."
-P.G. Wodehouse,
on The Bandy Papers
I think there are nine, altogether.
posted by jamjam at 5:03 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Woody Allen's three early books (Getting Even, Without Feathers and Side Effects) are consistently laugh-out-loud funny. They are collected in the 1992 books "Complete Prose of Woody Allen".
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:06 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes to Stephen Fry and Jerome K. Jerome. Also Waugh (Decline and Fall I think is the easiest vine to swing to from Wodehouse). "An Evening of Long Goodbyes" by Paul Murray features a modern-day (and Irish) Bertie, the story kind of looses focus for the second half, but there's lots in it for the Wodehousean to love. Also, why not, I find Mark Leyner probably the funniest satirist working today.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:36 PM on July 15, 2012

And the essays of GK Chesterton and the Mapp and Lucia books of EF Benson. Really though what you should do is go back in time and read everything in this thread first and only then read Wodehouse and Saki, because it doesn't get any better than them.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 5:39 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Really though what you should do is go back in time and read everything in this thread first and only then read Wodehouse and Saki, because it doesn't get any better than them.

It's true, you've probably already read the best. I think Mort is a good place to start reading the Discworld books.

early Evelyn Waugh
Nancy Mitford
Cold Comfort Farm
posted by betweenthebars at 5:51 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will second the recommendation for Christopher Moore's Lamb, but will note that, unsurprisingly given the subject matter, it takes a sober and heartbreaking turn at the end. The rest of Christopher Moore's books are also hilarious, and have less surprise heartbreak. All of his vampire-related books are hilarious, and I'm also quite fond of Coyote Blue.
posted by yasaman at 5:53 PM on July 15, 2012

S J Perelman, Dorothy Parker.
posted by tel3path at 5:55 PM on July 15, 2012

3rding "The Long Ships". A fantastic book.

Tom Sharpe makes me laugh out loud; maybe "Porterhouse Blue".

And anything by Mil Millington; "Instructions for living someone's life is great".
Also, his mailing list - only occasionally sent out, but always hysterical.
posted by Prof Iterole at 6:02 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Evelyn Waugh has been mentioned, but his name bears repeating.
Nigel Dennis's novel Cards of Identity.
posted by dizziest at 6:21 PM on July 15, 2012

Absolutely Stephen Fry....check out Hippopotamus in addition to The Liar
posted by pilibeen at 6:29 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

James Thurber.

Punch Magazine, back in the day, had a wooden desk in their office. Certain authors were invited to carve their initials in that desk with a pen knife. Only two Americans were ever granted that honor: Mark Twain, and James Thurber.

Not everything he wrote was uproariously funny, but it was all witty.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:30 PM on July 15, 2012

An oddball suggestion is the early Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy L Sayers. These are from the same era as Wodehouse and are quite lighthearted and fun. The dialogue in particular makes me chortle out loud. It's just drenched in the roaring 20s. In particular I'd suggest you read Clouds of Witness and Murder Must Advertise, but I think almost all of them would suit.

Even if you're not a reader of mysteries, I think you can enjoy these. In some ways I think the mystery itself is secondary to the antics of Lord Peter.
posted by That's Numberwang! at 6:35 PM on July 15, 2012 [7 favorites]

Re: Listener's advice. Definitely yes on Robertson Davies, but I must disagree on the starting place. Bred in the Bone is the third book in The Salterton Trilogy, and while the books can definitely be taken separately, I personally wouldn't say you ought to start at the end. And I certainly wouldn't skip Leaven of Malice, the book before it. Nor, at the end of the day, would I skip the first novel, Tempest-Tost, though it is the weakest of the three. Anyway, Salterton is all sly small-town satire. Fifth Business, which is the start of the Cornish Trilogy adds a layer of the surreal/absurd, which is fun.

Just for fun, spend some time reexamining Roald Dahl. It's kind of fascinating how both Wodehouse and Dahl were hilariously funny writers but also people with some monstrous ideas.

Oh! And since we are on Wodehouse and Dahl, you could read E.B. White's essays, which are hilarious.

Also Max Barry's Company makes me snarf every single time.
posted by brina at 6:56 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm a little aprehensive talking it up like this, as I have recommended it strongly to people in the past who didn't really get into it

No need to worry: "Three Men in a Boat" is my "I need to laugh" book too.
posted by francesca too at 6:59 PM on July 15, 2012

Yeah, you really want "My Uncle Oswald" by Roald Dahl. Terribly funny (but very filthy, BTW).
posted by jbickers at 7:13 PM on July 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you like Hugh Laurie, he wrote a book called The Gun Seller. It's a spy novel written by Hugh Laurie at his Hugh Laurie-est.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:31 PM on July 15, 2012

Paul Rudnick's I'll Take It.
Patrick Dennis' Auntie Mame
posted by brujita at 7:34 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Peter Mayle's non-Provence books (Chasing Cezanne, Hotel Pastis) share Wodehouse's "sequence of events that eventually work out" style.
posted by Runes at 7:59 PM on July 15, 2012

It's sort of sideways from Wodehouse, but if you take the bridge from there to Evelyn Waugh (definitely "Vile Bodies" and "Scoop"), you get to Malcolm Bradbury's "Eating People Is Wrong."
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:08 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mark Twain has been mentioned offhandedly already, but I'd like to add a solid recommendation. The complete collection of his short stories made me laugh to the pain over and over again. Roughing It is also very funny in parts. Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn have some funny bits, but are more local color than humor.
posted by bricoleur at 8:11 PM on July 15, 2012

Mark Twain's 1601--
John Nichols' The Milagro Beanfield War--
Alexander McCall Smith's series, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency--
also, the HBO series of the No. 1 Ladies' is a superb one.
posted by drhydro at 8:51 PM on July 15, 2012

Kyril Bonfiglioli's After You With The Pistol, and its sequelae Don't Point That Thing At Me and Something Nasty In The Woodshed.
posted by nicwolff at 9:08 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're up for plays, try anything by David Ives, especially the All in the Timing plays.
Richard Lederer's Anguished English series is also hilarious, though nonfictional and list-like.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:09 PM on July 15, 2012

Special mention for the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman collab Good Omens, which I find literally LOL funny where the rest of Pratchett is chuckle-and-quote funny.
posted by clavicle at 9:13 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

What, I can't believe no one has suggested Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim?! Recommended.. and it's a short read. I've enjoyed other Kingsley Amis books, but I didn't find them to be particularly amusing at any point. I would definitely suggest select Evelyn Waugh, namely Put Out More Flags and.. Decline and Fall maybe. My favorite Waugh book isn't remotely funny.

[Not a recommendation, but a possibly related book to Wodehouse: I've had this book, Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames on my to-read list for ages. It might be of interest.]
posted by Mael Oui at 9:14 PM on July 15, 2012

With all do respect to everyone above, there is no heir to wodehouse. Stephen Fry is closest, but to me the wodehouse for adults is J.P. Donleavy. More literary and bawdy than Wodehouse, but existing in a similar world of twit aristocrats but now failing and miserable and doubly hilarious as they drink and shag their way towards oblivion. Onion Eaters and Schultz may be good starting points for a Wodehouse fans. Generally out of print, but cheap on the used market.
posted by Smegoid at 9:19 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding Bill Bryson-- he's good for laughs. I recently read his "I'm a Stranger Here Myself," a collection of newspaper columns he wrote for an English paper after he, an ex-pay American living in the UK for decades, returned to the US to find a slightly unfamiliar country. No doubt his similar works, such as "Notes from a Small Island," his observations of the UK, are similarly funny. Others of his books, such as "A Walk in the Woods," are not composed of pithy newspaper columns, and thus more interest and serious, but not without humor.

Also seconding Mil Millington. Save a copy of his infamous webpage Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About in which he merely catalogs the many arguments in which he and his girlfriend (think common-law wife, really) have not quite seen eye-to-eye on.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:21 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I feel confident in saying that if you liked Wodehouse, you will probably like Stella Gibbon's Cold Comfort Farm. I'm surprised to find that Wikipedia actually has a pretty fair summary of it: "A satire and parody of the pessimistic ruralism of Thomas Hardy, his followers and especially Precious Bane by Mary Webb — the "loam and lovechild" genre, as some called it — Cold Comfort Farm introduces a self-confident young woman, quite consciously modern, pragmatic, and optimistic, into the grim, fate-bound, and dark rural scene those novelists tended to portray." I think CCF is one of the funniest books I've ever read, and everyone I've recommended it to has loved it. They made an OK movie adaptation in 1995, starring a young and astonishingly beautiful Kate Beckinsale, in the years before she became an anorexic vampire. The other book that consistently vies for my own personal title of "funniest book ever" is The Ipcress File, but you might have to have my own experiences, outlook and job history to think so.
posted by seasparrow at 11:53 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia's series (and Tom Holt's sequels to same) would've been my first choice as well, as they're from roughly the same period as Wodehouse's golden age and with somewhat of the same humour, only set in a more middle class rather than upper class environment.

In the same vein, Barry Pain's Tales of Eliza and Diary of a Nobody by George & Weedon Grossmith are quite funny too, about aspirational newly middle class men and the women who save them from themselves.

Stephen Potter's Gamesmanship (Or the Art of Winning Games Without Actually Cheating) and sequelia are also worth checking out.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:42 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, Jerome K Jerome, Stephen Fry, Douglas Adams, S J Perelman, Terry Pratchett and (some) GK Chesterton all come to mind. Evelyn Waugh is sort of a bitter, jaded Wodehouse, but his novel "Scoop" is an extremely funny read. Another unlikely companion to Wodehouse is Graham Greene: "Our Man in Havana" has plenty of belly laughs (the main plot device being in fact delightfully Wodehousian).

Outside the Anglosphere, you have Eduardo Mendoza, who is also very Wodehouse-inspired and can be wickedly funny. Three of his novels have been translated into English: No Word From Gurb, The Mistery of the Enchanted Crypt and The City of Marvels (which is a more serious read). Some of Mario Vargas Llosa is also very, very funny, for instance "Captain Pantoja and the Special Service". In a gentler note, René Goscinny's "Little Nicholas" series is very nice.
posted by Skeptic at 3:14 AM on July 16, 2012

Seconding also scody re. Joe Keenan.
posted by Skeptic at 3:42 AM on July 16, 2012

Re. Douglas Adams, the Dirk Gently Holistic Detective series is much more obviously Wodehousian than the Hitchhiker's Guide series.
posted by Skeptic at 4:27 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, to chime in again, Sedaris's "Me Talk Pretty One Day." Painfully funny

I didn't like Sedaris until I heard him read his work - maybe it was too American for me?

You may well like Nancy Mitford - similar upper class setting, and I've heard good things about Mapp and Lucia. From memory, Mitford is the same kind of social comedy as Wodehouse, though you might find it rather chick-lit as Love In A Cold Climate especially inspired that trend. (On a similar tip, Bridget Jones' Diary is often unfairly maligned as a book about a fat woman who can't get a date. It's actually a fairly sharp satire of Pride and Prejudice and rather funny indeed.)

I absolutely love the Adrian Mole series of diaries. Like all good comedy, there's a lot of pathos in there (The Wilderness Years is desperately sad at times) but it's brilliant. It's set in 1980s Britain and continues until the present day. The first two books are wincingly hilarious if you've ever been, or been near, a teenage boy.

Also, one of my favourite what-you-would-call-British-Humor books is 1066 And All That. It's not fiction - it's a parody of history teaching in pre-war grammar schools - which sounds enormously dry but it. is. hilarious.

And I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Charlie Brooker. You might not know the programmes discussed in his collections of criticism, but that won't matter.
posted by mippy at 4:40 AM on July 16, 2012

Donald E. Westlake's Dortmunder series. Best if read in order, but all are stand-alone and hilarious. ("The Hot Rock" is the first, and there are 14 of them.) Seconding John Steinbeck, although I'd suggest "Cannery Row." Gerald Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals." Also seconding "Good Omens" -- don't read it while trying to drink liquids; and "Three Men in a Boat" for sure.

By the way, are you sure you've read all of Wodehouse? There are 99 books listed in his bibliography. I have list, and check off the ones I've read, and after many years there are still ones I haven't gotten to. And some of them are very hard to find.
posted by kestralwing at 4:51 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with everyone above, and would like to add the golden age mystery writer Edmund Crispen. Laugh out loud funny. Just delightful.
posted by Malla at 5:23 AM on July 16, 2012 [4 favorites]

Now that I've worked my way through P.G. Wodehouse When I was in this very same situation some years ago I read "My family and other animals" : it's candid, very well written and terribly funny (in a British sense). I cannot recommend this book enough! And if you like animals and his writing you can read the other books he wrote. They are more work-related (Gerald Durrell was a zoologist) but as pleasant to read.
posted by OrangeCat at 5:50 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Someone mentioned Jonathan Ames, which reminded me that his "I Shit My Pants in the South of France" is one of the funniest things I've ever read; my brother and I are capable of falling into spasms of laughter just reminiscing about reading it.

As far as Three Men and a Dog and Cold Comfort Farm go, I don't find the first especially funny (it's a particular kind of heavy humor that doesn't appeal to me) and my wife didn't care for the second (I haven't read it). We are both huge Wodehouse fans. So you never know.
posted by languagehat at 7:13 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

How I love me some Wodehouse. I'm also a HUGE Lord Peter Wimsey, Dorothy L. Sayers fan. There is nothing like reading a Wimsey novel, especially if I'm depressed, or otherwise care worn. Then I like to watch the DVDs. Bliss.

I like the early works of PJ O'Rourke. I'm not a fan of his politics by any means, but the man can turn a phrase. Modern Manners and Holidays in Hell are especially funny and not too political.

Cynthia Hiemel wrote an amazing book called Sex Tips for Girls. I don't know if it's still in print, but she is also hilarious. More for the ladies, but a gentleman might enjoy it.

nthing David Sedaris and Douglas Adams.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:33 AM on July 16, 2012

Oh - Joe Keenan (and Cynthia Heimel, who's of a similar bent) reminded me of Joe Queenan, the waspish film critic. Obviously a different tone to Wodehouse but I remember finding him quite funny.
posted by mippy at 7:50 AM on July 16, 2012

You might like Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. Kind of like Wodehouse written from Jeeves' point of view. Also, Gerald Durrell's My Family and Other Animals.
posted by Killick at 8:17 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

My grandfather - a man devoted to Saki and Wodehouse - would also chuckle his way through the Don Camillo novels, tales of Italian small town struggles between the local priest and the communist mayor.
posted by bebrogued at 9:14 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carl Hiassen, if you're into the absurdity of life in Florida and essays by Chuck Klosterman.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh God. Please disregard my previous advice. I got my trilogies mixed up in a very bad way. My apologies. I was trying to answer the question before Breaking Bad started, and so I wrote from memory.

What's Bred in the Bone is the second novel of the Cornish Trilogy and was short-listed for the Booker Prize. I would say that's actually not a bad place to start, although again I wouldn't skip the first book, The Rebel Angels. There's a bit in Bred in the Bone with a character from The Deptford Trilogy, and it isn't a big deal or anything but might be funnier/more interesting to you if you read Deptford first.

Fifth Business is the first book of the Deptford Trilogy, and as I said has elements of the absurd and surreal and is a great place to start. For some reason, Fifth Business is full of buggery. Davies' word, not mine. Anyway, if you like magicians and buggery, you've got some good reading ahead of you there.

But really I do think The Salterton Trilogy, which does indeed begin with Tempest-Tost, is Davies' funniest. (The trilogy ends with A Mixture of Frailties, another correction.) Small-town satire at its finest. The first novel is super meta. The second is salty and delicious, involving a newspaper and a litigious man. And the third is a bit mournful and maudlin, and takes the action mainly away from Salterton. But there is zero buggery in this trilogy, which cannot be said for the other two.

Sorry again for the errors; hope these corrections help if you do decide to read some Davies.
posted by brina at 10:13 AM on July 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. I've loved those of the suggested authors that I have read (Bulgakov, Robertson Davies, Evelyn Waugh, and Douglas Adams). That gives me a great deal of confidence in the other recommendations.

I've gone through and made a list tonight of authors and books to try.

brina, no worries. I've read all three trilogies. I love Robertson Davies.
posted by Area Man at 10:51 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

You're right, Brina - start with Rebel Angels. I must have had a brain fart there. Didn't check the bookshelf before posting!
posted by Listener at 12:18 PM on July 16, 2012

Too late? Gerald Durrell's "My Family and Other Animals". But make sure you rent a villa for a week in Corfu and read it there.
posted by falcon at 10:25 AM on July 17, 2012

There are so many great, funny books listed I'm surprised no one mentioned Jasper Fforde - his Eyre Affair series that begins with The Eyre Affair is very inventive and hilarious. The spinoff series that takes place in the Nursery Crimes Division is perhaps even better.
posted by Lately Gone at 4:10 PM on July 17, 2012

Hands down, #1 is Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. An underappreciated gem, and a true classic.

The Blood of the Lamb by Peter DeVries. DeVries was a humorist, yes, but this one of his books rises above the rest of his output because it was so influenced by his life. It’s the story of a father losing his daughter to leukemia, and it confronts death on both a profoundly real level and an often insanely funny one. Another criminally overlooked masterpiece.

As is #3, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd. Sure, you know “A Christmas Story,” but that’s just scratching the surface.

Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggen. The movie was okay, but it sucked the soul and spirit out of the story. As an aside, Ross and Tom,” a book about Heggen and the guy who wrote “Raintree County” is a fantastic autobiography dealing with the troubles of writing and the dangers after initial success. Very depressing and highly recommended.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. Makes surly Brit adolescence absolutely charming.

Tristam Shandy by Lawrence Sterne. Much-ignored, and that’s a shame. This is a book like no other, and it’s brilliant. And low, too, like the 2- or 3-page setup just to make a masturbation joke.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. Worth every bit of overpraise it got and every bit of the gargantuan effort to get through it.

Huck Finn. Do I even need to explain why?

The Good Soldier Schviek by Jaroslav Hasek.

And, of course, anything Jeeves

posted by old_growler at 11:12 AM on July 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

D'oh! Ross and Tom is a biography, not sutibiography.
posted by old_growler at 11:18 AM on July 18, 2012

Lint by Steve Aylett, a biography of the fictional pulp writer Jeff Lint:

"Jeff Lint was author of some of the strangest and most inventive satirical SF of the twentieth century. He transcended genre in classics such as "Jelly Result and The Stupid Conversation", becoming a cult figure and pariah. Like his contemporary Philip K. Dick, he was blithely ahead of his time. Aylett follows Lint through his Beat days; his immersion in pulp SF, psychedelia and resentment; his disastrous scripts for "Star Trek" and "Patton"; the controversies of "The Caterer" comic and the scariest kids' cartoon ever aired; and his belated Hollywood success in the 1990s. It was a career haunted by death, including the undetected death of his agent, the suspicious death of his rival Herzog, and the unshakable 'Lint is dead' rumors, which persisted even after his death."

The book's page on wikipedia

Born in Chicago in 1928, Jeff (or Jack) Lint submitted his first story to the pulps during a childhood spent in Santa Fe. His first published effort appeared in a wartime edition of Amazing Stories because he submitted it under the name 'Isaac Asimov'. 'And Your Point Is?' tells the story of an unpopularly calm tramp who is pelted every day with rocks, from which he slowly builds a fine house. The story already reflected the notion of 'effortless incitement' that Lint would practice as an adult. 'Jack was fantastic,' says friend Tony Fleece. 'Went around blessing people - knew it was the most annoying thing he could do. A dozen times, strangers just beat the hell out of him.' Lint perfected the technique when he stumbled upon the notion of telling people he would pray for them.


"Around the time of his second published novel Jelly Result, Lint met his first wife Madeline, who was attracted to him by a knife scar that led from below his left eye to his mouth. This was in fact a sleep crease and Lint managed to maintain the mistake by napping through most of the marriage. But after five months a bout of insomnia put paid to the relationship and left Lint with nothing to occupy his time but his writing"

"The mid-seventies also saw Lint's incredible foray into the world of action comics with his creation of The Caterer. This unfathomable title lasted nine issues, during which the hero was never seen to cook or prepare food in any way. The Caterer's wordless shooting spree in Disneyland in the final issue was as ill-judged as it was relentless, and its blithe use of certain copyrighted characters sank the publishers in legal defense costs."


"Jeff Lint is buried in a Taos graveyard, his headstone bearing the epitaph: 'Don't think of it as a problem, but as a challenge which has defeated you.'"
posted by Cantdosleepy at 10:14 AM on July 19, 2012

Not really Wodehousey in a straightforward way, but I love Wodehouse and I love these two novels and think of all of them as hilarious so worth a mention: Magnus Mills, The Restraint of Beasts and All Quiet on the Orient Express. Both feature death unexpectedly, which Wodehouse would never have done quite so morbidly (I think), but risible in their own odd way.
posted by bricoleur at 8:24 PM on July 19, 2012

No Dave Barry? Really? He's not particularly literary, relative to Wodehouse but unbelievably funny. I'll Mature When I'm Dead is a great book of essays, and he's got some humorous crime-fiction that's very similar to Carl Hiaasen. Naked Came The Manatee is also great, which he co-authored with several others.
posted by specialnobodie at 8:31 AM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm almost a year late to the party here, but I wanted to recommend The Leaky Establishment by David Langford. It's a very funny book (a classically British farce, though the subject is unusual) about a scientist at a nuclear weapons lab; he accidentally smuggles a plutonium weapons core out of work, and then his efforts to return it undetected fail so spectacularly that not only does he still have it, he winds up with another one…

I love this question. My reading list has just tripled in length.
posted by Bufo_periglenes at 5:32 PM on April 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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