20 hilarious books you need to read

Pages worth thumbing through
Books, Comedy books, Books you should read, Funniest books ever written, Funny books, Books for men
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [Hunter S Thompson] - A book that has appeared in several formats but nobody, including its author, has ever been entirely certain as to what Fear and Loathing actually is. Part reportage, part confession, part chronicled binge, it details a trip to Las Vegas undertaken by Thompson and a strange brute he refers to as 'my attorney'. This is a masterpiece of many colours, almost all of them lurid. [review by Joseph O'Connor]
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas [Hunter S Thompson] - A book that has appeared in several formats but nobody, including its author, has ever been entirely certain as to what Fear and Loathing actually is. Part reportage, part confession, part chronicled binge, it details a trip to Las Vegas undertaken by Thompson and a strange brute he refers to as 'my attorney'. This is a masterpiece of many colours, almost all of them lurid. [review by Joseph O'Connor]
I, Partridge [Steve Coogan] - The worry for fans of Norfolk's finest export was that this autobiography might be an idea too far. Could the Partridge concept really sustain a 300+ page life story in his own words? The answer emphatically is yes. Writers Neil and Rob Gibbons deliver a brilliant gag-fest pitched perfectly in Alan's nightmarish inner voice.
I, Partridge [Steve Coogan] - The worry for fans of Norfolk's finest export was that this autobiography might be an idea too far. Could the Partridge concept really sustain a 300+ page life story in his own words? The answer emphatically is yes. Writers Neil and Rob Gibbons deliver a brilliant gag-fest pitched perfectly in Alan's nightmarish inner voice.
Screenburn [Charlie Brooker] - Making a reader laugh is hard. Making them laugh to the point where beer pours out their nose and people around them are starting to complain is no mean feat. This collection of Brooker's TV columns from the Guardian is swimming in bile and he succeeds brilliantly in skewering all that is anodyne on our TV screens while describing some of the offenders wonderfully well.
Screenburn [Charlie Brooker] - Making a reader laugh is hard. Making them laugh to the point where beer pours out their nose and people around them are starting to complain is no mean feat. This collection of Brooker's TV columns from the Guardian is swimming in bile and he succeeds brilliantly in skewering all that is anodyne on our TV screens while describing some of the offenders wonderfully well.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [Douglas Adams] - This book succeeds in creating a wonderful blend of science fiction, wit and social commentary that would go on to entertain people of all ages and tastes, full of wonderfully ironic characters, imagination and esoteric technology. It that wasn't enough, it also gave us the answer to life, the universe and everything: 42.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy [Douglas Adams] - This book succeeds in creating a wonderful blend of science fiction, wit and social commentary that would go on to entertain people of all ages and tastes, full of wonderfully ironic characters, imagination and esoteric technology. It that wasn't enough, it also gave us the answer to life, the universe and everything: 42.
The we came to the end [Joshua Ferris] - Extract: "Jim Jackers was hard at work on the pro bono ads and had been working on them steadily for a few hours, since his return from helping Chrtis Yop throw his chair into Lake Michigan. Looking up from the blank page to the blinking clock, he discovered it was only three-fifteen. He decided that today was perhaps the longest day of this life. Not only had he been called an idiot to his face, but he could do nothing to counter that opinion, because he couldn't come up with even a single funny thing to say about breast cancer."
The we came to the end [Joshua Ferris] - Extract: "Jim Jackers was hard at work on the pro bono ads and had been working on them steadily for a few hours, since his return from helping Chrtis Yop throw his chair into Lake Michigan. Looking up from the blank page to the blinking clock, he discovered it was only three-fifteen. He decided that today was perhaps the longest day of this life. Not only had he been called an idiot to his face, but he could do nothing to counter that opinion, because he couldn't come up with even a single funny thing to say about breast cancer."
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy [Laurence Sterne] - Tristram Shandy is a lesson to stand-up comedians in keeping a joke going: it's basically an incredibly protracted shaggy-dog tale, or 'cock-and-bull story'. The joke is that Tristram keeps trying to tell the story of his life but keeps getting distracted by millions of other thoughts, and goes off into so many digressions that the author pretty much died while he was still writing it.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy [Laurence Sterne] - Tristram Shandy is a lesson to stand-up comedians in keeping a joke going: it's basically an incredibly protracted shaggy-dog tale, or 'cock-and-bull story'. The joke is that Tristram keeps trying to tell the story of his life but keeps getting distracted by millions of other thoughts, and goes off into so many digressions that the author pretty much died while he was still writing it.
The life and times of the Thunderbolt kid [Bill Bryson] - This book captures the hilarious innocence of a time when men had flat-top hair cuts that left them "looking as if they were prepared in emergencies to provide landing spots from some very small experimental aircraft". There was an unbridled enthusiasm for all things atomic (from cocktails to motels and bombs) and an unending culinary innovation (spray-on mayonnaise, frozen salads, liquid instant coffee in a spray can). People who pick up this book are always happier after they put it down.
The life and times of the Thunderbolt kid [Bill Bryson] - This book captures the hilarious innocence of a time when men had flat-top hair cuts that left them "looking as if they were prepared in emergencies to provide landing spots from some very small experimental aircraft". There was an unbridled enthusiasm for all things atomic (from cocktails to motels and bombs) and an unending culinary innovation (spray-on mayonnaise, frozen salads, liquid instant coffee in a spray can). People who pick up this book are always happier after they put it down.
Trainspotting [Irvine Welsh] - The best kind of comedy is based on recognition, and those of who grew up in Scotland during the 1980s saw a surreal kind of authenticity, which might sound like a contradiction until you remember what times were like. The humour is dark, but much of what makes you laugh comes from the realisation that the characters are brilliantly unapologetic about their reality, which has been making people crack up since the earliest days of comedy.
Trainspotting [Irvine Welsh] - The best kind of comedy is based on recognition, and those of who grew up in Scotland during the 1980s saw a surreal kind of authenticity, which might sound like a contradiction until you remember what times were like. The humour is dark, but much of what makes you laugh comes from the realisation that the characters are brilliantly unapologetic about their reality, which has been making people crack up since the earliest days of comedy.
Vile Bodies [Evelyn Waugh] - It is a gift to the satirist to live in turbulent times but there still remains the task of encapsulating them. In Vile Bodies, an ostensibly superficial comic novel Evelyn Waugh brilliantly, hilariously, unflinchingly but always humanely pinions a society which is in thrall to gossip and decadence traumatised by war and financial catastrophe yet unable to stop itself. This is a book as much for our age as it is for when Waugh wrote it in 1930.
Vile Bodies [Evelyn Waugh] - It is a gift to the satirist to live in turbulent times but there still remains the task of encapsulating them. In Vile Bodies, an ostensibly superficial comic novel Evelyn Waugh brilliantly, hilariously, unflinchingly but always humanely pinions a society which is in thrall to gossip and decadence traumatised by war and financial catastrophe yet unable to stop itself. This is a book as much for our age as it is for when Waugh wrote it in 1930.
A confederacy of Dunces [John Kennedy Toole] - If you can swallow the tragedy of its publication, then this is a comedic masterpiece whose pages sing with one of the greatest fictional creations in literature. Toole wrote the novel - set in New Orleans - in the early 60s, and his failure to find a publisher led him to suicide in 1969. (Its posthumous Pulitzer in '81 compounds the grim irony). The book follows obese savant Ignatius J Reilly's doomed attempts to integrate with society.
A confederacy of Dunces [John Kennedy Toole] - If you can swallow the tragedy of its publication, then this is a comedic masterpiece whose pages sing with one of the greatest fictional creations in literature. Toole wrote the novel - set in New Orleans - in the early 60s, and his failure to find a publisher led him to suicide in 1969. (Its posthumous Pulitzer in '81 compounds the grim irony). The book follows obese savant Ignatius J Reilly's doomed attempts to integrate with society.
Republican Party Reptile [PJ O'Rourke] - 'We look like Republicans, and think like conservatives, but we drive a lot faster and keep vibrators and baby oil and a video camera behind the stack of sweaters on the bedroom closet shelf.' This scathing collection of autobiographical and political essays refuses to pull any punches.
Republican Party Reptile [PJ O'Rourke] - 'We look like Republicans, and think like conservatives, but we drive a lot faster and keep vibrators and baby oil and a video camera behind the stack of sweaters on the bedroom closet shelf.' This scathing collection of autobiographical and political essays refuses to pull any punches.
Without Feathers [Woody Allen] - The reason Woody Allen is so funny is because he things he might just achieve universal metaphysical profundity. But when he realises he's not going to get there by Route One, because he's not a tormented Mitteleuropean genius, because he's just a tormented Brooklyn pisher, he goes straight for the Daddy-kill - and blabs something about shaving, cholesterol or hens.
Without Feathers [Woody Allen] - The reason Woody Allen is so funny is because he things he might just achieve universal metaphysical profundity. But when he realises he's not going to get there by Route One, because he's not a tormented Mitteleuropean genius, because he's just a tormented Brooklyn pisher, he goes straight for the Daddy-kill - and blabs something about shaving, cholesterol or hens.
Diary of a nobody [George and Weedon Grossmith] - Of the three stock humourous charachters - the comic rogue, the comic butt and the solemn fool, the last is best played by Charles Pooter, the bearded, frock-coated, middle-aged, late-Victorian clerk who records his suburban existence in "Diary of a Nobody". The forerunner of today's "cringe-comedy," Pooter strives to uphold propriety in the face of a rude world, which makes him as heroic as he is ludicrous.
Diary of a nobody [George and Weedon Grossmith] - Of the three stock humourous charachters - the comic rogue, the comic butt and the solemn fool, the last is best played by Charles Pooter, the bearded, frock-coated, middle-aged, late-Victorian clerk who records his suburban existence in "Diary of a Nobody". The forerunner of today's "cringe-comedy," Pooter strives to uphold propriety in the face of a rude world, which makes him as heroic as he is ludicrous.
Lucky Jim [Kingsley Amis] - Kingsley Amis's first (and funniest) novel. It stars Jim Dixon, a young university lecturer who is persecuted by one of the great comic bosses, the bumbling Neddy Welch. This book is the conventional nomination for greatest comedy since the second world war, because that's exactly what it is.
Lucky Jim [Kingsley Amis] - Kingsley Amis's first (and funniest) novel. It stars Jim Dixon, a young university lecturer who is persecuted by one of the great comic bosses, the bumbling Neddy Welch. This book is the conventional nomination for greatest comedy since the second world war, because that's exactly what it is.
Portnoy's Complaint [Philip Roth] - One thing about 'high' literature is that it is almost never actually laugh-out-loud funny. It can be witty, ironic, absurd or comic, but genuine belly-laughs are very rare. Portnoy's Complaint is in that very rare company.
Portnoy's Complaint [Philip Roth] - One thing about 'high' literature is that it is almost never actually laugh-out-loud funny. It can be witty, ironic, absurd or comic, but genuine belly-laughs are very rare. Portnoy's Complaint is in that very rare company.
Catch 22 [Joseph Heller] - This is about as good as it gets. The story is set as WWII nears its end and concerns Yossarian an American bombardier, who is seriously committed to staying alive in a world of insanity. For those with no concept of this book think an air squadron version of MASH set in 1945. Except funnier. The writing is relentlessly honest as the characters on the airbase live and die, love and fail in the kind of madness that can only exist in the military. It is, as great satire should be, unsentimental, vulgar and brutally hysterical.
Catch 22 [Joseph Heller] - This is about as good as it gets. The story is set as WWII nears its end and concerns Yossarian an American bombardier, who is seriously committed to staying alive in a world of insanity. For those with no concept of this book think an air squadron version of MASH set in 1945. Except funnier. The writing is relentlessly honest as the characters on the airbase live and die, love and fail in the kind of madness that can only exist in the military. It is, as great satire should be, unsentimental, vulgar and brutally hysterical.
A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again [David Foster Wallace] - What seems like an innocent travelogue about an all-expanses-paid 5-star Caribbean cruise becomes a trip into paranoid neuroses as the author starts to fear how much he is being 'pampered'. Laughter can save your life, sadly this book did not save its author. After successfully weaning himself from an anti-depression medicine, DFW committed suicide in 2008.
A supposedly fun thing I'll never do again [David Foster Wallace] - What seems like an innocent travelogue about an all-expanses-paid 5-star Caribbean cruise becomes a trip into paranoid neuroses as the author starts to fear how much he is being 'pampered'. Laughter can save your life, sadly this book did not save its author. After successfully weaning himself from an anti-depression medicine, DFW committed suicide in 2008.
Three men in a boat [Jerome K Jerome] - Three wealthy layabouts take a boat trip up the Thames to the amusement of generations of readers. The book was originally intended to be a serious travel guide but, thankfully, it succumbed to the wit of the narrator's anecdotes and remains a warming portrayal of a brilliantly welcoming writer's mind.
Three men in a boat [Jerome K Jerome] - Three wealthy layabouts take a boat trip up the Thames to the amusement of generations of readers. The book was originally intended to be a serious travel guide but, thankfully, it succumbed to the wit of the narrator's anecdotes and remains a warming portrayal of a brilliantly welcoming writer's mind.
Money: a suicide note [Martin Amis] - The central character of Money, John Self is your average John's average self; a boy so hungry, so thirsty that you want him to have another drink, visit another brothel or just make a crude pass at his lesbian colleague or stare at the book his ex-girlfriend wants him to read before she'll talk to him. This is a 300-page joke about yourself. But don't laugh out loud too much because the joke might be the only truth.
Money: a suicide note [Martin Amis] - The central character of Money, John Self is your average John's average self; a boy so hungry, so thirsty that you want him to have another drink, visit another brothel or just make a crude pass at his lesbian colleague or stare at the book his ex-girlfriend wants him to read before she'll talk to him. This is a 300-page joke about yourself. But don't laugh out loud too much because the joke might be the only truth.
Cold Comfort Farm [Stella Gibbons] - A comedic tour-de-force for anyone who hears 'dueling banjos' upon entering the countryside, Stella Gibson's debut novel is an iced Martini in the face of the bucolic English literary tradition. In some ways a sort of 1930s cousin to 'Withnail and I', the book details a season spent by orphaned London socialite Flora Poste among her rustic relations, the Starkadders. Exquisitely, magnificently funnt and arch, Flora may be the sexiest woman in 20th century English fiction.
Cold Comfort Farm [Stella Gibbons] - A comedic tour-de-force for anyone who hears 'dueling banjos' upon entering the countryside, Stella Gibson's debut novel is an iced Martini in the face of the bucolic English literary tradition. In some ways a sort of 1930s cousin to 'Withnail and I', the book details a season spent by orphaned London socialite Flora Poste among her rustic relations, the Starkadders. Exquisitely, magnificently funnt and arch, Flora may be the sexiest woman in 20th century English fiction.
09January2017