Humorous and Substantial Non-fiction Bookie Wooks
April 11, 2013 3:38 PM   Subscribe

I'm really digging reading humorous essays these days. Recommend me your favorite funny books!

Julie Klausner's "I Don't Care About Your Band" got my obsession started (I'm obsessed with her podcast too), and another favorite has been Sara Barron's "People Are Unappealing."

Surprisingly, the ones I've read by big-name comedians like Chelsea Handler and Tina Fey have been frustratingly disappointing. I just got Sarah Silverman's Bedwetter book, hopefully it will make me laugh.

I didn't like Tina Fey's book because it read like a comedy act. It is funny yet also very insubstantial as she doesn't reveal much about the "real" Tina. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm looking for humorous non-fiction books where you feel like you're getting inside the author's head and are amused at the same time. Klausner and Barron are clearly telling stories based on their life experiences, so every line isn't setting up a joke, like in Tina's book. Rather, they are writing about their experiences in a funny way.

Not looking for dry wits like David Rakoff (though he's great, RIP) as that style is too restrained. The crasser the better, in my opinion :)
posted by oceanview to Writing & Language (32 answers total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
I assume by your "Bookie Wook" title that you've read Russell Brand's "My Booky Wook" and "Booky Wook 2"? They are real memoirs, not just comic anecdotes, but brutally crass and funny.
posted by nicwolff at 3:43 PM on April 11, 2013

Roughin' It by Mark Twain may not fit your descriptors exactly but it is one of the funniest books I have ever read, and by one of the greatest humorists I am aware of.
posted by Odinhead at 3:48 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Just about anything by David Sedaris should, I think, fit the bill. Me Talk Pretty One Day is one of my favorites of his books.
posted by DingoMutt at 3:51 PM on April 11, 2013 [6 favorites]

I liked Mindy Kaling's book. The end gets a little "reads like a comedy act", but for the most party I preferred it to the Fey, Handler and Silverman books.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:52 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

How To Be a Woman sounds up your alley.
posted by Erasmouse at 3:59 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

It's more of a subtle humor, but outdoor writer Tim Cahill is pretty good. He's got a few essay collections (one of which, Pecked To Death By Ducks, I got for the title alone), but my favorite book of his, Road Fever, is a whole novel about his stint as one of a two-person team pursuing a Guinness world record for long distance driving (they drove the Pan-American highway in 24 days). There are a couple of places where he and his companion just totally lose it while on the road and I cracked up along with them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:59 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

Jenny Lawson is my new favorite writer. She's definitely a one-off. Her autobiography is Let's Pretend This Never Happened.
posted by vickyverky at 4:00 PM on April 11, 2013

Patton Oswalt's Zombie Spaceship Wasteland is a personal favorite of mine.
posted by JDC8 at 4:12 PM on April 11, 2013

I came in to say Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman. Also her collection of articles, Moranthology.

Charlie Brooker is hilarious but you might need an understanding of UK life. They're not autobiographical, again a collection of articles, but very funny, angry and slightly surreal rants about life. I especially recommend Dawn Of The Dumb
posted by billiebee at 4:25 PM on April 11, 2013

I'm shocked and saddened that David Foster Wallace's essays haven't been mentioned yet. There are three books of essays:

A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
Consider the Lobster
Both Flesh and Not

He is as smart as hell and incredibly funny.

I also really enjoyed Chuck Palahniuk's essays in Stranger Than Fiction. I like his nonfiction essays better than I like his novels, in fact.
posted by janey47 at 4:29 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Anne Lamott has a pretty wicked sense of humor in some of her books. Try Traveling Mercies or Operating Instructions.
posted by mermily at 5:07 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really enjoy Jon Ronson's books - try The Psychopath Test.
posted by barnoley at 5:11 PM on April 11, 2013 [4 favorites]

I came to recommend Jon Ronson. But I was too late, he was already recommended.
posted by aubilenon at 5:20 PM on April 11, 2013

For a very substantial autobiography by a comedian, I highly recommend Steve Martin's Born Standing Up. Though it's not a laugh riot, it's very good.

I also thought these two books by AJ Jacobs were hilarious:

The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World

My Life as an Experiment: One Man's Humble Quest to Improve Himself by Living as a Woman, Becoming George Washington, Telling No Lies, and Other Radical Tests
posted by Bokmakierie at 5:27 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature

Augusten Burroughs is more of a memoirist, but very funny.

Lewis Lapham's essays are more dry wit, but also amusing. Same with the late Gore Vidal.
posted by seemoreglass at 5:32 PM on April 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

but my favorite book of his, Road Fever,

Seconding - I came in to suggest Road Fever.
posted by deadmessenger at 5:37 PM on April 11, 2013

I agree with Odinhead that Roughing It is one of the funniest books in the English language. And it really is a collection of essays. That is, it's all true.*

I will also throw in Roy Blount.

* "True" as in "embellished."
posted by bricoleur at 5:40 PM on April 11, 2013

You will enjoy the works of Cynthia Heimel. Although she's my generation.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:07 PM on April 11, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some great recommendations already. You might like Mary Roach and John Jeremiah Sullivan. Here's a Sullivan piece that has been collected in his book Pulphead.
posted by classa at 6:10 PM on April 11, 2013

Some of my faves:
Jonathan Ames, Lauren Weedman, Laurie Notaro, Ayun Halliday, Merrill Markoe, Jeanne Darst.
God, I *loved* Darst's "Fiction Ruined My Family." Very crass, very funny and more than a little sad.
posted by whistle pig at 6:17 PM on April 11, 2013

I also came in to recommend Caitlin Moran!
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 6:26 PM on April 11, 2013

I heartily recommend Jonathan Ames' stuff, especially I Love You More Than You Know. I still giggle when I think about that little kid in the hotel bathroom. "Oh pardon!" "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark!"
posted by carsonb at 6:46 PM on April 11, 2013

Bill Bryson is well-known; Tim Moore less so. Both are laugh-out-loud funny in my experience.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:49 PM on April 11, 2013 [3 favorites]

A Bad Idea I'm About to Do by Chris Gethard
posted by dogwalker at 8:23 PM on April 11, 2013

I also thought of Cynthia Heimel - I read Get your tongue out of my mouth, I'm kissing you Goodbye almost 20 years ago, and I still chuckle at the memory and the title has stuck with me though I haven't seen a copy since. I can't remember if I read If You Can't Live without Me, Why Aren't You Dead Yet?! as well, but I love the title.

I also recently read Dan Savage's two memoirs, The Kid and The Commitment, and found both to be funny and heartfelt, though more of a chuckle-funny than laugh-out-loud funny.
posted by jb at 8:52 PM on April 11, 2013

Seconding Augusten Burroughs, especially Dry. It's darkly hilarious; just how I like my memoirs.
posted by Salamander at 11:55 PM on April 11, 2013

The funniest book I've ever read, laugh out loud at 6am on the subway making everyone else uncomfortable funny: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.

His other stuff is pretty funny, too, but that one is the best of the bunch.
posted by Grither at 4:29 AM on April 12, 2013

Bonk by Mary Roach is about scientific research on sex. It's both enlightening and hysterical.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 8:09 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend Quick Shots of False Hope by Laura Kightlinger. It's been out of print forever but you could probably get a used copy. It's very personal and less jokey than her normal standup material. I would say it's basically the book equivalent of Louis C.K.'s show Louie in terms of it being made up of barely fictionalized vignettes based on her life.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:49 AM on April 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here are two of the funniest books ever written. They are very different.

Modern Manners by PJ O'rourke is a pretend Miss Manners book. It was written 30 years ago almost, but is still amazing funny and horrible.

John Hodgman
's The Areas of My Expertise is a fake book of all world knowledge. It is absurdly brilliant.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:54 PM on April 12, 2013

Sloane Crosley, if you haven't tried her. It's light stuff, but it has heart.
posted by superfluousm at 6:08 PM on April 12, 2013

If you're at all musically inclined, Chuck Klosterman's essay collections have many hilarious bits.
posted by softlord at 6:38 PM on April 13, 2013

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