Funny science fiction / romance / other books?
May 11, 2020 9:04 PM   Subscribe

My mom is looking for books to cheer her up, particularly in the realm of science fiction and romance (but thinks like A Year in Provence are also up her alley). Things with a comic bent, though not necessarily "comedies" per se. I have found some that she enjoys but I'm suddenly blanking on every funny book I've ever known, so I'm looking for recommendations. Likes/dislikes/etc. inside!

Authors she's liked: Tessa Dare, Joanna Bourne's Napoleonic era stuff. She loves Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle and finds the Jack Shaftoe bits in particular hilarious. She absolutely adored A Year in Provence and everything else by Peter Mayle.

She does not like slapstick. The Orville doesn't work for her, nor does Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. She loved Galaxy Quest.

Additional data point: not humorous, but her favorite author is Douglas E. Richards. She particularly likes that he explains the science at the end of the novel.
posted by rednikki to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis
posted by Redstart at 9:15 PM on May 11, 2020 [24 favorites]

Best answer: Neither science fiction nor romance, but one of the most amusing series I've seen in a while is the Gentleman Bastard series, starts with The Lies of Locke Lamora. I actually listened to it on audio. It's rare to me that fiction catches me and makes me laugh out loud... this series did it on the regular. So much so that I wish there were several dozen more books.
posted by stormyteal at 9:16 PM on May 11, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Jenny Crusie’s screwball novels - I especially laugh at Faking It.
posted by clew at 9:19 PM on May 11, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: The Witches of Karres.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 9:30 PM on May 11, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: If fantasy romance is up her alley, T. Kingfisher's Swordheart and Paladin's Grace are funny and warm-hearted romances set in a fantasy DnD-esque world. Swordheart is the funnier of the two, as Paladin's Grace has some heavier subject matter, but they're both really fun.

For science fiction, maybe Martha Wells' Murderbot series? I find Murderbot's narration to be consistently hilarious, even as the novellas and recent novel are pretty action-packed.
posted by yasaman at 10:10 PM on May 11, 2020 [10 favorites]

Best answer: To Say Nothing of the Dog immediately brings to mind one of its inspirations, Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), about JKJ and his two companions trying to take part in some gentle boating on the Thames, and finding only fiasco after fiasco. Most of Connie Willis' book and short fiction are some form of manners-comedy.

Bill Bryson's books are informative and witty.

Seconding Murderbot; I'm looking forward to the novel coming out sometime soon.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:40 PM on May 11, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I love me some science fiction :D

Anything by John Scalzi, but maybe start with Old Man's War. There's a dry/wry/sarcastic sort of humour that I really enjoy in all his works.

Perhaps also Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series. There's an odd element of romance, but also that wry humour again. I suggest starting with the Cordelia books (Shards of Honor and Barrayar) which are precursors to the main series (about Cordelia's son, Miles).
posted by eloeth-starr at 11:51 PM on May 11, 2020 [9 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe the books in Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series. The first in the series is Soulless. Blurbed as "a comedy of manners set in Victorian London, full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking."
posted by RichardP at 12:04 AM on May 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Psst Sunburnt, the Murderbot novel is out!

But to answer the question, all of the above and also Ilona Andrews. I also enjoy Sarah Rees Brennan although she may skew too YA for your mother? But the snark is delicious. Seanan McQuire has a strong vein of humour through all her stuff I've read although they are not primarily comedies.

Steve Miller and Sharon Lee's Liaden Universe books are to some extent like Regency Romances in space, YMMV.
posted by Coaticass at 12:46 AM on May 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (if she likes it there are more). I also thought of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons which is gently funny.
posted by crocomancer at 12:58 AM on May 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Has she tried Georgette Heyer? She's a classic Regency romance author known for excellent dialogue & comedic moments.

For your mother, I'd suggest Frederica, Cotillion, or The Unknown Ajax.

I wouldn't suggest just any Heyer, as she wrote a pretty wide variety of genres and some of her books are definitely products of their times. But those 3 are all top-notch cheerful fun.
posted by Ahniya at 1:18 AM on May 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The Diary of a Provincial Lady, by EM Delafield
posted by sohalt at 2:57 AM on May 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing...
Swordheart, which I finished a couple of days ago. It was very funny and generally wonderful although I found chapters 47-58(?) unnecessary. I'm also very much enjoying the Jackalope Wives short stories by T. Kingfisher (pen name of Ursula Vernon). They aren't all funny but most are and they're all good which I find unusual in short story collections.

Murderbot is awesome. Very funny. It just wants to finish it's soap operas...

John Scalzi is generally funny. Old Man's War is a good starting point but Redshirts, Lock In and Agent to the Stars are all excellent with the Redshirts and Agent being more comedic.

Seanan McQuire is also excellent although she can also be quite dark. Just read Every Heart a Doorway which was both (and pretty murdery). Her Velveteen series is comedic, dystopian super heroes and very amusing. Her travel guide series is good. It's about a woman writing a travel guide for monsters visiting the human world.
posted by Awfki at 4:05 AM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: NOT Piers Anthony.

Pratchett might be worth a shot.

Christopher Moore, maybe, although he's more to the "horror comedy" side than "SF comedy" side (not gory or really scary, though.)

From my "to be read eventually pile" which I am working my way through because *gestures*, I'm in the middle of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Sausages by Tom Holt and enjoying it. Humorous SF/F seems to be his stock in trade; to this USian's ear he seems Very British with a very understated absurdity. May or may not be a positive for your mom.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:13 AM on May 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: NOT Piers Anthony!

This isn't scifi but if "A Year in Provence" is her kinda thing I have a hunch she will enjoy Jane Grimes' Old Filth. My mom's book club loved it and I did too.
posted by nkknkk at 5:20 AM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: She might like Sherry Thomas's Lady Sherlock series.

If she has any interest in contemporary romance, two of my favorites are The Hating Game and The Flatshare. The first is funny in the "main characters 'hate' each other and do banter at each other all the time until they kiss" sort of way, and the second is funny in a gentle, wacky, and very British sort of way.
posted by catoclock at 5:28 AM on May 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Other Connie Willis that may interest your mother is Bellwether and Uncharted Territory.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 6:19 AM on May 12, 2020 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'd recommend the Tales of Inthya series by Effie Calvin. They are fantasy/romance (f/f) novels that definitely cheered me up after I read them.
posted by nolnacs at 6:41 AM on May 12, 2020

Best answer: Some of Diana Wynne Jones is funny or has touches of humor that might appeal - I'm thinking of Dark Lord of Derkholm, Deep Secret, and Howl's Moving Castle off the top of my head. Tanya Huff's Summon the Keeper maybe.

Donna Andrews has a "cozy" mystery series with humor with multiple volumes (which I think may have gone on too long but the first volumes are good.) The main protagonist is a female blacksmith, and more important than the mysteries and solving them is that you get involved with her family, home town and friends, and there is a romance, which ultimately leads to marriage and children. The first one is called Murder with Peacocks.

In terms of other stuff, Tim Parks has written several books about Italy a while ago that might work: Italian Neighbors and An Italian Education. Also, Eric Newby wrote memoirs and a number of travel books that I would recommend.
posted by gudrun at 7:25 AM on May 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Maybe James Alan Gardner? His recent series is basically Superheroes vs Vampires and I really liked the first book, All Those Explosions Were Someone Else's Fault.

His previous series (the League of Peoples) starts off by taking the Expendable Crewmember trope and running with it. (Note: before Scalzi got to it.)

(I'm kind of biased because we went to the same school (albeit years apart) so setting there Explosions had a nostalgia bonus for me.)
posted by suetanvil at 8:15 AM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm in the amen corner for To Say Nothing of the Dog and the Murderbot series.

Gideon the Ninth has a lot of buzz for pretty good reason! I think it could fall right into the "comic bent but not 'comedy' per se" loose category: the protagonist-narrator has the kind of the smartass delivery that comes from an awareness of how utterly ridiculous her situation is, and the heart-sensibility that terrible situations being ridiculous don't make them any less terrible...or any less ridiculous. (It has a certain resonance with modern times, it's safe to say!)
posted by Drastic at 9:10 AM on May 12, 2020

Best answer: Nancy Mitford's later novels are light and funny - if she needs only cheering material (as, god knows, do I) skip The Pursuit of Love, even though it's the best one, because it ends sadly. Don't Tell Alfred is the lightest and most episodic and I found it very cheering - I started with it.
posted by Frowner at 9:59 AM on May 12, 2020

Best answer: If she likes mysteries at all try Man with a Load of Mischief by Martha Grimess. It's the first of a series with a cast of repeat characters and running jokes.
For SF try The Sector General series by James White. Written in the 60's they hold up surprisingly well and I think they may be just what she's looking for.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:31 AM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Anything by A. Lee Martinez.
posted by porpoise at 10:54 AM on May 12, 2020

Best answer: I think your mum might like The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers.
posted by Chairboy at 2:14 PM on May 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer, and Enchanted, Inc. by Shanna Swendson are both fun. Funny, but not comic novels, just light fantasy.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 3:17 PM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rose Lerner writes very satisfyingly researched historical romance. Naomi Novik's Temeraire books are worth a try here. If she likes Stephenson, she might also like Charles Stross. I'd go for the Laundry Files; the humor gets much grimmer over the course of the series, but on the other hand the women get much more interesting.
posted by yarntheory at 3:56 PM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: She may like the Tiffany Aching series (discworld) by Terry Pratchett.
Starting with wee free men. Very funny!
posted by natasha_k at 4:47 PM on May 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These recommendations are so on-point that they have covered several of her other faves! (Connie Willis, Bill Bryson, Christopher Moore, the Vorkosigan series.) Thanks, everyone, I'm going to take these recs and run with them.
posted by rednikki at 9:54 PM on May 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

Humorous romance: Austenland by Shannon Hale (which was made into a very charming movie starring Keri Russell).
posted by panther of the pyrenees at 11:40 PM on May 12, 2020 [2 favorites]

Perhaps she would like the Amelia Peabody series of historical Egyptological mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, 20 novels set over the course of 30 years or so, from the late 19th to early 20th century. Amelia is a delightful protagonist, and romance and humour are woven throughout. The first of the series is Crocodile on the Sandbank.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 8:21 AM on May 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

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