The best books to make you laugh out loud while squirming with new self-awareness

Who am I?

I write to learn what I don’t know about myself and our purpose as flawed beings in this Alice-in-Wonderland world. In the documentary about singer/poet Leonard Cohen, creator of the much-covered “Hallelujah” (title of the documentary), to explain the song, he says that life is so impenetrable that the only options are to shake your fist or exclaim “Hallelujah.” I think there is a third option: to laugh. And I prefer to do all three because that is what comes through me: confusion, pain, and hilarity. And hopefully a better understanding of the whole mess once I’ve written about it. And that is what I hope to share with readers.


I wrote...

The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

By Betsy Robinson,

Book cover of The Last Will & Testament of Zelda McFigg

What is my book about?

The Hilarious Story of a One-Woman Train Wreck--Winner of Black Lawrence Press's Big Moose Prize

Meet Zelda McFigg. She is 4-feet 11-inches tall, 237 pounds, and convinced that she could be somebody, if only someone would recognize her inner beauty and star quality. Cousin to Ignatius J. Reilly (A Confederacy of Dunces) and Homer Simpson, Zelda runs away from home at age 14, and at age 49 ¼ writes this furiously funny memoir to "set the record straight" about her lifetime of indiscretions. Behind Zelda's rollicking tale of destruction lies a story of exile. Exile from oneself. Readers will see much more about Zelda than she knows about herself.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Here Goes Nothing

Betsy Robinson Why did I love this book?

Not only did I laugh all the way through this rollicking novel, but I felt as if author Steve Toltz is a brother writer from a cousin muse to my own.

Angus Mooney, the protagonist, is a thief, a romantic, and a philosopher who is dedicated to the easier path of not learning or understanding anything. And, not a spoiler, he dies.

If you console yourself that a better life awaits you in heaven, or if you're resigned to life being painful, but after all, it's only temporary, and once it's over, it'll be over, think again.

In this shockingly inventive, wildly funny epic about one man's life, death, and beyond, you may have some epiphanies about existence in general and how you want to spend or squander your time.

By Steve Toltz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Here Goes Nothing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Times (of London) Best Fiction Book of 2022

A wildly inventive, savagely funny and topical novel about love, mortality and the afterlife, by the Booker-shortlisted author of A Fraction of the Whole.

Angus is a reformed ne'er-do-well looking forward to the birth of his first child when he's murdered by a man who is in love with his pregnant wife Gracie. Having never believed in God, heaven or hell, Angus finds himself in the afterlife - a place that provides more questions than answers. As a worldwide pandemic finally reaches the shores of Australia, the afterlife starts to get…


Book cover of Hell of a Book

Betsy Robinson Why did I love this book?

This National Book Award-winning novel is the story of an unnamed writer negotiating life in a Black skin that pre-empts most people from seeing him as an individual human being. And it has one of the funniest (pee-in-your-pants) first chapters I’ve ever read.

I not only laughed, but I so identified with the writer (and I think most readers will, no matter what your race—that is the genius of this writing), that I lived every moment of this crazy quest to be seen in a world that absolutely refuses to drop its projections.

But ultimately, the person who needs to see this man as a human being, accepting all of his history, hurt, and uniqueness, is the unnamed writer himself. This is a combination of crazy humor and pain.

By Jason Mott,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

***2021 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER***

***THE NATIONAL BESTSELLER***

Winner of the 2021 Sir Walter Raleigh Award for Fiction, Joyce Carol Oates Literary Prize Finalist, 2022 Chautauqua Prize Finalist, Willie Morris Award for Southern Writing Shortlist, and the 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize shortlist

A Read With Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick!

An Ebony Magazine Publishing Book Club Pick! 

One of Washington Post's 50 Notable Works of Fiction | One of Philadelphia Inquirer's Best Books of 2021 | One of Shelf Awareness's Top Ten Fiction Titles of the Year | One of TIME Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books | One of…


Book cover of Donna Has Left the Building

Betsy Robinson Why did I love this book?

How I love to laugh at the same time that I’m feeling all the raw pain of being a human—in this case a human woman who runs away from home. The beginning of this book—about a housewife, cooking ware saleswoman's trip to hell and back, is belly-laugh-inducing, causing one to cough and gasp in joy. But there’s more: Gilman writes real, complicated characters, complete with pain and delusions. And the reason they are so deeply funny is that Gilman is self-aware enough to know and show their flaws better than they know them. 

Titular protagonist Donna Koczynski may inhabit a particular era (one when trendiness reigns), but she is rooted in her own psychology, which includes equal parts compassion, open-minded curiosity, lunatic-level denial, and crazed she-wolf rage.

By Susan Jane Gilman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Donna Has Left the Building as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Donna Koczynski is a failed punk rocker, recovering alcoholic, and suburban mother of two teenagers whose relatively peaceful existence suddenly detonates when she comes home early from a sales conference in Vegas to find the surprise of a lifetime. Suddenly realizing that life can be more than the rut of middle-aged motherhood, she sets off on an impulsive quest to reclaim everything she believes she sacrificed since her wild youth: Friendship, great love, and art. But as she flees her family and drives across the U.S. on what she calls an "emotional scavenger hunt"(and others might call a midlife crisis),…


Book cover of I Am Not Sidney Poitier

Betsy Robinson Why did I love this book?

I’ve read this book twice and probably will read it a few more times before I die. It’s that good.

The story of a young Black man (named Not Sidney Poitier) traversing the U.S.A. is a picaresque, hilarious, heart-breaking tale about trying to find yourself.

Eighteen-year-old Not Sidney is surrounded by people who only see his race or his wealth, or conversely by geniuses who have succeeded despite themselves and, although they see Not Sidney without the cultural labels, are of little help in his quest to find his mission in life. 

The first time I read this book, I was spitting coffee laughing. The second time, my heart broke. I am curious what my next read will evoke.

By Percival L. Everett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Not Sidney Poitier as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Not Sidney Poitier is an amiable young man in an absurd country. The sudden death of his mother orphans him at age eleven, leaving him with an unfortunate name, an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor and, perhaps more fortunate, a staggering number of shares in the Turner Broadcasting Corporation. Percival Everett's hilarious new novel follows Not Sidney's tumultuous life, as the social hierarchy scrambles to balance his skin color with his fabulous wealth.


Book cover of I Am Sovereign

Betsy Robinson Why did I love this book?

Hint: You have to read a hard copy of this book because the comedy is designed into the fonts and layout, which could never be translated into an ebook.

This is a free-for-all bumper car ride between people and their ids, filled with abrupt and perfect transitions that are so logical in their illogic that they are funny. 

But not only is it unique and funny, but it is founded on a profound understanding of silence—its essential healing and our inability to find it. 

This book is so inventive I’m kind of amazed (1) that it got published and (2) that author Nicola Barker and this book appear to be wildly popular in the U.K.

By Nicola Barker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Am Sovereign as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

__________________________________________
'One of the funniest, most finely achieved comic novels, even by her own standard ... I think it's a masterpiece.' ALI SMITH

'I think Nicola Barker is incapable of a dull page. [Her work] is unified by its spirit of adventure.' KEVIN BARRY

Charles, a forty-year-old boutique teddy bear maker and wearer of ironic t-shirts, is trying - and failing - to sell his small, characterless house in Llandudno. His estate agent Avigail, whose name is definitely not Abigail, is trying - in vain - to rein in Charles's most unhelpful eccentricities, especially his repeated recounting to prospective buyers…


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Trouble in Queenstown

By Delia Pitts,

Book cover of Trouble in Queenstown

Delia Pitts

New book alert!

What is my book about?

Vandy Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private investigator to satisfy her own desires. Now she’s back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery.

Soon after her return, Vandy takes on a divorce case for the mayor’s nephew, Leo Hannah. At first the surveillance job seems routine, but Vandy soon realizes there’s trouble beneath the surface when a racially-charged murder with connections to the Hannah family rocks Q-town. She’s a minor league PI with few friends and no resources. But Vandy has a determination few possess — she’ll stop at nothing to solve this case.

Trouble in Queenstown

By Delia Pitts,

What is this book about?

With Trouble in Queenstown, Delia Pitts introduces private investigator Vandy Myrick in a powerful mystery that blends grief, class, race, and family with thrilling results.

Evander “Vandy” Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private eye to satisfy her own. Now she's back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery. It's a small community of nine thousand souls crammed into twelve square miles, fenced by cornfields, warehouses, pharma labs, and tract housing. As a Black woman, privacy is hard to come by in "Q-Town," and…


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