Entertain me!
March 6, 2008 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for some funny and smart fiction books, along the lines of "A Confederacy of Dunces" and "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal."

Books that tend to crop up as recommendations along these lines that I'm not interested in include: "Infinite Jest," and anything by Dave Eggers and Tom Robbins. No offense to those fine gentlemen, but they're not my cup of tea. I'm not picky about when the books were written, though, so modern or old-timey (for instance, "Tristram Shandy" is hilarious and old), whatever you've got. I'm looking more for the kind of funny that will make me giggle while reading, not so much quirky/dry funny that doesn't induce an embarrassing laughing fit while reading in public.

I have seen a a couple of similar previous AskMes, but I'm hoping I can get more suggestions of true hilarity to add to my list-of-books-to-read.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
I assume you've read the rest of Chistopher Moore's work, besides Lamb? If not, check it out. It's all very good and much along the same lines. (In fact, I think all his novels are set in the same world.)

If you like Moore, you might like Jasper Fforde's work.
posted by tdismukes at 9:42 AM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

I highly reccomend Comsmic Banditos, a mix of drug addled shenanigans and quantum physics. Think Hunter S Thompson and Stephen Hawking in a Mexican dive bar, smoking buds.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:46 AM on March 6, 2008

PG Wodehouse is fabulous, and a must for every lover of comic novels. There are several different strains, the most popular probably being the Jeeves/Wooster stories and novels. The Blandings novels are also quite good, and Uncle Fred in the Springtime is a favorite of mine. Also of note are the Psmith stories and the Mulliner stories, both sets of which make great bedtime reading. (If you end up liking Wodehouse, or have read a couple of Jeeves stories, Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames is a contemporary take off on them that can be very funny. Ames, in general, can be very funny, although he's a bit repetitive.)

There are some funny novels of the office mentioned in an AskMe from yesterday, and I think the novel I mentioned there, Kings of Infinite Space by James Hynes is a good, black comedy.
posted by OmieWise at 9:46 AM on March 6, 2008

The Wodehouse books, particularly the Bertie Wooster and Jeeves stories, are laugh-out-loud funny.

A modern novel with a similar tone is Hugh Laurie's "The Gun Seller."

The closest thing to "A Confederacy of Dunces" I've found--picaresque, mildly unsympathetic protagonist--is "One of the Guys" by Robert Clark Young. Obscene, by most people's standards.
posted by Phred182 at 9:48 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Matt Ruff, Sewer Gas and Electric, and Fool on the Hill.
Terry Pratchett, Discworld; start with some of the later books set in Ankh-Morpork.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:49 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might like some of Harry Harrison's stuff. I recommend "Bill, The Galactic Hero" and "The Hammer and the Cross" (the former is about a space-marine type future-soldier who just can't seem to get out of the service, the latter is about the runt of the litter in Viking times, who ends up changing history through cleverness rather than strength). I found that both were reasonably smart and plenty funny, but "Bill" is probably the more amusing one.
posted by vorfeed at 9:54 AM on March 6, 2008

Yeah, I came here to praise Wodehouse. Really, really funny.

(I suppose Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy goes without saying? But I said it anyway.)
posted by Bookhouse at 9:55 AM on March 6, 2008

Evelyn Waugh's "Decline And Fall" and "Scoop" are the cutting and cruel English counterpart to P.G. Wodehouse's more gentle humor.
posted by johngoren at 9:55 AM on March 6, 2008

Seconding Matt Ruff. I just picked up his latest, "Bad Monkeys," from the library yesterday, and had to a) stifle laughter to avoid waking my girlfriend; and b) force myself to put it down so I could get to sleep.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:56 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Definitely more books by Chris Moore. I found The Stupidest Angel and Practical Demonkeeping to be quite amusing.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is hilarious.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:58 AM on March 6, 2008 [3 favorites]

Bored of the Rings? It's crude and dated, but still pretty damn funny.
posted by mosk at 10:00 AM on March 6, 2008

Definitely check out Moore's other books. The audiobook for You Suck, his latest, was done by MeFi member TryTheTilapia.
posted by mkultra at 10:00 AM on March 6, 2008

The Ginger Man and other titles by JP Donleavy.
posted by headnsouth at 10:01 AM on March 6, 2008

Oh, and I tend to assume everyone has read The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. If you haven't, drop everything and get on it.
posted by mkultra at 10:04 AM on March 6, 2008

The Princess Bride (the novel) is quite good.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:14 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wooster and Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse is the best. Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser is both historical and hysterical. Portuguese Irregular Verbs by Alexander Mccall Smith are like the old fashioned comedy of manners, except funny. Try Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson for some gripping prose with some wry social and political commentary. Jim Thompson Population 1280 if you like some irony mixed in with your humor. Election by Tom Perrotta. Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem isn't funny per se, but you might like it.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 10:15 AM on March 6, 2008

I figured someone would have mentioned Job: A Comedy of Justice by now.
posted by O9scar at 10:18 AM on March 6, 2008

2nding Good Omens and the Hitchhiker's Guide. Also, Mark Leyner's work will make you literally LOL.
posted by gnutron at 10:21 AM on March 6, 2008

The Third Policeman by Flann O'Brien.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:22 AM on March 6, 2008

Meddling husband of the OP here. If y'all can get her to read some scifi, you are collectively better folks than I. We have all of Moore's work, a good chunk of Pratchett's, and some deluxe editions of Adams at home. We also have The Gun Seller, which I think she's read (but she honestly goes through so many books it's hard to keep track of them all), and have read/listened to a bunch of Jeeves and Wooster for her book club.

She started to read Fletch once, but since I had two copies of that book - one autographed and one not - and she picked up the autographed on to read, which lead me to chase her off with a wild look in my eyes, I fear I've ruined that series for her.

I've got some Tom Holt and some A. Lee Martinez as well and recommend both of them to people who like Moore and Pratchett and Adams (and who have not read them already).
posted by robocop is bleeding at 10:25 AM on March 6, 2008

Rudy Rucker is pretty great and funny. Many of his sci-fi books are more like "really funny novels based around one sci-fi-ish twist". The following are very enjoyable in that vein: White Light, Spacetime Donuts, and Master of Space and Time. The "Ware" tetralogy is funny, but if you aren't a sci-fi fan, it might be annoying - hard to say.
posted by chr1sb0y at 10:42 AM on March 6, 2008

Every time I see a request for funny books, I come in to recommend Sewer Gas and Electric by Matt Ruff, and every time someone's beaten me to it. This is for a good reason; it is the funniest novel I've ever read, and I really did LOL all the way through it. So I'll add my recommendation for that one.

If you've spent any time in academia, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis and Small World by David Lodge are both smart and very funny.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:48 AM on March 6, 2008

Given your two examples I think you'll really enjoy this: I Want to Buy A Vowel by John Welter. It's disappointingly short but chuckle out loud funny while being a very smart commentary on immigration (although it predates the post 911 border hysteria of today).

I also think that the "Wee Free Men" young adult series by Terry Pratchett is much funnier, smarter and less slapstick-y than many of his Discworld books for adults - I especially like the audiobook versions as the reader excels at the voices of the wee free men and their creative swearing.
posted by rosebengal at 10:56 AM on March 6, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, this is awesome! There's tons here I've never heard of.

I will say that I loved Good Omens, but have yet to find something by either Pratchett or Gaiman alone that's held my interest (maybe just trying the wrong "starter" books, though- my tolerance for sci-fi/fantasy includes the first 5 Robert Jordan books and Connie Willis, but not Tolkien or Stephenson or... much else in the genres. But I'm willing to change!). Seeing this, I now feel very bad for casting the deciding vote in my book club against Sewer, Gas, and Electric, because we ended up reading The Wild Trees instead and that was a yawn-fest.

Also, Wodehouse rocks. Please, keep 'em coming, my Amazon wish list needs to grow!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:57 AM on March 6, 2008

Carl Hiassen is funny, as is Robert Ludlum's The Road to Omaha and its sequel. I also second cosmicbandito's eponymous suggestion; he is the only other person I know to have read it, but it was hilarious.
posted by TedW at 11:09 AM on March 6, 2008

On looking closer it appears that The Road To Gandolfo was a prequel, not sequel, to The Road to Omaha. They'e funny in either order, though.
posted by TedW at 11:12 AM on March 6, 2008

Help! A Bear Is Eating Me! by Mike Hansen is worth a listen and it's free. The main character is a beautifully f**ked-up human being and Hansen rides his one-tricky pony a remarkably long distance.
posted by chairface at 11:31 AM on March 6, 2008

Should be Mykle Hansen. Oh, for the "edit" button!
posted by chairface at 11:33 AM on March 6, 2008

Bombardiers by Po Bronson is one of the smartest and funniest books I've ever read. It's a wicked satire of the bond-trading industry. Laughed my fool head off reading this.
posted by DWRoelands at 12:03 PM on March 6, 2008

In addition to rosebengal's recommendation of John Welter's I Want To Buy A Vowel, try Night of the Avenging Blowfish: A Novel of Covert Operations, Love, and Luncheon Meat. Funny, engaging, and weird.

I also really loved Down on Ponce by Fred Willard, as well as his other novel Princess Naughty And The Voodoo Cadillac.

All of the above were recommendations from Christopher Moore himself.
posted by MrVisible at 12:10 PM on March 6, 2008

Three Men In A Boat is the funniest book I've ever read... it made me laugh out loud in the bookshop before I got to the end of the first page. It's particularly deadly on public transport when you are trying to hold it in... even thinking back and typing this has me chucking, must read it again soon.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:15 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Anything by Max Shulman, but my personal recommendations are Barefoot Boy with Cheek, Sleep 'Til Noon and Anyone Got a Match.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:17 PM on March 6, 2008

My favorite of the Moore books is Coyote Blue, if for no other reason than this line:

“If I was not meant to have ugly women and cats they would not be so easy to catch.”

Oh and if you wind up liking Hiassen, you'll probably also love Tim Dorsey's stuff.
posted by JaredSeth at 12:19 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

How could I forget Three Men In A Boat? fearfulsymmetry has got it right; it very well might be the funniest thing ever written.

The full text is available from Gutenberg.
posted by MrVisible at 12:57 PM on March 6, 2008

Saki's short stories are great and timeless. In a slightly different vein, I personally find Tom Wolfe, particularly Bonfire of the Vanities and A Man in Full, achingly funny.
posted by nedpwolf at 1:09 PM on March 6, 2008

Oh, and Christopher Buckley is great, great, great. No Way to Treat a First Lady and Thank You for Smoking are two I can highly recommend.
posted by nedpwolf at 1:11 PM on March 6, 2008

Both Absurdistan: A Novel by Gary Shteyngart and Some Hope: A Trilogy by Edward St. Aubyn had several moments/scenes where I was unable to control myself laughterwise. Granted, some people I've recommended them to didn't quite see eye to eye with me as regards black humor, but I've heard the same from others I recommended Confederacy to.
posted by subajestad at 1:13 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

I like The Good Soldier Švejk by Jaroslav Hašek. This probably depends on your taste, but I thought it was properly hilarious. I read it during an overnight flight, presumably irritating the guy trying to sleep next to me as I shook with laughter across the Atlantic.

It strikes me now that I never finished it (not the book's fault! Would recommend A++++); then again the author didn't manage to finish writing it, either.
posted by eponymouse at 1:17 PM on March 6, 2008

How about Mark Twain's Letters from the Earth? It's a religious satire and is sort down the same lane as The Gospel According to Biff.
posted by LunaticFringe at 1:18 PM on March 6, 2008

The Mezzanine, Room Temperature and U and I, all by Nicholson Baker.
posted by newmoistness at 1:35 PM on March 6, 2008

I liked Absurdistan a lot, too, although I forgot about it. I thought Russian Debutante's Handbook, Shteyngart's first novel, was a bit better, though.
posted by OmieWise at 1:41 PM on March 6, 2008

White Noise by Don DeLillo.
posted by thebellafonte at 1:49 PM on March 6, 2008

I literally sobbed from laughing (in public, on a train; people became concerned, because I was laugh-crying too hard at first to explain what was happening, which all just made me laugh harder) whilst reading The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills. Caveat: you must be the sort of person who thinks that an exceedingly dry, pitch-black, deadpan satire about Scottish fence-builders sounds promising.
posted by scody at 1:54 PM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yes, yes a thousand times yes, if you haven't read any of the other Moore stuff, you really should, it's excellent. My personal favorite is Bloodsucking Fiends: A Love Story, but that could be because it was my introduction to his work.

Also seconding Good Omens (best book ever!) as well as the rest of Pratchett's work with the Discworld series.

As suggested Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas, and Electric is good, but more than a little bit weird.

Other things I didn't see suggested upthread yet: Neil Stephenson's Snow Crash, Mil Millinton's Things my Girlfriend and I Have Argued About, Grant Naylor's Red Dwarf (the book was written in parallel with the TV show, so they are similar, but different), Bill Fitzhugh's Pest Control (feels like Chris Moore light, but still good).
posted by quin at 2:00 PM on March 6, 2008

If you enjoyed the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy books, I highly recommend the two Dirk Gently books that Adams wrote - 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' and 'Long Dark Teatime of the Soul'. Similarly absurdist, but a bit darker and more plot-driven. Supposedly there was going to be some crossover between the two series in the last HHGG book, but alas, we'll never see that make the light of day...
posted by FatherDagon at 2:38 PM on March 6, 2008

The Diary of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain, its a little book, but rather funny and Puckoon by Spike Milligan. I'd also throw my support behind Three Men in a Boat and Wodehouse, along with everyone else.
posted by cluck at 3:41 PM on March 6, 2008

Might be tough to find now, but the only book that made me laugh more than A Confederacy of Dunces is Todd McEwen's Fisher's Hornpipe.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 5:13 PM on March 6, 2008

I thought about suggesting The Mezzanine, but I found it somewhat tedious and could only read bits of it at a time.
You might try Practical Demon Keeping by Christopher Moore, which is similar to Good Omens in feel.
You might like Double Whammmy by Carl Hiaasen. It's fairly stereotypical of his overall style and one of the more entertaining of his works.
posted by plinth at 5:30 PM on March 6, 2008

I just finished The Androids Dream, and found myself giggling a lot more than I was expecting...
posted by pupdog at 6:02 PM on March 6, 2008

Oh, yeah, Android's Dream is great, and by MeFi's own.
posted by OmieWise at 6:13 PM on March 6, 2008

I know I'm late on this. But if you follow no other recommendation in this thread, follow this one.

Barry Hughart, Bridge of Birds.

You will not regret reading this book. It singlehandedly saved my life once by being funny and optimistic in a time when I lacked humor and optimism.
posted by InnocentBystander at 6:57 PM on March 6, 2008

I've read a few of Christopher Moore's books and while they invariable had amazing concepts, I found the execution a bit lacking.

Douglas Coupland is like Christopher Moore, except with better writing. :D Works you'll definitely want to check out are Jpod and Microserfs. Very nerdy, very wry but still somewhat optimistic. The sarcasm, it abounds! :D
posted by Phire at 9:16 PM on March 6, 2008

David Sedaris gives me the LOLs.
posted by yehaskel at 9:54 PM on March 6, 2008

Yeah, I don't love Christopher Moore, either, though I thought I would. Funny, but not spectacularly well done, IMHO. Carl Hiaasen and David Sedaris are both fabulous. Also Stephenson's Snow Crash. (Though I'm late on all of those).
posted by purenitrous at 10:53 PM on March 6, 2008

I can't believe nobody's mentioned Vonnegut! Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse Five and Timequake have all caused me to get funny looks in public.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 2:43 AM on March 7, 2008

Stella Gibbons- Cold Comfort Farm. Jane Austen- Northanger Abbey is perhaps her most consistently satirical work. (Pratchett loves to claim his work started out as a mash-up of Austen and Tolkien: I dimly recall a very funny line from an interview with him about his juvenilia consisting of orcs attacking a vicarage, or something.) Oscar Wilde- (too obvious?) more the plays though. Not fiction but a memoir- naturalist Gerald Durrell's My family and other animals.

Hmm, on checking the other threads I see my suggestions are redundant, except by adding numerical weight.

Snow Crash is funny? I knew there was some reason I ought to have read that by now.
posted by Coaticass at 3:21 AM on March 7, 2008

Oh yes, Duck by the oboe, I thought of Vonnegut too, but I've only read Slaughterhouse Five and it's so sad as well as funny I wasn't sure if it was within the terms of the question? And then I forgot... or was kidnapped by aliens.
posted by Coaticass at 3:30 AM on March 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Hanif Kureishi- The Buddha of Suburbia. Anything by Milan Kundera (erm, not that I've read that much, perhaps someone else can suggest where to start). I actually found Anna Karenina quite funny in parts, does that seem weird? In a similar way to Austen even, not for satire but the wry observations about class and hypocrisy are there. (No-one reads Tolstoy for the lulz do they?)
posted by Coaticass at 3:45 AM on March 7, 2008

Chuck Palahniuk's awfully good. Darker, but funny as hell. And if you like Moore, I think you'll like him, too.
posted by EarBucket at 2:41 PM on March 7, 2008

Handling Sin by Michael Malone is the funniest book I've ever read.
posted by daneflute at 7:01 PM on March 7, 2008

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