Funny, light-hearted memoirs from outside the US
February 23, 2021 12:20 AM   Subscribe

I love reading low-stakes memoirs, like celebrity ones (Rue McClanahan's is a great example!) and funny and/or quirky life stories (Wendy McClure, David Sedaris etc), but I'm trying to read outside of the American bubble. Please recommend something that no one has blurbed as "exquisitely heartbreaking".
posted by Gin and Broadband to Media & Arts (27 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend. A hilarious and fictional diary of a British teenager set in the 80s. The character feels like a teenaged British doppelgänger of David Sedaris. Was available as an ebook from my library.
posted by mundo at 12:53 AM on February 23, 2021 [4 favorites]

Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes. It’s a memoir about how the author and her sister moved to Italy to graft roses for ten weeks and end up staying and buying a fixer upper in a small Italian village. Super charming, funny, and with lively descriptions of the Italian countryside.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:02 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

British actor David Niven's autobiography "The Moon's a Balloon" was very entertaining, although it's been 30 years since I read it. Not 100% light-hearted, but full of funny stories.
posted by pipeski at 1:40 AM on February 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Alan Bennett's diaries - Writing Home is probably the best place to start
posted by crocomancer at 1:50 AM on February 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

James Herroit's books are memoirs of a vet in the Yorkshire Dales. I recently re-read the first and thought it aged well.
posted by evilmomlady at 3:31 AM on February 23, 2021 [9 favorites]

She's an American, of course, but Julia Child's My Life in France!

Madhur Jaffrey's memoir is also delightful, about her childhood in India.
posted by athirstforsalt at 4:16 AM on February 23, 2021

Spectacles by Sue Perkins (UK comedian).
posted by sedimentary_deer at 4:17 AM on February 23, 2021

Yorkshire? Amanda Owen A Yorkshire Shepherdess.
Also Bill Bryson lived there for several years, although his first book The Lost Continent is funniest.
Road trip? Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor Long Way Round
Off-road trip? Roger Deakin Waterlog: A Swimmer's Journey Through Britain
Nigel Slater Toast; the story of a boy's hunger
Emily Chappell What goes around; a London cycle courier's story
posted by BobTheScientist at 4:27 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Frank Skinner's Autobiography
posted by essexjan at 4:28 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

From Beatrice Lillie, English comic actress. Every Other Inch A Lady.

I will garble this in the retelling, but this book had an anecdote that I have hung on to. She and Noel Coward used to send each other gag gifts. At one point he sent her a baby alligator. Her housekeeper quit over this, saying something like, Madam, I cannot work in a house where there are alligators. I would have mentioned this before, but I did not think it would come up.
posted by profreader at 4:37 AM on February 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Stewart Lee - How I Escaped My Certain Fate.

If you haven't heard of him, he is a British stand-up and he's one of our best (imo). I recall it being a very funny book.
posted by ihaveyourfoot at 6:21 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Is graphic memoir ok? The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam is fantastic.

Not exactly a memoir, but funny essays about her life: One Day We'll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
posted by foxjacket at 6:52 AM on February 23, 2021

Quinten Crisp's Autobiography -- The Naked Civil Servant

The sequel, How to Become a Virgin, wasn't a great as the first, but was still worth the read.
posted by chiefthe at 7:03 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Gerald Durrell's Corfu trilogy is a wonderful fictionalized memoir about his English family's sojourn in Greece.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:40 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

A Year In Provence by Peter Mayle. An English couple trying to settle into the French countryside.
posted by SemiSalt at 8:06 AM on February 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

Do they have to be non-ficton? Diary of a Provincial Lady is otherwise exactly what you're describing.
posted by Brain Sturgeon at 10:01 AM on February 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah?
posted by Snowishberlin at 10:58 AM on February 23, 2021 [2 favorites]

A Kentish Lad, Frank Muir's autobiography. His time growing up pre WW2, his time as a soldier writing and performing theatre for the British forces. Then his time in the BBC. Interesting, warm and very funny. I've read it three times.

This reminds me of Alan's War. A graphic novel about a young GI discovering art, philosophy and classical music in WW2 France. Evocative and intriguing.
posted by BrStekker at 11:12 AM on February 23, 2021

Jacques Pepin's The Apprentice covers his childhood and early career in France as well as his later life in America; Eric Ripert's 32 Yolks similar ground without the American coda (somewhat darker experiences).

Jessica Mitford's Hons and Rebels describes her aristocratic family's weirdo upbringing in pre-WWII England. Will shatter any Brideshead Revisited-style illusions you may have about such people.
posted by praemunire at 11:17 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Also, I haven't read English composer Humphrey Searle's Quadrille, with Raven, but it sounds entertaining.
posted by praemunire at 11:20 AM on February 23, 2021

Chef Nigel Slater's memoir Toast.
posted by BrStekker at 11:35 AM on February 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

> Born a Crime by Trevor Noah?

He eats caterpillars to survive because his family is homeless. It's definitely exquisitely heartbreaking.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:46 AM on February 23, 2021

Oh, and another one I haven't read but what I've heard of sounds like it might fit your bill: Osbert Sitwell's memoirs.
posted by praemunire at 11:51 AM on February 23, 2021

Seconding A Year in Provence. Just delightful!
posted by mefireader at 11:57 AM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Trevor Noah's memoir has some dark parts, but it's extremely funny and you can totally hear his voice in the writing. It's not a super depressing downer, so I'd recommend it for this Ask.
posted by radioamy at 3:20 PM on February 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Champagne and Polar Bears
posted by roolya_boolya at 3:46 PM on February 23, 2021

I'm on my local library's waiting list for Kiss Myself Goodbye: The Many Lives of Aunt Munca, in which British political commentator Ferdinand Mount seeks to pin down the truth about his glamorous aunt and the source of her wealth. Can't wait to read it.
posted by virago at 7:29 AM on February 24, 2021

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