At Groundwork, we love a good book, and we love to talk about books. I think we can learn a lot about each other through discussing the books we read. Whether it’s during bookclub or in a casual conversation, books have the power to bring people together. In the spirit of learning more about GW members, and because I selfishly love to talk about books, we decided to put together a blog highlighting our members’ favorite books from different genres, starting with some funny books.
With all the worry over wars, pandemics, climate change, and the state of the economy, it seems the world could use more laugher. So, we asked some Groundwork members to offer suggestions for the best books when you need a good laugh. Here is what they said:
A Walk in the Woods – Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
“What on earth would I do if four bears came into my camp? Why, I would die of course. Literally sh*t myself lifeless.”
A Walk in the Woods is an entertaining memoir highlighting Bryson’s journey through the Appalachian Trail. It was chosen by Community Coordinator, Dan Moriarty and deemed one of his favorite books.
Published in 1998, A Walk in the Woods explores the history and ecology of the Appalachian trail, as well as the friendly, and sometimes foolish, folks Bryson meets along the way.
While putting this blog together, nearly every excerpt I came across from A Walk in the Woods had me laughing out loud or inspired me to go explore in the woods.
Lucky for me, this book has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. So, I went home and started reading and Bryson did not disappoint. In 24 hours, I breezed through 100 pages. If you’re looking for an interesting, informative AND hilarious book, this is a great place to start.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
“When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip”
This Pulitzer Prize winning comic novel was picked by GW member, Logan Weinkauf, and I second his choice. This book is wonderfully absurd.
Set in New Orleans, A Confederacy of Dunces presents the misadventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, “a gaseous, garrulous, non-fool-abider, would-be philosopher who lives with his mother.”(Colin Fleming, The Washington Post)
Ignatius is often described as a modern-day Don Quixote. But what is the book about? Well, nothing much, really. That was one of the criticisms which nearly prevented its publication.
After Toole sent the manuscript to Simon & Schuster, editor Robert Gottlieb stated that the book, “despite its “wonderfulness”, “isn’t really about anything” but Toole refused to edit his manuscript on the off-chance it might be published if he compromised.
In 1969, at the age of 31 years old, John Kennedy Toole took his own life, a fact that highlights the troubling and ironic connection between comedy and tragedy. It’s speculated that despair over being unable to publish his manuscript is what led to Toole’s death, but we have no way of knowing for sure. His mother burned the letters leading up to his death. She would spend the next 10 years searching for someone willing to publish her son’s manuscript in its original form.
A Confederacy of Dunces was eventually published in 1980, and it won the Pulitzer Prize a year later.
In addition to being a Pulitzer winner, Bette Midler also named Ignatius J. Reilly as her favorite hero of fiction in a 2008 Vanity Fair interview. What other endorsement do you need?!
The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America by Matt Kracht
“The Latin name for the robin is Turdus migratorius. No joke. It gives you some idea of how beloved they are, because that means “Migrating Turd.”
Chosen by Groundwork Co-founder, Sarah Athanas, The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America is a silly and crass guide book for bird-lovers and bird-haters alike.
Sarah commented, “I gave this book to my boyfriend who is a backyard birder, and we keep it on the coffee table. It unfailingly makes me laugh out loud every time I pick it up.”
Kracht started his field guides as a blog, with the telling subheading “I hate birds. These are my field notes.” I could try to express Kracht’s cheeky disdain for birds, but it’s probably more effective to show you his work, which he illustrates himself. The following is from The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of the Whole Stupid World (you see the pattern..)
“This obnoxious sh-t can never be serious. He may look pretty, but he’s a– clown. He’s the kind of bird that’s always chuckling. Or gurgling. Or making various squeaks and squawks. He gets a real kick out of hiding in hedges and mimicking a crow or maybe a car horn. It’s pretty much impossible not to hate this bird as soon as he opens his f—ing beak. Color: Bright yellow and whatever. I hate this guy.”
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff by Christopher Moore
“Nobody’s perfect. Well, there was this one guy, but we killed him…“
Lamb was chosen by GW member, Evan Colbert. In the book, Jesus’ childhood best friend, Levi (called Biff) is brought back to life two thousand years after Jesus’ crucifixion to tell the story of Jesus as only a childhood best friend can.
“Together, they travel across Asia, invent sarcasm, learn alchemy, discover coffee and become kung fu experts as Josh (Jesus) prepares himself to one day return home and fulfill his ultimate destiny.”
One Goodreads reviewer had this to say about the book:
“It’s no surprise that Christopher Moore could write a very funny book about the life of Jesus. What is surprising that he’s able to make it so touching that even a cynical non-believer such as myself could be moved by it.
Another reviewer, and Lutheran Church pastor, explained that Lamb “is by turns historically accurate and anachronistic, biblically reliable and remarkably imaginative, and always a rollicking ride.”
Based on its 4+ stars across multiple platforms, including Goodreads, Amazon, and StoryGraph, Lamb definitely sounds like a book that will make you laugh.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.“
If you love satire, sci-fi, and complete nonsense, then The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is the book for you. Chosen by yours truly and published in 1979, the story takes readers on a wild adventure through the universe with Englishman Arthur Dent, alien Ford Prefect, Marvin the Paranoid Robot, and other hilarious characters.
Douglas Adams came up with the idea for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy while hitchhiking through Europe with a stolen copy of Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe by Ken Welsh. He was drunk and stargazing in a field in Innsbruck, Austria, and later wrote:
“I got frantically depressed in Innsbruck … When the stars came out I thought that someone ought to write a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because it looked a lot more attractive out there than it did around me.”
Adam’s went on to write several sequels to the book which was originally written as a radio comedy, from which the first two novels of the series were adapted. Since then, it’s conquer nearly every medium, including a computer game, comic book series, novels, television, movies, and more.
In addition to being hilarious, Hitchhiker’s Guide will teach you why Vogon poetry is the third worst poetry in the universe. It will explain the importance of always carrying a towel, and most importantly, it will give you the answer to life, the universe, and everything (spoiler alert: it’s 42).
Any book written by Dave Barry will make you laugh
“I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.”
According to GW member Alanna Nelson, if you’re looking for funny books, look no further than Dave Barry.
The New York Times bestselling author offers some hilarious and sarcastic commentary on practically everything. Among Barry’s fans is Stephen King who states, “While reading Dave Barry’s Big Trouble, I laughed so loud I fell out of a chair. Luckily, there’s a rug, so I didn’t hurt myself.” And NYT calls him “the funniest man in America.”
In addition to his syndicate news columns, for which he won a Pulitzer, Barry has also written dozens of best-selling books. He is very active on his blog and offers a humous take on politics and current events in his 2022 Year in Review. You can also check out his latests novel Swamp Story, published in June of this year.
The next time you need a laugh
The wonderful thing about this list is that it encompasses a little of everything. So, the next time you’re looking for a good book, or if you need to escape the chaos and stress of day-to-day life with a bit of humor, remember some of these suggestions. Better yet, go ask a friend or a stranger what books they read when they need to laugh. I guarantee they will be glad you asked.
Stay tuned for our September book blog when we will highlight our members’ favorite books on health and wellness in honor of National Self-Care Awareness Month. Are you a member and interested to contribute a suggestion? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your recommendation!