The best humour books

13 authors have picked their favorite books about humour books and why they recommend each book.

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The Saber-Tooth Curriculum

By Abner Peddiwell,

Book cover of The Saber-Tooth Curriculum

This marvelous little book was first published in 1939 – and it is still bang up to date in its critique of conventional education. (As a society we seem to have learned far too little in the ensuing 80 years). Peddiwell tells the story of the first pre-historic educators who taught young people useful life skills like how to grab fish, or how to use fire to scare away saber-tooth tigers. Over the years the climate changed, but the elders refused to allow the curriculum to change with it. The saber-tooth tigers died out, but scaring them still had to be taught in schools because that knowledge had become a ‘cultural treasure’ even though it was now useless. It is very funny, and bang on the money, in showing just how stupid supposedly clever people can be. (Peddiwell and his story were both made up by a real professor called…


Who am I?

I’m a cognitive scientist, and I love reading, thinking, and researching about the nature of the human – and especially the young – mind, and what it is capable of. Even while I was still doing my PhD in experimental psychology at Oxford in the early 1970s, I was gripped by the new possibilities for thinking about education that were being opened up by science. In particular, the assumption of a close association between intelligence and intellect was being profoundly challenged, and I could see that there was so much more that education could be, and increasing needed to be, than filling kids’ heads with pockets of dusty knowledge and the ability to knock out small essays and routine calculations. In particular, we now know that learning itself is not a simple reflection of IQ, but is a complex craft that draws on a number of acquired habits that are capable of being systematically cultivated in school – if we have a mind to do it.


I wrote...

What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education

By Guy Claxton,

Book cover of What's the Point of School?: Rediscovering the Heart of Education

What is my book about?

Education has become more and more soulless. With their emphasis on regurgitated knowledge and stressful examinations, today’s schools often do more harm than good. Of course, knowledge is useful – but what knowledge do young people actually need? And are there other things than knowledge – forms of expertise and even aspects of character – that schools should be paying attention to? In this book, I argue that cultivating characteristics such as perseverance, skepticism, and imagination is as important as reading, writing, math, and a bit of history – and that the two sets of aims actually support each other rather than conflict.

Head Kid

By David Baddiel, Steven Lenton (illustrator),

Book cover of Head Kid

This book made me first want to write for 7 to 11-year-olds! It is really easy to get into and the characters are fun, believable, and have heart. Baddiel’s books are all set in the real world of school and normal life but with a fantastical twist. In this story, the naughtiest boy in school accidentally swaps bodies with the very strict headteacher, and they both learn a lot about themselves while having chaotic, madcap adventures along the way.

Who am I?

My sons were both reluctant readers and that made me want to write books that they wouldn’t be able to resist reading! Reading should be a pleasure and this list is packed with books that are impossible to put down. They are perfect for young, reluctant readers, as they are not trying to be too serious or worthy or overwhelming with too much text. They pull you in and hook you from the start and you can’t help being moved by the characters as they grow and develop, fostering a love of books and fiction. I love comedy in books, but funny books also have to have heart, believable characters, and a great plot that keeps you reading till the very end.


I wrote...

Fergus the Furball

By Emily Snape,

Book cover of Fergus the Furball

What is my book about?

When Daniel is rudely awakened on the morning of his birthday by his Aunt Tink and his brother and sister, with a cake bearing just 9 candles, a dusty old magic set, and a cactus, instead of the pet he’s long wished for, he is understandably more than a little disappointed. Things are made worse by his irritating little brother Fergus, being as irritating as normal, so feeling rather sorry for himself you can hardly blame Daniel for wishing he had a guinea pig instead of a brother. Imagine his surprise when before his very eyes that’s exactly what happens. Fergus turns into a guinea pig!

Now it’s up to Daniel to somehow find the magic to reverse the spell and turn Fergus back to normal. This is a highly amusing tale that young readers will love, an ideal first-chapter book.

Alpha Beta Chowder

By Jeanne Steig, William Steig,

Book cover of Alpha Beta Chowder

Jeanne Steig wrote a giddy delightful poem for each letter of the alphabet. The poems are replete with weird and wonderful words. The goofy illustrations by William Steig tickle your eyes. One of my favorite poems is "Mishmash". Notice all of the many M words in Mishmash: mallet, misguided, minimize, mix, milk. Could Myron majestically mash potatoes? Mmmm, no.

Mishmash
Making mashed potatoes, Myron?
Must you mix them with the hammer?
This bizarre, misguided method
Causes quite a katzenjammer.

Might you add the milk and butter
In a more majestic manner?
Might a mallet not be better?
That would minimize the clamor.


Who am I?

I have been creating picture books for 30 years. Picture books are a combination of words and language - that’s what I am drawn to. I love vivid language and art that tells stories. I love wordplay and cornball puns. I savor a perfectly crafted sentence in proper English, but I am not a stickler for perfect grammar. I like slang, pig-latin, and mistakes. I enjoy the sound of languages that I know and that I don’t know. I hope that you enjoy all of these wordy books, including mine.


I wrote...

The Wordy Book

By Julie Paschkis,

Book cover of The Wordy Book

What is my book about?

This book is a collection of paintings made up of words upon words, all moving, interacting, and creating a visually stunning and wordy universe. Each page contains a question to be answered with the words that lie within. What happens when words and pictures coexist in such a way, bump into one another, are in constant conversation?

The Wordy Book is an invitation to play with language.

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories

By Tim Burton,

Book cover of The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories

I was a fan of Tim Burton's movies long before I discovered this little treasure. I’m not normally a fan of poetry, but letting your inner voice read these tales in Christopher Lee's voice (Willy Wonka's father in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is pure magic. These short tales and corresponding drawings are as funny as they are dark (a little disturbing and definitely not for small children).


Who am I?

By now you are probably wondering why the author of a dark and violent tale set in the Zombie Apocalypse is recommending humorous books. The answer lies within the five elements of survival: Shelter, Fire, Food, Water, and Mindset. A positive mindset can get you through a lot of dark and dangerous times, and being able to find the funny in the darkness will help you maintain that mindset (especially if you are injured or scared). 


I wrote...

Sleep with One Eye Open

By Beau Johnston,

Book cover of Sleep with One Eye Open

What is my book about?

The annual Zombie Pride Parade is set to begin in Sydney’s CBD. Instead of costumed revelers, the streets fill with zombies flooding out from an underground train station and into an unsuspecting public. A brawl erupts and people realize they aren’t just defending themselves, they’re fighting for their lives. 

We follow John’s journey as he flees the carnage and quickly prepares for a bleak and dangerous future. The spread of the undead is concealed by looting and vigilantism as countless zombies swiftly overrun entire suburbs. John’s journey takes him to places we’ve all been, or should make the effort to visit….. coastal and rural Australia. This is the story of an ordinary man who makes use of wit and guile to achieve the seemingly impossible.

Lessons from Lucy

By Dave Barry,

Book cover of Lessons from Lucy: The Simple Joys of an Old, Happy Dog

I’ve been a fan of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and author Dave Barry for decades, and his Lessons From Lucy book surprised me — not because it’s hilarious (of course it is!), but because it’s so profoundly moving. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I read it. Here’s what inspired the book: When Barry turned 70, he reflected on how unhappy he was about aging — in stark contrast with his blissed-out senior dog, Lucy. Barry noticed that Lucy was always ready for fun new adventures, eager to make new friends, and able to live in the moment. In this gem of a book, Barry explores the realities of the human condition and zeroes in on the real keys to contentment in life, all thanks to the love of a dog. 


Who am I?

I’m a dog nut who loves reflecting on the powerful life lessons we can learn as we watch our furry best friends age happily and gratefully by our sides. I’ve also been working as a journalist for more than 30 years now — so that makes me one of the oldest dogs in my own newsroom. I’m a senior writer and editor for the website of NBC’s TODAY show, and the My Old Dog book stemmed from a viral TODAY.com story I wrote about photographer Lori Fusaro’s efforts to change people’s perceptions of older shelter animals. Writing that story was one of the best things that ever happened to me!


I wrote...

My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts

By Laura T. Coffey, Lori Fusaro (photographer),

Book cover of My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts

What is my book about?

It’s difficult to describe how much fun I had writing the book My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts. I got to travel all over the country with hyper-talented photographer Lori Fusaro on a quest to find big-hearted animal lovers and the happy, sleepy, squishy, grateful senior dogs they rescued. Along the way, we spent time with George Clooney’s cocker spaniel, Einstein; Remy, a soulful 9-year-old dog adopted by elderly nuns; Bretagne, who was the last surviving 9/11 search dog from Ground Zero, and sooo many more amazing dogs and humans. We saw firsthand that older pooches may be slower moving and a tad less exuberant than puppies, but adopting a senior dog brings immeasurable joy, earnest devotion, and unconditional love.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

By David Sedaris,

Book cover of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim

If you can appreciate a drink coaster with the witty saying, “I just child-proofed my home, but they’re still getting in,” you’ll enjoy the sarcastic writing of satirist David Sedaris. While based on his childhood and young adulthood, I can only hope he’s embellished the characters who encompassed his early years. I’m not sure I’d recommend all his books but this one from earlier in his collection smacks of family dysfunction that just might have you saying, “Well, at least my family wasn’t that f*cked up."

Best read with a hearty Cabernet.


Who am I?

I like to say I had a colorful childhood. With a mentally unstable mother who bred children as a hobby, I was part of a band of siblings that lived life pretty free-range. It made for dark, but arguably, entertaining times. If you came from an abnormally normal childhood and can’t relate, I’m not sure we can be friends. Escaping with a book and glass of wine is balanced living, and I’ve given tips on the best wine selections to go with the following books featuring dysfunctional families. But just between you and me, any wine will do.


I wrote...

Chasing North Star

By Heidi McCrary,

Book cover of Chasing North Star

What is my book about?

Four free-range siblings, cigarettes in hand, roam the streets ’til sunrise. It’s 1970 and running from monsters in the cemetery and hiding from a gun-toting mother who suffers from a cocktail of illnesses is just another day in Alamo. That is, until the youngest sibling finds an old leather journal and stumbles upon the story of another young girl also trying to outrun an abusive mother. Chasing North Star – a bittersweet coming-of-age novel celebrating family dysfunction with heart and dark humor.

Best read with a robust Chianti.

Humor, Seriously

By Jennifer Aaker, Naomi Bagdonas,

Book cover of Humor, Seriously: Why Humor Is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life (and How Anyone Can Harness It. Even You.)

Why include a book about humor in a business writing list? Because it can make a major impact on the business environment. This book shares research about how humor influences behavior, affects negotiations, and strengthens bonds. That’s all relevant to the workplace!

You’ll find advice here that might inspire you to infuse a little levity into your emails. And, as you might expect, the book itself is entertaining to read.


Who am I?

After spending years as a freelance writer and content marketer, I turned my attention to exploring the inner workings of why writing works and how it fails. I’m an unabashed nonfiction geek on a mission to help people make a positive impact with their words—whether they’re writing emails, blog posts, or nonfiction books. 


I wrote...

33 Ways Not to Screw Up Your Business Emails

By Anne H. Janzer,

Book cover of 33 Ways Not to Screw Up Your Business Emails

What is my book about?

Love them or hate them, everyone writes business emails. Too often, we screw them up. We move too fast, leaving out necessary or sending them to the wrong people. Our messages are misunderstood, misfiled, or ignored.

If you do nothing else to improve your business writing, work on your email skills. This short book is stuffed with practical advice and tips you can use immediately. Learn how to rise above the inbox clutter. Your teammates, clients, and everyone will appreciate it. Your career may thank you, too.

Notwithstanding

By Louis De Bernieres,

Book cover of Notwithstanding

This book is a collection of the author’s memoirs, set in a fictional village in England’s leafy countryside. Each story stands alone and yet they build a picture of a time and place that is now lost.

There is humour and tragedy in these stories. A disastrous dinner party ends up with the guests having to go to the hospital to have their stomachs pumped. An elderly lady who cares more for her animals than she does for herself is discovered to be starving. The mysterious ‘hedging and ditching man’ evades identification although there is a suggestion that this disreputable-looking old tramp is in fact the local squire. A happenstance meeting at the scene of an accident results in a fledgling music group being started up in the village.

All these anecdotes are narrated from the confused, curious, only partly-understanding point of view of a young boy. There is nostalgia…


Who am I?

I once visited an art exhibition in which an artist had taken old canvasses and re-used them, over-layering one work with another in such a way as to illuminate both. This technique was described as a palimpsest. At the time I was writing a novel that seemed to be four connected stories, struggling with the format, wondering if it would work. The exhibition encouraged me to persevere and Crossings: Four Tiered Stories is the result. Since writing my palimpsest I have come across others in the genre, written by some of the most revered authors of our time. It has been a pleasure to share them with you.


I wrote...

Crossings: Four Tiered Stories

By Allie Cresswell,

Book cover of Crossings: Four Tiered Stories

What is my book about?

This quartet of over-layered stories introduces four strangers. Only their dull English town and the heatwave that broils its lack-lustre streets and wilting parks connect them. Their separate stories are drawn violently together when a boy pulls them into the maelstrom of his fate.

Each is at a crossroads. Matt must leap the gulf between adolescence and adulthood. Megan needs to find her way out of troubled waters. A family crisis leads Jade to a tenuous path of faith. Mrs. Fairlie knows the bridge she faces but refuses to cross without knowing the fate of her son. A pivotal event connects their narratives and their lives to demonstrate how fates intertwine and how the consequences of our choices can affect people we don’t even know.

One for the Money

By Janet Evanovich,

Book cover of One for the Money

Can any guide to the Best Humorous Murder Mysteries be complete without Janet Evanovich? If you are unfamiliar with her books, joyfully murderous mirth is coming straight at you by the barrelful, via 30 Stephanie Plum novels. Stephanie lives in an extraordinary neighborhood, where law enforcers, Mafia types, goodies, baddies, peeps-crazy-in-a-good-way, bonkers-in-a-bad-way, and all stops in between, are crammed cheek by jowl.

In the first book One for the Money out-of-work Stephanie becomes a Bounty Hunter. We meet her nutcase Nan and her crazy family,  and follow her as she learns her dangerous new job via laugh-out-loud captures! Too much cussing to be a true cozy, but Evanovich novels have all the best features of the cozy mystery. Having met Stephanie and her clan, likely you’ll keep coming back for more.


Who am I?

Living on Devon's gorgeous coast, I'm melding my lifelong love of reading Cozy Sleuths with my love of writing and years of living in foreign climes to write Travel Cozies. I also have a Vella Heist serial Found Money starting on Vella soon, and a Cozy Spy series They Call Him Gimlet coming out in the Autumn.


I wrote...

Death in Paris

By Kate Darroch,

Book cover of Death in Paris

What is my book about?

Màiri and her BFF Lianna dump their cheating partners and head for a New Life in Istanbul. But they get stopped dead in Paris. Lianna is locked up in jail, charged with murder. Màiri is being hunted by murderous terrorists. She never dreamt that travelling outside Scotland would be so dangerous...  

Death in Paris won 9 International Book Awards in 2022, including the Firebird Award for Best Book by a Debut Author.

The Star Trek Book of Friendship

By Robb Pearlman, Jordan Hoffman,

Book cover of The Star Trek Book of Friendship: You Have Been, and Always Shall Be, My Friend

Much of what I learned about real friendship I learned from Star Trek. From the many episodes of the original series I saw in syndication to the heartbreaking ending of Wrath of Kahn, the principle of “I am, and forever will be, your friend,” has influenced many of my friendships over the years. 

This book explores those friendships we have seen on screen, from Kirk and Spock, to Picard and Data, from Janeway and Seven of Nine to Bashir and Garak. Told through the eyes of fans, this is a great gift to yourself or your best friend if you want to make them jealous.


Who am I?

I’ve been fascinated by Star Trek since I was a young child and went to my first convention, seeing a gorgeous Uhura walk by trailed by three gentlemen dressed as Mr. Spock. One of my local librarians must have been a Trekkie because I checked out stacks of novels from the likes of James Blish and Vonda McIntyre. Now, as an author myself, I feel privileged to have not only been a Trekkie for many years but to have written a book about Star Trek with one of my best friends. I hope you enjoy these Star Trek books, and the many others that are coming this year and beyond, as much as I have. 


I wrote...

The Tao of Trek

By James T. Lambert, Troy Lambert,

Book cover of The Tao of Trek

What is my book about?

Star Trek has always tackled ethical questions on the screen, questions about not only whether we can do something, but whether we should. This book provides a background of the various Star Trek series and a look at the philosophy behind it from Roddenberry’s original ideas all the way to Discovery and Lower Decks.

The Star Trek franchise has changed the world, and the world has changed Star Trek. From the Prime Directive to Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, this book explores how they relate to Taoism, Buddhism, and other aspects of both western and eastern philosophies. A book by fans and for fans, this is a must-read for any Trekkie.

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