The best books on absurdity (to help you deal with an absurdist world)

David P. Murphy Author Of Zombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead
By David P. Murphy

Who am I?

It is said that Michelangelo could see a statue inside of a block of marble. I believe I have a similar gift – I can find the most idiotic angle to any given story or event and free it into the world. Okay, so some gifts are better than others but this “talent” has afforded me the ability to stay relatively sane in a completely nutso era. Relatively. And to underscore my qualifications, I would ask the reader to take a gander at my sample title below. I rest my case.


I wrote...

Zombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead

By David P. Murphy, Daniel Heard (illustrator),

Book cover of Zombies for Zombies: Advice and Etiquette for the Living Dead

What is my book about?

Published in 2009, Z4Z was my first book. The far-fetched premise of this jaunty number involves a global out-of-control virus that wreaks havoc on people and economies (Uhhhh – scratch that far-fetched part…) Anyway, this is a self-help book/system for the recently bitten, offering numerous cheerful products and activities to help slow down the spread of infection. It also features some mighty brilliant artwork by Mr. Daniel Heard. Absurd? Yup, but not as much as, say, Matt Gaetz’s hair. Woof! 

The books I picked & why

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Welcome to the Monkey House

By Kurt Vonnegut,

Book cover of Welcome to the Monkey House

Why this book?

Talk about standing the test of time. Good grief, I could lead with any number of Vonnegut books but this one gets the vote because I’m a true believer in the art of the short story. And maybe it’s because I’m a songwriter first -- I love telling a story in a short amount of time. Vonnegut was a master at that. And if you’re looking for absurdity, the classic tale, “Harrison Bergeron,” knocks it out of the park. Here’s the thing, though, about great absurdity: it’s always got an element of truth to it. Like satire, it needs to be rooted in a level of believability. This book will be at the top of my list forever.


The ACME Catalog: Quality is Our #1 Dream

By Charles Carney, Scott Grass (illustrator),

Book cover of The ACME Catalog: Quality is Our #1 Dream

Why this book?

The original Looney Tunes should be required viewing for children and adults alike. When I’m King of the World (cue the ominous cellos – wait, we’ve only got one cello? What the hell?), that will be one of my first mandates. Seriously, this book has every beautifully dopey invention from the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner series, along with a few extras, and the design of the book is stellar.  As the cover says so succinctly: “Quality is our #1 dream.”


The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information

By The Onion,

Book cover of The Onion Book of Known Knowledge: A Definitive Encyclopaedia of Existing Information

Why this book?

This is one of those books you can open to any page and immediately start laughing. It resembles an encyclopedia but every given subject is shredded with wit and insight. Personally, I’m eternally grateful to the folks at The Onion for trying to keep up with the organically occurring absurdity in modern life that now has rendered most satire obsolete. It must be a whole lot like dogpaddling. In Jell-O. In the dead of winter.


National Lampoon's 1964 High School Yearbook

By P.J. O'Rourke (editor), Douglas C. Kenney (editor),

Book cover of National Lampoon's 1964 High School Yearbook

Why this book?

This hard-to-find book is a masterpiece and I’m not using the term loosely. Doug Kenney and P.J. O’Rourke were responsible for much of this whip-smart gem. The writers perfectly mock every mundane aspect of much of high school life. (For what it’s worth, I genuinely enjoyed high school, but was aslo painfully aware of the deep-seated screwiness of much of the atmosphere.) If you can find this, snap it up. You won’t regret it.


Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel: The Marx Brothers' Lost Radio Show

By Michael Barson (editor),

Book cover of Flywheel, Shyster and Flywheel: The Marx Brothers' Lost Radio Show

Why this book?

From 1932-33, Groucho and Chico (two of my role models) appeared on a radio show aired on NBC. It was about a shady law firm (Groucho is Waldorf T. Flywheel – a fine lawyerly name) and you can imagine how that goes. This book contains the scripts of about two dozen episodes, I think. If you’re a Marx Brothers fan, this is a ton of fun. And if you’re not, then I must believe you’re some variety of filthy lout and I would ask you to stand away from me. 


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