The best books to make you laugh about the absurdities of life

Amanda Turner Author Of How to Be Awkward
By Amanda Turner

Who am I?

I’ve long felt that without laughter, we’re pretty much all screwed. I love finding humor in the mundane, unfortunate, and downright awful parts of life. If you look hard enough, absurdity is all around us, so we might as well enjoy it. I’m a full-time humor writer who reads in a variety of genres. These books are not all focused on humor, but no matter their genre, they each manage in their own ways to demonstrate how absurd we humans can be. 

I wrote...

How to Be Awkward

By Amanda Turner,

Book cover of How to Be Awkward

What is my book about?

Disclaimer: This book is not intended for the super cool. If you begin every day by setting an intention while doing yoga on a paddleboard, you’re out of my league. If you're even semi-fluent in the Urban Dictionary, there’s little chance we’ll connect. And if you use a vaginal steamer, well, I think we’re done here. Especially if you don’t have a vagina.

On the other hand… if your spirit animal is the blobfish or you regularly and inexplicably choke on your own saliva, we might be related. If you find intermittent fasting to be both cruel and unusual, I feel your pain. If your athletic abilities could best be described as blundering and oafish, I’m right there with you. It’s possible that we speak the same language. We should talk.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers

Why did I love this book?

Mary Roach displays an uncanny ability to make science accessible and death hilarious in Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. If you have even a hint of morbid curiosity, you must read this book. She answers so many questions that I’d always been afraid to ask, like what really happens to a body donated to science (hint: it’s not quite what you imagine). You’ll also learn about the science behind cremation, decay, and get an inside look at the forensic workings of a body farm. You wouldn’t think such topics could be so delightfully entertaining, but Roach has a way of making them so. This book was a great reminder to me not to take life—or death—too seriously. 

By Mary Roach,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For two thousand years, cadavers - some willingly, some unwittingly - have been involved in science's boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. They've tested France's first guillotines, ridden the NASA Space Shuttle, been crucified in a Parisian laboratory to test the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin, and helped solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800. For every new surgical procedure, from heart transplants to gender confirmation surgery, cadavers have helped make history in their quiet way. "Delightful-though never disrespectful" (Les Simpson, Time Out New York), Stiff investigates the strange lives of our bodies postmortem and answers the question: What should…

Book cover of The World's Largest Man: A Memoir

Why did I love this book?

This is, hands down, the single funniest book I have ever read. What’s amazing is that in addition, it’s really a heartfelt memoir. Harrison Scott Key can take contentious family relationships and use them to simultaneously make your heart ache and your face hurt from laughing so much. He’s also skilled at self-deprecating humor, unabashedly highlighting his own flaws throughout his story. The title refers to the author’s father and the book chronicles interactions from youth onwardall the cringe-worthy moments when a parent and child simply cannot see eye to eye (and you can tell they probably never will). And yet the undercurrent of love throughout is what brings in the heartache that balances out the hilarity. Again, this is the single funniest book I have ever read, and that should count for something! 

By Harrison Scott Key,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The World's Largest Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Thurber Prize

“How in the hell is this so funny one second and so heartbreaking the next? Harrison Scott Key examines the topic of fatherhood and sonhood with fresh, clear eyes. . . except wait, they’re not clear because they filled with tears, of laughter one second and sadness the next. I dare you to find a better way to spend the seconds and minutes and hours of your day than with this book.” — Tom Franklin, New York Times bestselling author of Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

The riotous, tender story of a bookish Mississippi boy and…

Book cover of The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World's Greatest Piece of Cheese

Why did I love this book?

A few years ago I began a love affair with Spain. To be more specific, locations north of Madrid up to the Basque country. When I picked up Paterniti’s book, I felt I’d found a kindred spirit. The author obviously shares my love for this corner of the world, and he also knows how to write about the culture of small, Spanish mountain towns in a way that rings true. The cheese! The wine! The pride of men! It’s all woven together in this wonderful tale that’s equal parts memoir, mystery, travelogue, and cultural study. This was one of those books that will stick with me forever. 

By Michael Paterniti,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • Entertainment Weekly • Kirkus Reviews • The Christian Science Monitor

In the picturesque village of Guzmán, Spain, in a cave dug into a hillside on the edge of town, an ancient door leads to a cramped limestone chamber known as “the telling room.” Containing nothing but a wooden table and two benches, this is where villagers have gathered for centuries to share their stories and secrets—usually accompanied by copious amounts of wine.
It was here, in the summer of 2000, that Michael Paterniti…

A Gentleman in Moscow

By Amor Towles,

Book cover of A Gentleman in Moscow

Why did I love this book?

Fiction at its finest, A Gentleman in Moscow seems to follow a charming man caught up in extraordinary circumstances (house arrest at a luxury hotel) following the Russian Revolution. This is a false sense of security. What Towles really does, right under the reader’s nose, is lay the groundwork for a kismet of unexpected events against the backdrop of the beginnings of the Russian Communist regime. The book is an excellent study in the absurdities of governments and politicians. As someone who speaks Russian and spent a good deal of time in Moscow and its suburbs, I thought the author absolutely nailed Russian culture. I was shocked to learn that the author isn’t Russian (he’s from Boston), doesn’t speak Russian, and hadn’t even been to Russia (at least at the time of his writing the novel). He was inspired after staying at a luxury hotel in Geneva, Switzerland. Learning these things made the book all the more impactful for me. Even without that background, the writing and storyline were more than enough to sweep me away and leave me melancholy when I reached the last, perfect page. 

By Amor Towles,

Why should I read it?

26 authors picked A Gentleman in Moscow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The mega-bestseller with more than 2 million readers, soon to be a major television series

From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author of The Lincoln Highway and Rules of Civility, a beautifully transporting novel about a man who is ordered to spend the rest of his life inside a luxury hotel

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and…

Lessons in Chemistry

By Bonnie Garmus,

Book cover of Lessons in Chemistry

Why did I love this book?

I don’t know where Bonnie Garmus has been all my life, but I love her. And I love the main character of her novel Lessons in Chemistry, Elizabeth Zott, a chemist in the 1960s. As you might imagine, Zott’s plans to be taken seriously as a female scientist are constantly thwarted. But she’s a no-nonsense chemist on a mission, and she does what she must to navigate a world that refuses to accept her genius, much less her role as an unmarried mother. Hilarious, inspiring, and highlighting the ridiculousness of patriarchy, Lessons in Chemistry is pure delight.

By Bonnie Garmus,

Why should I read it?

42 authors picked Lessons in Chemistry as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • GOOD MORNING AMERICA BOOK CLUB PICK • Meet Elizabeth Zott: a “formidable, unapologetic and inspiring” (PARADE) scientist in 1960s California whose career takes a detour when she becomes the unlikely star of a beloved TV cooking show in this novel that is “irresistible, satisfying and full of fuel. It reminds you that change takes time and always requires heat” (The New York Times Book Review).

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Oprah Daily, Newsweek, GoodReads

"A unique heroine ... you'll find yourself wishing she wasn’t fictional." —Seattle Times…

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