Top Ten Books That Made Me Laugh

This week Top Ten Tuesday is looking at funny books, so I’m listing my ten favorite P.G. Wodehouse novels. Okay, I won’t go that far, but..

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Max Shulman. I was given this collection of ’40s-era campus stories as a graduation present from my high school librarian, and fell for it instantly. It’s one of my Very Favorite Books, one I’ve rebought over the years as my reading copies have fallen apart. I’ve since read a lot more of Shulman but Many Loves is the vintage stuff.

Sharpe’s series ,Bernard Cornwell. I’m not going to pinpoint a particular book, because Cornwell’s gift for inserting humor into tense action sequences is consistent throughout the series. The humor is mostly Sharpe himself, who has little patience for pretentious higher-ups lecturing him (“I never invited him to a duel. I offered to beat the hell out of him.”) , but other characters like Hogan and Harper also provide smiles.

Saxon chronicles, Bernard Cornwell. The humor in the Saxon stories is again mostly in dialogue, but there’s also situational humor — as when Uhtred draws his sword to kill a man after the intended piously asks God to strike him down that instant if he’s ever lied. (“Lord Uhtred, NO!” cries Aethelflaed.) Other characters also help:

“Oh, lord, I am so many things! A scholar, a priest, an eater of cheese, and now I am chaplain to Lord Uhtred, the pagan who slaughters priests. That’s what they tell me. I’d be eternally grateful if you refrained from slaughtering me. May I have a servant, please?” (Death of Kings)

The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg. Stories around southern cooking, particularly behind Bragg’s mama’s best recipes. (“She does not cook chitlin’s, because she knows what God made them to do.”) . Bragg ‘s other works are replete with humor, too.

The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde. This one had me roaring when I watched the stage production at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and reading the play is almost as good:

“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”

Pretty Much Anything By P.G. Wodehouse. I read Wodehouse because Isaac Asimov mentioned him so many times, and Asimov is my most-read author (70+ books). I’ve mentioned this many times since I first read Wodehouse in 2015, but you don’t know how funny English can be unless you have experienced him, especially in full form in the Jeeves & Wooster stories. Wodehouse’s narration is a ball, as is his dialogue. He’s a pick-me-up that’s unputdownable. The Wooster stories concern a lovable if useless young aristo who spends his days cavorting with the fellas, and putting his mind to work rescuing himself or his friends from precarious situations like gainful employment or marriage. Invariably he only makes matters worse, but his butler Jeeves is forever in the background pulling strings and playing the straight man to Wooster’s absurdism. I can’t help but hear Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie when I read the novels, which makes it even funnier.

“And yet, if he wants this female to be his wife, he’s got to say so, what? I mean, only civil to mention it.”
“Precisely, sir.”

“It seems to me, Jeeves, that the ceremony may be one fraught with considerable interest.”
“Yes, sir.”
“What, in your opinion, will the harvest be?”
“One finds it difficult to hazard a conjecture, sir.”
“You mean imagination boggles?”
“Yes, sir.”
I inspected my imagination. He was right. It boggled.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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8 Responses to Top Ten Books That Made Me Laugh

  1. Mudpuddle says:

    your description of the Jeeves/Bertie books is right on the money… undoubtedly the ultimate in funniness…

  2. I will never forget reading The Importance of Being Earnest. I was so taken with how cleverly it was written. And Jeeves!

    I can remember seeing the Dobie Gillis show on tv when I was little. I had no idea that it came from a great book. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  3. Marianne Maurer says:

    Good list. Oscar Wilde and P.G. Wodehouse are indeed hilarious. (I also have the latter on my list). My husband loves Bernard Cornwell and has probably all of his books. Maybe I should try one.

    Thanks for visiting my TTT earlier.

  4. Michael says:

    I’ve seen the TV show version of Dobie Gillis but wasn’t aware there was a book. I may have to look into it.

  5. I greatly appreciate the Fry and Laurie reference. I am hopelessly in love with Hugh Laurie.

  6. J.E. Fountain says:

    Nice list. I haven’t read most of these, though I’ve read some Wilde and Wodehouse and can concur. If I stick to classics, there were moments in Don Quixote that made me laugh, and Mark Twain usually provides a chuckle somewhere along the way. Once in a while Shakespeare’s irony or sarcasm can be so brilliant as evoke a laugh. Lucky Jim is funny, but the most laugh-out-loud classic I’ve read, by far, is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    • I’m looking forward to Hitchhiker’s Guide — it’s on my current Classics list. Most modern readers miss Shakespeare’s wordplay..I’m very grateful to have had English teacher who took joy in pointing it out!

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