The best books that are funny but, y'know, good

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an Irish novelist and occasional screenwriter. My latest book, Duffy and Son, is my sixth. I can be drawn in by any well-told tale, of course, but I’ve always had the strongest reaction to stories with at least some element of comedy. I don’t know, I just find books in which no one says anything funny to be deeply unrealistic. It infuriates me when any piece of fiction is viewed as ‘lesser’ because there’s a chance it might make you smile. The books listed here will definitely make you smile. If you give them a chance, I hope you find them as worthy of your time as I did.


I wrote...

Duffy and Son

By Damien Owens,

Book cover of Duffy and Son

What is my book about?

Eugene Duffy is about to turn 70; his son Jim is about to turn 40.

For decades now, they’ve been running a little hardware shop in a small Irish town and living together in good-natured bachelor harmony. But time is marching on, and with thoughts of old age weighing heavily on his mind, Eugene is growing increasingly concerned about his son’s future. He resolves to take on the task of finding him a wife, whether he likes it or not. But Jim isn’t the one who needs help. Eugene is. Turning 70 is having a funny effect on him. And that’s before his estranged wife shows up out of the blue, bearing news…

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of London Fields

Damien Owens Why did I love this book?

I was about nineteen when I first read London Fields. My experience up until that point had been that books could be funny, of course, but only if they were silly.

When a ‘proper’ book was also said to be a laugh riot, that meant it had Latin puns in it. London Fields was both deadly serious and utterly hilarious. Reading it was like watching someone flap their wings and actually take off. I didn’t know such a thing could be done.

With that one book, Martin Amis picked me up and put me in his pocket, where I have remained. 

By Martin Amis,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked London Fields as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

London Fields is Amis's murder story for the end of the millennium—"a comic murder mystery, an apocalyptic satire, a scatological meditation on love and death" (The New York Times).

The murderee is Nicola Six, a "black hole" of sex and self-loathing intent on orchestrating her own extinction. The murderer may be Keith Talent, a violent lowlife whose only passions are pornography and darts. Or is the killer the rich, honorable, and dimly romantic Guy Clinch?

Here, Amis is "by turns lyrical and obscene, colloquial and rhapsodic." —Michiko Kakutani


Book cover of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing

Damien Owens Why did I love this book?

The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing doesn’t sound too promising in brief description.

Across seven distinct sections—short stories, effectively—it follows one Jane Rosenal from puberty to maturity as she attempts to navigate the world of romantic love. What makes it soar is the quality of Melissa Bank’s writing. The prose here is as smooth as a pane of glass. You pick the thing up and next time you blink, you’re on page 50.

It helps that Jane herself is a wonderfully witty creation, sometimes to her cost. As a reader, I clutch this book to my heart, sighing and smiling. As a writer, it makes me want to give up.

By Melissa Bank,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The New York Times bestselling classic of a young woman’s journey in work, love, and life
 
“In this swinging, funny, and tender study of contemporary relationships, Bank refutes once and for all the popular notions of neurotic thirtysomething women.” —Entertainment Weekly
 
“Truly poignant.” —Time
 
Generous-hearted and wickedly insightful, The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing maps the progress of Jane Rosenal as she sets out on a personal and spirited expedition through the perilous terrain of sex, love, relationships, and the treacherous waters of the workplace. Soon Jane is swept off her feet by an older man and into a…


Book cover of CivilWarLand in Bad Decline: Stories and a Novella

Damien Owens Why did I love this book?

I could have picked anything by George Saunders, really. He’s the closest thing I have to a personal deity. Such is the level of awe and wonder that he invokes in me, I actually find him difficult to discuss. It’s like trying to look directly at the sun.

Suffice it to say that CivilWarLand in Bad Decline—the title refers to a failing theme park—is like all of his other short story collections. It’s beautiful and wise and heart-breaking and deeply intelligent and, yes, desperately funny. I would pay a lot of money to be able to read it again for the first time. 

By George Saunders,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked CivilWarLand in Bad Decline as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its publication in 1996, George Saunders’s debut collection has grown in esteem from a cherished cult classic to a masterpiece of the form, inspiring an entire generation of writers along the way. In six stories and a novella, Saunders hatches an unforgettable cast of characters, each struggling to survive in an increasingly haywire world. With a new introduction by Joshua Ferris and a new author’s note by Saunders himself, this edition is essential reading for those seeking to discover or revisit a virtuosic, disturbingly prescient voice.
 
Praise for George Saunders and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline
 
“It’s no exaggeration to…


Book cover of Fleabag: The Scriptures

Damien Owens Why did I love this book?

You can read a good screenplay with as much ease and pleasure as you read a novel, and the Fleabag scripts aren’t just good—they’re immaculate.

I pore over this book again and again, hoping that maybe this time I will see the trick, the moment of misdirection or sleight of hand that enables a story of profound personal pain—grief, loneliness, fear, they’re all here, all the big ones—to be so bloody funny. There is no trick, of course. There’s just flawless writing.

You should of course watch the TV show these scripts underpin, but do yourself a favour and read them too. Phoebe Waller-Bridge really did something here.

By Phoebe Waller-Bridge,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Fleabag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Go deeper into the groundbreaking, Golden Globe and Emmy-winning series with this must-have collection—“a completist’s dream of a book, including the show’s full scripts and Waller-Bridge’s commentary” (Vogue).
 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY EVENING STANDARD

“Her coat falls open. She only has her bra on underneath. She pulls out the little sculpture of the woman with no arms. It sits on her lap. Two women. One real. One not. Both with their innate femininity out.”
 
Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s critically acclaimed, utterly unique series Fleabag took the world by storm with its piercing dialogue, ruthlessly dry wit,…


Book cover of A Confederacy of Dunces

Damien Owens Why did I love this book?

This is the only book I ever started reading again before I’d even got to the end. If it’s not the finest comic portrait ever written, it’s certainly in the neighbourhood.

Its subject is Ignatius J. Reilly, a rude, petulant, hugely overweight, and almost supernaturally lazy citizen of New Orleans who still lives at home with his mother and makes her life a daily hell. Ignatius, who sees himself as a medievalist-theologian-philosopher, is at war with modernity.

He’s in the multi-year process of writing his magnum opus, ‘an indictment of our century’, and finds the idea of regular employment beneath his gargantuan contempt. When circumstances conspire, as they do, to make it unavoidable, the results are everything you could hope for. 

By John Kennedy Toole,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Confederacy of Dunces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF THE BBC'S 100 NOVELS THAT SHAPED OUR WORLD

'This is probably my favourite book of all time' Billy Connolly

A pithy, laugh-out-loud story following John Kennedy Toole's larger-than-life Ignatius J. Reilly, floundering his way through 1960s New Orleans, beautifully resigned with cover art by Gary Taxali
_____________

'This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians . . . don't make the mistake of bothering me.'

Ignatius J. Reilly: fat, flatulent, eloquent and almost unemployable. By the standards of ordinary folk he is pretty much…


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Wrightsville Beach

By Suzanne Goodwyn,

Book cover of Wrightsville Beach

Suzanne Goodwyn Author Of Wrightsville Beach

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been writing all my life, but was never able to find my voice until I had my daughters. It was for them I wrote “Wrightsville Beach”. I wanted to show them what a good relationship should look like and how their decisions make a difference in where they will go. I want my readers to relive that feeling of falling in love and to be sent in unexpected directions, as life so often does to us. I want you to enjoy it so much, you don’t want to put the book down until it’s finished and once you do, to sit and reflect on it, savoring the feeling it has left behind.

Suzanne's book list on smart women trying to figure it all out

What is my book about?

Two years ago, devastated by the sudden death of his older brother, Hank Atwater went on a drinking rampage that ended in his being arrested. Since then, he has been working to rebuild his reputation in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, with little luck. But everything changes after a chance meeting with Jess Wade, a UNCW student studying to be a marine biologist. Hank and Jess feel connected to each other in a way neither has ever felt before.

But when Hank’s past leads to a frightful incident, it ends their relationship. Jess leaves to work on the beach…

Wrightsville Beach

By Suzanne Goodwyn,

What is this book about?

Two years ago, Hank Atwater made a terrible mistake. Devastated by the sudden death of his older brother, Rob, he went on a drinking rampage that ended in his being arrested for aggravated assault. Sober since then, he has been working to rebuild his reputation in his hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, with little luck.

Working a dead-end delivery job, Hank uses surfing and running to deal with being ostracized as he waits for his probation to end. But everything changes after a chance meeting with Jess Wade, a UNCW student studying to be a marine biologist. Hank and Jess…


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