There’s nothing quite like a good book to sink into and lose yourself in, but there’s also nothing like a really good funny book, one that makes you try and suppress laughter on a train or snort while in your living room.
The good thing is, there’s a lot that have been published throughout history: we’ve made lists of comedy specials and funny podcasts, but if you’re someone who prefers to get laughs from a book, we’ve put together a selection of lighthearted, funny books designed to make you happy, and take some of the stress out of every day life.
Three Men In A Boat
Having been released over a hundred years ago in 1889 (that’s when Hitler and Charlie Chaplain were born to give you an idea), you might be wondering if Three Men In A Boat could feel relevant today, and whether 1880s jokes will still land. The answer is yes: Jerome K. Jerome’s novel about a river trip in London is a bona fide classic, and one that has humour and laughs that still feel fresh today.
The plot of Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) to give it its full title is simple: Jerome (the narrator, and known as J in the novel), George and Harris are three friends who decide to trip on the River Thames, going from Kingston to Oxford, because they all feel that they are suffering from “overwork.” They’re accompanied by Jerome’s dog, Montmorency, and the seemingly simple plan begins to go awry, with plenty of mishaps, hijinks and comedy set pieces.
It’s been turned into plays on stage and radio numerous times, and is always worth a read for a bit of funny escapism. Even Jerome K. Jerome is a funny name.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey’s Bossypants, like the rest of her work, is excellently written and very funny. Star of SNL and 30 Rock and creator of Mean Girls and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Fey released this autobiography in 2011, and recounts her awkward childhood in Pennsylvania in a very relatable and endearingly self deprecating way. Eventually, she tells of her slow struggle to try and break into comedy, writing bits and pieces and performing improv along the way.
The comedy of course makes it funny, but it’s also a story of someone with a seemingly improbable dream to try and be a comedian on TV. Along with her nerdy childhood, she talks about her college years, honeymoon and life as a mother. If you’re a fan of Fey, you’ve probably read it before- but if not, its worth a read for anyone interested in comedy or just a fun book.
There’s also the Grammy nominated audiobook version, if you’d prefer to listen to Fey retell her life.
Good Omens- Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
You may have seen the Amazon Prime adaptation starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, but Pratchett and Gaiman’s original novel is always worth reading. Good Omens tells the tale of an angel and a demon as they team up, having taking a liking to humanity, in order to prevent the end of the world, by finding the young Antichrist.
As you might imagine, the relationship between Azriphale (the angel) and Crowley (the demon) isn’t a very likely one, and their interactions is a big reason why Good Omens is so good. Along the way, they meet plenty of demons, angels and other otherworldly beings, and the novel whizzes along with fun and aplomb. The book, much like Pratchett and Gaiman’s other work, is excellent fun.
Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians was made into a hugely successful film a few years ago, but before that, the original book published in 2013 is still a gem worth reading. Set around the wedding of “Singapore’s most eligible” bachelor Colin Woo, and fashion icon Amarinta Lee, the books follows the perspective of five different characters: Rachel, Nicholas, Eleanor, Astrid and Edison.
It was written as a way to introduce a more contemporary Asia to Western audiences, and was based loosely on author Kevin Kwan’s childhood. Rachel is taken by her boyfriend Nicholas (Nick) to meet his family in Singapore, having no knowledge beforehand that they are one of the richest families in Asia, and that Nick is apparently the only heir to the family fortune.
It’s a satire on the world of the rich and powerful families of Singapore, and is a great read. Much like its film adaptation, it’s full of great lines and wit, and is especially worth checking out if you’ve seen the film.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of the most beloved and popular novels of all time, but we’ve put it on this list for anyone who’s yet to read it.
Written by the brilliant comic mind Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s follows Arthur Dent, a mild mannered hapless Englishman who becomes the surviving last man after Earth is blown up, and being saved by the humanoid alien Ford Prefect. Together they explore the galaxy, and Arthur meets Trillian, another human who he briefly knew on Earth, Galaxy President Zaphod Beeblebrox and Marvin the Paranoid Android. Accompanied by the titular guide, the characters get into all kinds of scrapes in the journey, and there’s plenty of laugh out load moments thanks to Adam’s inimitable humour.
Hugely influential and followed by several sequels, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a book anyone can pick up, even if they’re not into sci-fi, and have a good time.
Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas
Probably now more famous for its film adaptation starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, the original 1971 novel of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson is something of a modern classic of literature, along with being darkly funny.
This strange and drug influenced novel sees protagonist Raoul Duke and his attorney Dr Gonzo travelling to Las Vegas while reflecting on the 1960s counter culture movement. While there isn’t a huge amount of traditional plot and writing tropes, the key here is the atmosphere, the characters and the observations on life, as well as the general feeling of a trip-both of the physical and drug kind. The book is known and was controversial for its graphic depictions of illegal drug use, as well as its loose plot and commentary on the time and the decade of the 60s.
It’s a strange and not always very easy to read or even fully understand, but it’s still fascinating, as well as humorous. It still feels relevant today and ahead of it’s time.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
Another addition to the list where the film version is more famous than the original book. The 1996 novel is no less relatable and cathartic than it was back then. It’s written, as you might guess, in the form a diary, chronicling one year in the life of the thirty something Bridget Jones, and her experiences and struggles with relationships, work and family and friends. Key to the book (and film) is her relationships with her handsome boss Daniel Cleaver (played by Hugh Grant in the film) and with lawyer Mark Darcy (played by Colin Firth).
All the while she worries about her weight, drinking issues and her work, as well as her overbearing mother, and well meaning but sometimes difficult father. It lampoons our ideas of romance and love, women’s magazines and ideas of how we present ourselves in society.
Both the book and it’s sequels, are funny and satirical, but it’s the catharsis they provide in showing that we all have sometimes unrealistic expectations about life that makes it endlessly popular, and will cheer you up to no end. However, it’s worth noting here that there has been major critique in recent years on how women and their bodies are portrayed in both the novel and film.
Notes From A Small Island- Bill Bryson
You can put almost any Bill Bryson book on this list and it’ll fit- the highly successful writer always injects a sense of wry humour into his work, and makes even dull topics entertaining. Notes From A Small Island is one of his most successful books, and sees him travel around Britain on a last trip before heading back to his home country of America. While there’s plenty of facts and nuggets of (genuinely interesting) information on Britain, the real reason it’s become so beloved is it’s deep delving into British culture and way of life, from our obsession with tea to our occasionally passive aggressive politeness. Though Bryson finds some of British life odd, you can tell there’s a very genuine affection for it.
While it was written in the 90s, and so some of it may feel dated in terms of how Britain is, much of it is still true today, and is genuinely laugh out loud funny in places. The perfect book for a domestic holiday in Britain, the book even won a poll in 2004 for the book that most accurately sums up Britain, despite being written by an American.