2016 Wants Plenty of Mirth. Try these.
October 7, 2016 10:03 AM   Subscribe

The culture editors at Slate asked Maria Semple to recommend three funny books with living authors. Then, rather cleverly, they turned around and asked those authors to recommend three funny books. Result: 83 of the funniest books ever, accoding to some of the funniest authors ever. Check 'em out if you need something to help you get through November.
posted by Diablevert (27 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite
Really, we have to mouse-over 82 tiny images to see what the recommended books are? Not the friendliest user interface.
posted by Umami Dearest at 10:12 AM on October 7, 2016 [12 favorites]

I'm sort of annoyed that they just duplicated books (like What I’d Say to the Martians) that got recommended multiple times. That's not a proper graph at all >:(
posted by quaking fajita at 10:12 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

You guys need to read more funny books.
posted by storybored at 10:13 AM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Y: The Last Man is brilliant for many reasons. Even though the story is dark and dystopian, it’s able to maintain a wonderful lightness. I love when things that aren’t intended as comedy can still make you laugh. Pretty much every character (Yorick, Dr. Mann, even 355) is capable of tossing out a sarcastic remark, funny reference, or biting insult.

Weird, I wonder if they were all written by the same author
posted by Greg Nog at 10:30 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Really, we have to mouse-over 82 tiny images to see what the recommended books are? Not the friendliest user interface.

Well, what I thought was interesting about the approach was that it was this sort of iterative thing, that allows you to trace influences among these different writers --- the same authors come up in different places. By using the linked book cover layout, it allows you to visualize these realtionships in the same manner as a family tree; simply having yet another listicle would not allow for this effect.

It also seemed to create more possibilites for interesting discoveries --- in a giant list or a slideshow it'd be easy to blow right by unfamiliar authors. With a big visual layout like this a book you're familiar with will pop out, and then you can trace to see what other books that person liked, or what books your own favorite recommended.
posted by Diablevert at 10:31 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Do you think they specified "living writers" just to weed out Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, or did they have other writers in mind?
posted by Grimgrin at 10:38 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you think they specified "Living Writers" just to weed out Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, or did they have other writers in mind?

I imagine they did so due to the difficulty of going on to solicit favorites from the dead writers.
posted by Shmuel510 at 10:40 AM on October 7, 2016 [20 favorites]

Shmuel510: That's just typical click-bait journo laziness. Get a medium, a Ouija board, or a shovel and necromancer but get those picks!

More seriously, good point, though they're already either not soliciting or discarding recommendations from 2/3rds of the authors for most of the graph. I think it would have made for a much more interesting graph if they solicited from everyone living and let the graph terminate at a no-response or dead author. It'd create a kind of family tree for literary humor.
posted by Grimgrin at 10:50 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I hate this graph. Please just give me a text list I can read instead of having to pore over these covers. This seems to be the style of late. Instead of book titles, we have to look at pictures, i.e. marketing, of books.
posted by charlesminus at 11:54 AM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Text list:

Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido
The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure by Jack Handey
How I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely
Fludd by Hilary Mantel
Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
The Ladybird Book of the Shed by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris
Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin
Lamentations of the Father by Ian Frazier
The Lazlo Letters by Don Novello
In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
The Possessed: Adventures With Russian Books and the People Who Read Them by Elif Batuman
The Time Machine Did It by John Swartzwelder (appears twice)
Jenny and the Jaws of Life by Jincy Willett
The Onion Presents: Our Dumb World by the staff of the Onion, Mike DiCenzo and Dan Guterman, co-head writers
Metropolitan Life by Fran Lebowitz
True Grit by Charles Portis
Camels Are Easy, Comedy's Hard by Roy Blount Jr.
The Ghost Writer by Philip Roth
Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart
A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag by Gordon Korman
Me Talk Pretty One Day (audiobook) by David Sedaris
FUDS: A Complete Encyclofoodia From Tickling Shrimp to Not Dying in a Restaurant by Kelly Hudson, Dan Klein, Arthur Meyer
Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
What I'd Say to the Martians by Jack Handey (appears twice)
More Stories About Spaceships and Cancer by Casper Kelly
Aliens of Affection by Padgett Powell
Movie Stars by Jack Pendarvis
The Book of Guys by Garrison Keillor
The Water-Method Man by John Irving
Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky
City of Thieves by David Benioff
Preacher by Garth Ennis
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Samaritan by Richard Price
The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure by Jack Pendarvis
The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker
Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp by C.D. Payne
The Greatest of Marlys by Lynda Barry
The Blade: Shellville High School Yearbook by Don Novello
Tales Designed to Thrizzle by Michael Kupperman
The Haters by Jesse Andrews (appears twice)
Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw
Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Do the Windows Open? by Julie Hecht
The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George
Side Effects by Woody Allen
The Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore
The Road to Mars by Eric Idle
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Didn’t Have To by DC Pierson
Vicky Swanky Is a Beauty by Diane Williams
I Love Dick by Chris Kraus
Dan by Joanna Ruocco
The Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger
Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff
Skipped Parts by Tim Sandlin
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty
American Born Chinese by Gene Yuen Lang
E! Entertainment by Kate Durbin
Pitch Dark by Renata Adler
Hotel by Joanna Walsh
Willful Creatures by Aimee Bender
The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour
Emma Who Saved My Life by Wilton Barnhardt
Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer
Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War by Deb Olin Unferth
Negrophobia by Darius James
Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames
My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist by Mark Leyner
Creamy and Delicious, by Steve Katz
The Ask, by Sam Lipsyte (appears four times)
Mumbo Jumbo, by Ishmael Reed (appears twice)
Slow Days, Fast Company: The World, the Flesh, and L.A. by Eve Babitz
The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits
White Sands: Experiences From the Outside World by Geoff Dyer
The Professor and Other Writings, by Terry Castle (appears twice)
Money, by Martin Amis (appears three times)
The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret
Creamy and Delicious by Steve Katz
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth
posted by fredludd at 12:02 PM on October 7, 2016 [48 favorites]

Samaritan? A fine book, but Ladies Man is Price's funniest by far.
posted by jonmc at 12:36 PM on October 7, 2016

I recognize (and agree with) a couple of authors' names, but...is this one of those things where a poll for "funniest" ends up with a tepid result like the joke where the punchline is Holmes berating Watson, "You idiot. Someone has stolen our tent!" ?
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:42 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Really, we have to mouse-over 82 tiny images to see what the recommended books are?

I thought it was just a weird portrait-style splash page or something, but no, it's the whole thing. Oy.
posted by tobascodagama at 1:21 PM on October 7, 2016

Where's Big Trouble? It is laugh-out-loud funny on many pages. I am disappointed by the list because I've read Bill Bryson (admittedly not In a Sunburned Country). I bet his book is witty at times. But funny? If you want funny go read Big Trouble. As Kinky Friedman put it in a review for the New York Times, "A lot of people have been killing a lot of trees lately. Maybe that's why it comes as something of a cultural colonic to discover that Dave Barry has created that rarest of all literary creatures, the genuinely funny mystery novel."
posted by Bella Donna at 1:24 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Where's Big Trouble?

I was hoping to see Dave Barry on that list. I would've suggested Insane City.
posted by fuse theorem at 2:05 PM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist sounds like a fucking masterpiece of a page-turner. Must check that out.
posted by bologna on wry at 3:12 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

That Jack Handey novel was not funny, despite every sentence being a joke.

And I think Baker's The Mezzanine is deadly serious.
posted by chavenet at 3:14 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

A-and by "that Jack Handey novel" I mean The Stench of Honolulu; I didn't read the Martians one.
posted by chavenet at 3:17 PM on October 7, 2016

My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist sounds like a fucking masterpiece of a page-turner. Must check that out.

It's a great great great book.
posted by Lucinda at 5:34 PM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

fredludd: Thank you.
posted by charlesminus at 6:07 PM on October 7, 2016

The funniest novel that I've read from the 21st century is Will Ferguson's 'Generica', which the publisher helpfully changed the title to Happiness TM after the first run, to add to the confusion/hilarity. It's very funny. Some tears of funny.
posted by ovvl at 6:38 PM on October 7, 2016

I was ready to complain that Jonathan Ames didn't make the cut. But he did! One of my all time favorite books.
posted by Clustercuss at 7:40 PM on October 7, 2016

I'm surprised by the absence of Joe Keenan's "Blue Heaven".
posted by bcarter3 at 12:01 AM on October 8, 2016

I've read very few of these, but Elif Batuman's The Possessed is absolutely delightful.

Upamanyu Chatterjee's English, August definitely ought to be on there.
posted by karayel at 12:34 AM on October 8, 2016

oh, and Helen DeWitt's masterpiece The Last Samurai, which is finally back in print.
posted by karayel at 12:36 AM on October 8, 2016

Do you think they specified "living writers" just to weed out Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams, or did they have other writers in mind?

Because no living author would come out well in comparison to writers like Douglas Adams, Flann O'Brien, Richard Brautigan, Jerome K. Jerome, or Roald Dahl.

Having said that, there is still some good stuff on this...flowchart thing (hoverovers would have been nice). Miranda July, for example. The Onion. Uh...Bill Bryson (though Sunburned is his least impressive work).
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:11 PM on October 9, 2016

re:Dave Barry, how about Carl Hiaasen?

Oh jeez, is there some Heinlein-esqe privileged offensiveness that I'm outing myself as blind to?
posted by ElGuapo at 12:40 PM on October 10, 2016

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