A Confederacy of Dunces

By John Kennedy Toole,

Book cover of A Confederacy of Dunces

Book description


'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


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Why read it?

14 authors picked A Confederacy of Dunces as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This Pulitzer Prize winner remains a time-tested testament to the absurdity that is New Orleans.

I felt like I’d met every one of the characters at least twice in my own walks on the streets of this storied city. I could even taste the Lucky Dogs. This is one of the few books to have me consistently laugh out loud. You can even take a picture with the statue of Ignatius J Reilly (the main character) on Canal Street.

From Toby's list on South Louisiana culture.

This is one of the funniest books I’ve read, ranking alongside the works of my other favorite literary humorists, such as Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Terry Pratchett, and Chuck Palahniuk.

It’s a book that you really should avoid reading in public places because its main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is always doing or saying something ridiculous. In fact, Ignatius is one of the main reasons this is such a unique book.

An overly educated misanthrope, he spends most of the novel traipsing around New Orleans while lecturing anyone who will listen about his medieval view of Catholicism and monarchy…

As I’ve often been described as “sardonic,” I can relate to the tone of this novel.

I love the alienated reclusive protagonist. Gosh, I wonder why? In a country full of “toxic positivity” it’s a pleasure to read unapologetic dark humor. It’s a shame John Kennedy Toole didn’t live to write more novels. A must read.

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…

From Damien's list on funny but, y'know, good.

I’ve always wanted to see New Orleans but I’ve never had the pleasure. After reading this book however, I feel as if I have seen a rare view of it in the 1960s through the eyes of a local.

Unlike my other picks, this is not Science Fiction, but like my other picks, the author’s ability to transport the reader to the scene of his novel is what I crave most in a book, and Toole definitely had that gift.

Once in a while, a book club lands on a pick that is so universally loved, so joyous and fun, that its joys resonate out for years, and bond the club in the ongoing conversation, inside jokes, and memories of reading and discussing that book. A Confederacy of Dunces was that book for my club. We read it right before the pandemic, and the laughter from that night, as we read the absurd, offensive, brilliant passages aloud, over gumbo, and bourbon, carried me through the darkest days locked inside. This book is wild, and yet it delivers, with a cast…

From David's list on picks for book club.

Unfortunately, the author of A Confederacy of Dunces was not able to get the novel published in his lifetime (a struggle I relate to), but that tragedy should not detract from the deep comic pleasure this book provides readers. Its main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an obese, thirty-year-old, well-educated, incorrigibly lazy man living with his eccentric mother in 1960’s New Orleans. Finally forced by circumstance to seek employment, Ignatius has a series of bizarre adventures while interacting with some truly colorful characters in the French Quarter of that city. From first page to last, I think this may…

From James' list on literary fiction to laugh out loud.

I’m glad I didn’t read A Confederacy of Dunces till after I finished writing my book, or I might have tried to match it—and given up in despair. To my mind, this is the greatest comic novel ever written. 

The story’s climax—involving a burlesque show, a parrot, and a copy of Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy—is sheer genius.  

It’s hard to fathom that Dunces was actually written during the 1960s, decades ahead of its time. And the saga of how it came to be published in 1980, after years of rejection and John Kennedy Toole’s tragic death, is nearly as…

From Sam's list on seriously funny novels.

This brilliant satire is irritating and quirky like watching a train wreck about to happen. Most importantly, the author created a unique major protagonist, Ignatius, who focuses on his rudder (think about it) as well as his parrot. Ignatius, an anti-hero of sorts, has left an indelible mark on American literature where he’s the prototype and inspiration for numerous authors.

To me, A Confederacy of Dunces is the perfect example of what any funny book should aspire to be. It is absurd (in the best way), engaging, and paints a vivid picture. With the perfect picaresque anti-hero leading the way, it is silly, but not in a way that takes you out of the story. While many “funny stories” struggle to be both funny and a good story, A Confederacy of Dunces had managed to pull off both perfectly. It was eye-opening to me in terms of what a comedic novel can be.

From Eric's list on to laugh in the face of insanity.

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