The best books with deadpan humor

3 authors have picked their favorite books about deadpan humor and why they recommend each book.

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Book cover of The Cornish Wedding Murder

The Cornish Wedding Murder is the first installment of Fiona Leitch’s wonderful cosy mystery series. It features Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker, ex-copper turned caterer, who butts heads with handsome DCI Nathan Winters to prove a childhood friend’s innocence, after an unexpected guest is found dead at his wedding. It’s an entertaining read with plenty of twists and turns and some added romantic tension to keep you wanting more. 

Jodie’s on my list as a female lead who’d make a great dinner guest because she’s bold, fiercely loyal and she doesn’t let others push her around. She’s also one to raise a smile with her deadpan humour and she’d have many a story from her police days to share. Oh, and with her being a caterer, I might not even have to cook!    

The Cornish Wedding Murder

By Fiona Leitch,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cornish Wedding Murder as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

‘A sparklingly delicious confection to satisfy the mystery reader’s appetite’ Helena Dixon, bestselling author of the Miss Underhay Mysteries

Still spinning from the hustle and bustle of city life, Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is glad to be back in the Cornish village she calls home. Having quit the Met Police in search of something less dangerous, the change of pace means she can finally start her dream catering company and raise her daughter, Daisy, somewhere safer.

But there’s nothing quite like having your first job back at home be catering an ex-boyfriend’s wedding to remind you of just how small your…


Who am I?

I spent my twenties mostly devouring women’s fiction and romance novels with female leads, but I also stepped outside my preferred genre. Being a strong lead doesn’t necessarily mean saving the world or doing something heroic (though obviously that helps!), it’s about strength of character, being real, and being able to fight on when things get difficult. I always dreamt of being an author, but only started writing properly when I developed a debilitating long-term health condition. I used writing to support my rehabilitation and this led to me finally achieving that dream – so in a way, I see myself as a strong female lead in my own story. 


I wrote...

Take a Moment

By Nina Kaye,

Book cover of Take a Moment

What is my book about?

Take a Moment is inspired by my own experience of living with a life-limiting illness. Though my main character’s health situation and story are fictional, her experiences are drawn from my own: losing my independence, being treated differently, and facing professional barriers. Like me, she’s resilient and works hard to find her own way forward.

Here’s a short blurb: when a shock diagnosis derails Alex’s life plans, she faces a new and unpleasant reality. Leaving her fiancé and job behind, she moves from Glasgow to Birmingham to live life on her terms. Alex won’t let her illness define her, but will a fresh start bring happiness and new love?

Remainder

By Tom Mccarthy,

Book cover of Remainder

If you were suddenly awarded 8.5 million pounds, what would you do with it? Would you take the advice of the financial consultants and invest it sensibly? How boring. If you were a visionary you might create a sensual paradise of your imagination. But if you are just an ordinary young working-class Londoner? You might remember an instant—on holiday, or at a party—when you felt happy and content, and decide to recreate it. 

This time the writing is sparse and matter-of-fact. I hardly noticed as the hero’s project proceeds gradually, logically into realms of absurdity, told with deadpan humour. For me, speculative fiction involves a world that is recognisable and familiar—but which gradually becomes ‘curiouser and curiouser’.

It’s a story that makes you think—though without telling you what to think.

Remainder

By Tom Mccarthy,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Traumatised by an accident that involves something falling from the sky and leaves him eight and a half million pounds richer, our hero spends his time and money obsessively reconstructing and re-enacting memories and situations from his past: a large building with piano music in the distance, the familiar smells and sounds of liver frying and spluttering, lethargic cats lounging on roofs until they tumble off them...But, when this fails to quench his thirst for authenticity, he starts reconstructing more and more violent events, including hold-ups and shoot-outs.

Who am I?

I was a student in 1968-71 (see photo) and the memories of that vanished world still haunt me. When I was supposed to be studying relativity and topology I was reading Blake and Jung, Marcuse and Mao—all misfits in their own way. After a long and undistinguished career as a mathematics lecturer in far-flung locations—Lesotho, New Guinea, Uxbridge—I retired in 2019 to write speculative comic fiction which would bring the Swinging Sixties back to life. Something of a misfit myself, I look at today's world and ask despairingly, “Is this really happening?” The books on my list provide me some solace.


I wrote...

The Hammond Conjecture: The Third Reich meets the Swinging Sixties, cyberpunk meets neuroscience, in a comic meta-thriller

By Martin B. Reed,

Book cover of The Hammond Conjecture: The Third Reich meets the Swinging Sixties, cyberpunk meets neuroscience, in a comic meta-thriller

What is my book about?

The Hammond Conjecture is an alternate-history novel that explores themes of memory, identity, and historical narrative. It is also a lot of fun. 

Are you sure you know who you are? If your memories disappeared and were replaced with someone else’s, would you still be you? And what if those memories were not just from a different person—but from another world? That’s the dilemma facing Hugh Hammond, an anti-hero for our times of fake news and subjective truth. Hugh is imprisoned in an isolation hospital in the 1980s, but recalls his life as a secret agent battling the Third Reich in an alternative 1960s Europe. Has he lost his mind? Whatif anythingis real? A darkly comic tale of sex, drugs, and quantum mechanics. 

Frank and Bean

By Jamie Michalak, Bob Kolar (illustrator),

Book cover of Frank and Bean

Frank and Bean opens with Frank, who visits the great outdoors to find peace and quiet. Then, Bean shows up. He is literally a one bean band, with a drum, trumpet, triangle and more. Needless to say, they don’t initially hit it off. But then it gets dark, and fears bring them together. Before you know it, they are making beautiful music together. The text is full of wry humor presented with a wink for adults, while the illustrations are pitched perfectly to make five- to eight-year-old readers giggle along. I love this friendship story because it’s so much fun to read out loud. 

Frank and Bean

By Jamie Michalak, Bob Kolar (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frank and Bean as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When the introspective Frank meets the gregarious Bean, can they find a way to make beautiful music together? Dry wit and hilarious illustrations introduce a new unlikely pair.

Frank likes peace and quiet. He likes his tent, his pencil, and writing in his secret notebook. Bean likes noise. He likes his bus, his trumpet — toot, toot! — and making music. Loud music. But Bean is missing something: he does not have words. What will happen if Frank shares his words with Bean? With a laugh-out-loud narrative by Jamie Michalak, author of the Joe and Sparky series, and Bob Kolar’s…

Who am I?

I hold a Master of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. In addition to the usual two-year program, I studied an extra semester, where I read all the best children’s books about friendship. I wanted to learn how the great authors such as A. A. Milne, James Marshall, and Arnold Lobel wrote stories full of so much heart and humor. My love of friendship stories burgeoned from there. And now, it’s with great delight that I offer you my Best Children’s Books About Friendship—and, of course, my very own friendship story, Big Bear and Little Fish.  


I wrote...

Big Bear and Little Fish

By Sandra Nickel, Il Sung Na (illustrator),

Book cover of Big Bear and Little Fish

What is my book about?

Bear Loves Being Big. At the carnival, she wants to win a teddy bear as big as she is. Instead, she wins a fish. A very little fish. Bear doesn’t quite know what to do. She worries and makes lots of assumptions. But with the help of Fish, Bear learns that although she and Fish are different, they are also a little the same.

Gentle, accessible prose by Sandra Nickel is paired with richly textured illustrations by Il Sung Na in this sweet story about accepting others for who they are.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

By Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen (illustrator),

Book cover of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

This is such a fun book. Between Mac's clever writing and Jon's perfect illustrations I seem to always feel the same anticipation I did on the very first read. Sam and Dave keep digging deeper and deeper, nearly revealing incredible things along the way. It's such a compelling and entertaining story to read aloud to your kids as you turn the pages and dig alongside the persistent Sam and Dave and their dog.

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole

By Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Sam & Dave Dig a Hole as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With perfect pacing, the multiple award-winning, best-selling team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen dig down for a deadpan tale full of visual humour.

From the award-winning team behind Extra Yarn, and illustrated by Jon Klassen, the Kate Greenaway-winning creator of This Is Not My Hat and I Want My Hat Back, comes a perfectly paced, deadpan tale full of visual humour. Sam and Dave are on a mission. A mission to find something spectacular. So they dig a hole. And they keep digging. And they find ... nothing. Yet the day turns out to be pretty spectacular after all.…


Who am I?

I'm a cartoonist, animator, and Oscar-nominated film director who's worked and continues to work in the mediums of books, film, and video games all the darn time. When I think about great stories I've had a chance to read, the element of friendship always stands out for me. When there's a special, authentic bond between characters that you feel with every page and frame there's nothing better! You live the moments in the story and they stay with you forever. Like a true friend would.


I wrote...

Book cover of Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths

What is my book about?

Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths is the first book of my series, Peter & Ernesto, and it's a story of two very different sloths who experience the world in their own ways with equal value. Ernesto is a bombastic adventurer always looking to dive head first into the latest idea he's consumed with, but could perhaps use a lesson or two in pre-planning. Peter is the polar opposite, a fellow who knows what he likes and sticks very close to it without much courage to expand his world in any given situation. A Tale of Two Sloths explores this odd couple friendship and shows how both perspectives have their advantages and disadvantages, but at the end of the day, it's truly the friendship that counts. 

Heartbeat Braves

By Pamela Sanderson,

Book cover of Heartbeat Braves

I don’t usually read sweet, fade-to-black romance (I’m a fan of the full-steam-ahead stuff), but there is so much deadpan Native humor I was howling with laughter the whole time. The Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center staff and regulars are wonderful characters. How they establish this new community in the city, displaced from their tribal communities, is so recognizable for someone who lives 500 miles away from my tribe.

Heartbeat Braves

By Pamela Sanderson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Heartbeat Braves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There’s never a dull moment at the Crooked Rock Urban Indian Center. Rayanne Larson knows firsthand the struggles of native people. Working at Crooked Rock gives her the chance to do good work for Indians living in the city. She has high hopes for the Center’s progress until its new leader hands her special project over to his underachieving—and distractingly sexy—nephew. Henry Grant’s life is going just fine. Though he knows rez life, he’s always been an urban Indian. He has no interest in the Indian Center job his uncle pushes on him. That is, until he meets Rayanne. She’s…

Who am I?

I am an award-winning author of sex-positive contemporary romance and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. As a reader, I’ve grown weary of Native American romance characters who are mostly caricatures and stereotypes. Last year, I went on a quest to find romance stories that portrayed contemporary Native characters experiencing love as they navigated real life in the 21st century. And who better to tell those stories than Native authors using their own voice? Now that I’ve found several great Native romance authors, I want to share these recommendations far and wide. Come, come, read Native romance!


I wrote...

The Road Home

By Christina Berry,

Book cover of The Road Home

What is my book about?

Sex and rock & roll are Jake Sixkiller’s top priorities. As frontman of Austin’s hottest band and with a long line of lovers knocking on his bedroom door, he has it all. Until a car accident shakes his world to its core. With his best friend in the hospital, he’s flooded with memories of the night he lost his family at the hands of a drunk driver.

Amid the turmoil, he finds solace with Nicole, aka Arson Nic, a roller derby dynamo who throws Jake into a tailspin. When he’s offered a once-in-a-lifetime tour opportunity that brings him back to the Cherokee reservation where he grew up, Jake must decide what matters most, a future still unwritten or a past he buried long ago.

I Don't Want to Be a Frog

By Dev Petty, Mike Boldt (illustrator),

Book cover of I Don't Want to Be a Frog

I Don’t Want to be a Frog is a hilarious conversation between a young frog and his dad. When the young frog wants to be a cat, rabbit, pig, owl, or really anything but a frog, it’s up to his dad to stay calm and remind him why it’s so great being exactly who he is. I love that the dad is so matter-of-fact. That he never loses patience, and he never tells his son to just stop. True dad love is sometimes as simple as being there and answering questions. Oh, and the awesome ending will crack you up! Such a fun book.

I Don't Want to Be a Frog

By Dev Petty, Mike Boldt (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I Don't Want to Be a Frog as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The hit book about a willful young frog with a serious identity crisis and his heard-it-all-before father is now available in paperback. Perfect for fans of Mo Willems’s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Jon Klassen’s I Want My Hat Back!

Frog wants to be anything but a slimy, wet frog. A cat, perhaps. Or a rabbit. An owl? But when a hungry wolf arrives—a wolf who HATES eating frogs—our hero decides that being himself isn’t so bad after all. In this very silly story with a sly message, told in hilarious dialogue between a feisty young frog…


Who am I?

As a picture book author and mom, I am constantly inspired by the world around me. I love watching my children, and I love how they adore their dad and he adores them in return. So many of my stories have been inspired by their interactions. While I am no expert on fatherhood, I have been fortunate to have had a loving dad who played “Monster in the Middle,” who took us for rides on his motorcycle, and reminded us that we could accomplish anything we put our mind to. I love books that remind us of the power of a loving father-child relationship and hope you, too, will be lifted by these joyful stories.


I wrote...

Help Wanted, Must Love Books

By Janet Sumner Johnson, Courtney Dawson (illustrator),

Book cover of Help Wanted, Must Love Books

What is my book about?

Shailey loves bedtime, especially reading with her dad. But her dad starts a new job, and it gets in the way of their bedtime routine. So Shailey takes action! She fires her dad, posts a Help Wanted sign, and starts interviews immediately. She is thrilled when her favorite characters from fairytales line up to apply. But Sleeping Beauty can't stay awake, the Gingerbread Man steals her book, and Snow White brings along her whole team.

Shailey is running out of options. Is bedtime ruined forever?

We Don't Eat Our Classmates

By Ryan T. Higgins,

Book cover of We Don't Eat Our Classmates

Yes, kindness is essential. But it’s even better when served up with a huge side serving of humor.  A young T-rex named Penelope can’t understand why she’s unable to make friends. Perhaps if she didn’t find them so delicious, it would be easier.  The author takes a universal situation—going off to school for the first time—and turns it into a hilarious lesson (and I hesitate to even use that word) about kindness and empathy. It’s all done with an economy of word and a deadpan tone. Pitch perfect!

We Don't Eat Our Classmates

By Ryan T. Higgins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Don't Eat Our Classmates as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It's the first day of school for Penelope Rex, and she can't wait to meet her classmates. But it's hard to make human friends when they're so darn delicious! That is, until Penelope gets a taste of her own medicine and finds she may not be at the top of the food chain after all. . . . Readers will gobble up this hilarious new story from award-winning author-illustrator Ryan T. Higgins.


Who am I?

I am no expert on kindness—though more than twenty years at Sesame Workshop, working on a TV show that focuses on kindness, may give me a slight edge. And I am not unfailingly kind, though I try my hardest. But I am passionate about nurturing this quality in children. At the risk of sounding naive, I feel that it’s our last best hope of solving some of the world’s biggest problems.  


I wrote...

The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

By Leslie Kimmelman, Galia Bernstein (illustrator),

Book cover of The Eight Knights of Hanukkah

What is my book about?

It’s a Hanukkah story, of course! But it’s also about the importance of putting kindnesses out into the world, both spectacular brave deeds and those of the smaller, barely noticed variety. The book tells the story of eight knights who, at the request of their mother, the Lady Sadie, ride out into the countryside to perform acts of “awesome kindness and stupendous bravery.” All this while seeking out the ferocious dragon who’s getting in the way of the last-night-of-Hanukkah party scheduled at the castle that evening.  Gadzooks! What are eight knights to doeth?!

The Magic Kingdom

By Stanley Elkin,

Book cover of The Magic Kingdom

Eddy Bale becomes a crusader for children after the death of his own young son and decides to take a group of terminally ill children to Disneyland for a holiday. The antic hyperbolic tone of the narration is utterly at odds with the grave subject matter and the novel is as hilarious as it is heartbreaking.  

The Magic Kingdom

By Stanley Elkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Magic Kingdom as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Abandoned by his wife and devastated by the death of his twelve-year old son, Eddy Bale becomes obsessed with the plight of terminally ill children and develops a plan to provide a last hurrah dream vacation for seven children who will never grow-up. Eddy and his four dysfunctional chaperones journey to the entertainment capital of America--Disney World. Once they arrive, a series of absurdities characteristic of an Elkin novel--including a freak snowstorm and a run-in with a vengeful Mickey Mouse--transform Eddy's idealistic wish into a fantastic nightmare.

Who am I?

For me, the most affecting stories are those that are leavened with a sardonic sensibility. Italo Calvino, one of my favorite writers, notes “th[e] particular connection between melancholy and humor,” speaking of how great writing “foregrounds [with] tiny, luminous traces that counterpoint the dark catastrophe.” I’ve always veered toward the great literary comic writers—from Cervantes to Laurence Sterne to Pynchon, with a particular reverence for Nabokov. For me, there is no greater exposition of the underbelly of love and madness than Lolita; of artistic obsession than Pale Fire.  Nabokov believed that the best writing places the reader under a spell, enchanting them with the magic of words — and I concur!


I wrote...

Someday Everything Will All Make Sense

By Carol LaHines,

Book cover of Someday Everything Will All Make Sense

What is my book about?

Someday Everything Will All Make Sense follows Luther van der Loon, an eccentric professor of medieval music at a New York University, as he navigates the stages of grief after his 62-year-old mother chokes on a wonton from a Chinese take-out. Luther invokes the American justice system against the restaurant whose “sloppy methods” he blames for his mother's death. He faults himself for failing to perform the Heimlich, a maneuver so simple that a child of six or seven could execute it. Luther finds redemption in music as he plans the annual symposium for his oddball group of early music colleagues. Slowly, and with the help of his girlfriend, Cecilia, Luther gropes toward resolution. Fans of Confederacy of Dunces will appreciate the maladroitness of the protagonist and the dark humor woven into the narrative.

Book cover of Press Enter to Continue

Press Enter to Continue is incredible on every level. The art is beautiful, with a technicolor palette and skillful drawing that belies the corporate horror in the narratives. We see humiliating job interviews, vampiric computer viruses, and cosmic labor camps that feel a little too close for comfort in our online world. It’s a collection of short stories told with a deadpan minimalism that makes the reader think, sweat, and maybe put their phone away for a while.

Press Enter to Continue

By Ana Galvañ,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Press Enter to Continue as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Spanish cartoonist Ana Galvañ charts an often-psychedelic and existential course for modernity in her English language debut, utilizing swaths of electric and florescent colors to create a series of short stories that intertwine and explore the dehumanizing effects of contemporary society. Like a candycolored collection of Black Mirror episodes, Galvañ’s world, set in the very near-future, is familiar and cautionary at once. Galvañ’s unwitting and addictive characters navigate a world of iridescent pastels and geometric energy like puppets. Departments of inhumane resources dehumanize the people it is purported to protect; information is determinedly mined like the gold of the 21st…

Who am I?

I’m an artist who likes to write, but I’ve never been interested in classic superhero or pulp graphic novels. Early in my career, the word “comics” felt like an insult—it's not “real art,” right? Too childish! While that instinct was definitely wrong, I found a (small) world of experimental, abstract, genre-breaking graphic novels that combine art and writing in a wholly unique way. This is a list of some of my recent favorites that have inspired my drawing and writing practice, and will hopefully inspire you. 


I wrote...

2120

By George Wylesol,

Book cover of 2120

What is my book about?

2120 is an interactive graphic novel formatted like a retro point-and-click video game. You control Wade, a 46-year-old computer repairman, sent to fix a computer in a nondescript office building. Then the door locks behind you. You’ll have to explore the building and figure out its horrifying secrets on your own. This book is not linear, and you’ll use choose-your-adventure-style prompts and directional arrows to navigate the building. 

Almost French

By Sarah Turnbull,

Book cover of Almost French: Love and a New Life In Paris

What’s not to love about a book set in Paris about a journalist who falls in love with a Frenchman? This book is a delight. Turnbull writes beautifully, and with modesty and humour about making every faux pas imaginable in Paris. It’s light and insightful at the time. The pages practically turned themselves.

Almost French

By Sarah Turnbull,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Almost French as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Almost French takes readers on a tour fraught with culture clashes but rife with insight and deadpan humour - a charming true story of what happens when a strong-willed Aussie girl meets a very French Frenchman.

Backpacking around Europe, twenty-something Sarah Turnbull meets Frederic and impulsively accepts his invitation to visit him for a week in Paris. Eight years later, she is still there - and married to him. The feisty journalist swaps vegemite for vichyssoise and all things French, but commits the fatal errors of bowling up to strangers at classy receptions, helping herself to champagne, laughing too loudly…


Who am I?

I left home in Melbourne to spend a year travelling in Asia when I was in my mid-twenties. I ended up living abroad for a decade in London, Bangladesh, and Myanmar before returning to Sydney in 2016. My first book is about the four years I lived in Myanmar and I’m currently writing my second, which is about the year I spent backpacking from Cambodia to Pakistan. My third book will be about the three years I worked as a journalist in Bangladesh. My plan is to write a ‘trilogy’ of memoirs. Living abroad has enriched my life and travel memoirs are one of my favourite genres, both as a reader and a writer.


I wrote...

Our Home in Myanmar: Four years in Yangon

By Jessica Mudditt,

Book cover of Our Home in Myanmar: Four years in Yangon

What is my book about?

After a whirlwind romance in Bangladesh, Australian journalist Jessica Mudditt and her Bangladeshi husband Sherpa arrive in Yangon in 2012, just as the military junta is beginning to relax its ironclad grip on power. It is a high-risk atmosphere; a life riddled with chaos and confusion as much as it is with wonder and excitement. Jessica joins a small team of old-hand expat editors at The Myanmar Times, whose Burmese editor is still languishing in prison.

Whether she is covering a speech by Aung San Suu Kyi, getting dangerously close to cobras, directing cover shoots with Burmese models, or scaling Bagan’s thousand-year-old temples, Jessica is entranced and challenged by a country undergoing rapid change.

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