Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh

decline and fallThe Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh splits nearly into two parts: the first is spent in an all-boys school, the second in a prison. The two parts side-by-side give the impression that the settings are not as entirely different as one suspects. The first half of the book spends a long time introducing each of the characters and the second half of the book takes its time killing each of them off. Characters have silly names, such as Lady Circumference.

A problem with funny writing is that the joke might not make sense after a couple years, or in the case of Decline and Fall, after 90 years. Continue reading

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Crowdsourced List of Funny Books

two women laughingSomeone asked me at dinner the other day for a book recommendation—a funny book recommendation. It was difficult to think of any right away! Although I laugh while reading many books, I haven’t read many books that I would characterize as comedies. So I turned to Facebook with the question, “What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?” I received quite a variety in the results! I have gathered them all here for convenience. (Note: I have not read most of these.)

  • Cervantes, Don Quixote (1615).
  • Jonathan Swift, A Modest Proposal (essay, 1729).
  • Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling (1749).
  • Voltaire, Candide, ou l’Optimisme (1759).
  • Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers (1836).
  • Edgar Allen Poe, «Never Bet the Devil Your Head» (1841).
  • Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).
  • Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (1889).
  • Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband (play, 1895).
  • P.G. Wodehouse (1881-1975), generally recommended.
    • Psmith, Journalist (1915).
    • Leave it to Psmith (1923).
    • Summer Moonshine (1937).
    • World of Mr. Mulliner (1972).
  • O. Henry, «Ransom of the Red Chief» (1910).
  • Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall (1928).johnson
  • Evelyn Waugh, Scoop (1938).
  • Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (1954).
  • W.E. Bowman, The Ascent of Rum Doodle (1956).
  • Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (1961).
  • Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961).
  • Michael Green, The Art of Course Acting (1964).
  • David Lodge, The British Museum is Falling Down (1965).
  • Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979).
  • John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces (1980).
  • Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes (comic strip, 1985-1995).
  • Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens (1990).
  • Terry Pratchett, Small Gods (1992).
  • Dave Barry, Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys (1995).
  • David Foster Wallace, «Shipping Out» (1996). Reprinted in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997), or available here: https://harpers.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/HarpersMagazine-1996-01-0007859.pdf
  • Connie Willis, To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997).
  • David Sedaris, general recommendation. Best known for his essay collection Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000).Astounded
  • Augusten Burroughs (1965-present), general recommendation. Best known for his memoir Running with Scissors (2002).
  • Chuck Klosterman, essays. Best known for his essay collection Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto (2003).
  • Terry Pratchett, Going Postal (2004).
  • Michael Perry, Off Main Street (2005), especially «Rock Slide!», a story about kidney stones.
  • Mark Helprin, Freddy and Fredericka (2005).
  • Karen Russell, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (2006).
  • David Wong, John Dies at the End (2007).
  • Christopher Moore, Fool (2009).
  • Justin Halpern, S███ My Dad Says (2010).
  • Tina Fey, Bossypants (2011).

I also want to add Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift and «Revelation» by Flannery O’Connor. Happy reading!