Funny Books Mean Funny Women?

Someone said to me the other day ‘you could do with a bit of a laugh at the moment, couldn’t you?’ and indeed they were quite right. When things are a bit bumpy or up in the air we need a laugh to simply make everything better. That said, and a small aside, I am not one of life’s great laughers. If something is funny you might get a smile but it has to be really funny in order for me to laugh out loud and then, invariably, I simply cannot stop. So this thought of me having a laugh, whilst not aimed at my reading life at all, I thought I would apply to some of the books I want to read over the next few weeks… Funny ones.

The thing is I don’t actually own that many ‘funny’ books, what was even more surprising after I had routed all through my TBR was that I had hardly any ‘funny’ books and if I did, apart from one novel by Russell Kane (which I must read at some point), they are all books by women. I have chosen a selection…

  • Is It Me? – Miranda Hart (yes this is a celebrity book, which I have an odd relationship with but she is very funny and indeed this book made me laugh uncontrollably and very loudly within four pages when I tried it a minute ago, I now want to rush back to it)
  • Moranthology – Caitlin Moran (who I think almost everyone finds fairly funny)
  • The Complete Novels – Nancy Mitford (I have three of these to read but two of them have made me cry with laughter more than once)
  • Oh Dear Silvia – Dawn French (who doesn’t love Dawn French, and I did like her last book)
  • The Tent, The Bucket and Me – Emma Kennedy (who I knew was funny but found hilarious in the UK’s recent Celebrity Masterchef and started to adore and discovered has written funny books about her childhood holidays)

When I said a selection of funny books actually those are, apart from aforementioned Russell, all the funny authors I could find. I have Caitlin Moran’s ‘How To Be A Woman’ (which I am sure was also a book for men, though I want to read after) and almost all the other books by Nancy Mitford that you could think of. So really that is my collection. I should have some Sharpe and some Wodehouse but I cannot find them (which means they may both randomly yet coincidentally have been in the box of books I lost in the move, I lose one every move – most odd and unfortunate) but I would have included them, though I am not sure how funny they might be as I have read neither.

That is the big thing with humour though isn’t it, it is so subjective. I was told by many, many people that E.F Benson would make me laugh till I cried and while I liked his observational wit I didn’t think ‘Queen Lucia’ was the funniest book on earth, I enjoyed it immensely though for other reasons. Yet still I have not quite worked out why its women I find funnier (and this goes with live comedy too) than men?

The only thing I can think of, and I don’t think it’s a sexuality thing, is that I don’t like that macho humour of mother in law jokes, all the ‘ist’ (sex, race, etc) jokes and patting oneself on the back for being so funny that men tend to do more. If a man is funny in my eyes he tends to camp it up, again like very much hetrosexualists Russell Kane and David Walliams. That said I don’t find any women who are twee funny either. I am even confusing myself now so shall we move on…

What books are your favourite funnies, be they memoirs or fiction? When was the last time you cried with laughter (or just laughed very, very hard) reading a book?


Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

19 responses to “Funny Books Mean Funny Women?

  1. I went to see CM this week y’know, in conversation with Stuart Maconie. And they told a lot of stories I thought should have been hysterical, the timing was ON, the stories were funny and I really like Moran’s TV columns but for some reason all they generally raised was a smile from me – so subjective this humour biz! My favourite funny books have to be Danny Wallace’s non-fic journeys. But I might recommend you see Simon Ampstel live if you can. I found his show hilarious and he’s not all back patty at all. He doesn’t have a book unfortunately.

    Also oooo did not know Miranda Hart had a book 😀

  2. I don’t like funny books in general. I have got into Pratchett so read his stuff but apart from that I don’t have the slightest interest in reading funny books, don’t know why, they just don’t interest me.

    If I want funny I use TV, I don’t have many funny movies either….

    Now I am worried that I am just a really grumpy cow!

  3. I recently read HOW TO BE A WOMAN and fell in love with Caitlin Moran. There is something incredible about the way she can take serious situations and give them a funny, yet intelligent spin. I’m adding this book to my list! Thx 🙂

  4. rosario001

    Bill Bryson does it for me. The last book that made me cry with laughter was his Australia book, In A Sunburned Country. I love his humour because there’s no meanness in him,a nd he’s very willing to laugh at himself as well.

  5. I also rarely laugh out loud when reading but I do like Caitlin Moran and Bill Bryson. Also, I think it’s quite rare for humorous books to still be funny when you re-read them, but the Adrian Mole books are an exception. I still think they are hilarious!

  6. I LOVE Caitlin Moran, I second the above note, How to be a Woman is brilliant and I’ve just really enjoyed Moranthology. I would also agree with the Bill Bryson recommendation.

  7. A Little Blog of Books beat me to Adrian Mole – I especially love the early years. I’m sure this is very low brow, but I have to say that India Knight’s Comfort and Joy gave me many good laughs.

  8. I wouldn’t worry about the Russell Kane novel, it’s pretty dire. Check out Shalom Auslander’s Hope: A Tragedy.

  9. I reread Brigid Jones recently. I’d forgotten how funny it is-I was giggling constantly. It’s a great book, although I do hate that it spawned thousands of pale irritating imitations.

  10. Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent, recalling childhood vacant house across from grandparents where brother took him. He was about 4 or 5. Believed there was a ghost, went up the stairs, brother yelled out, Get out! He’s coming and he describes himself running down the stairs in this old dilapidated house, as fast as he can, squirting urine on every step. It was middle of the night when I read this and was snorting out loud. Could not stop!!

  11. hi simon – i’m going to join the crowd that’s jumping onto the bryson bandwagon. it’s just so good. i also adore alan bennett (his “lady in the van” is certainly worth a re-read). i thought mark haddon’s “spot of bother” was VERY funny, but in a darker way than the other two.

    but please don’t discount the value of a good gut-wrencher, either. when i’m feeling overwhelmed or down, i love a book like graham greene’s “the end of the affair”. alternately, pop in “brief encounter”. it does the trick for me everytime. sending you kind thoughts from across the ocean . . .

  12. Humour is very subjective and tends to age rapidly I feel. I found “Diary of a Nobody” dire, though I love “Cold Comfort Farm”. I’ll also vote for Bryson and I think there are some very funny aspects in many of Graham Green’s books in amongst much more serious and dark issues. Much of David Lodge’s writing makes me smile. I almost never laugh out loud at anything in a book though. I’ll vote for Adrian Mole too.

  13. gaskella

    I second Adrian Mole – I love those books. I’m a big fan of David Nobbs (of Reggie Perrin fame), his books are hilarious but do have a bittersweet edge. G

    • gaskella

      Hit the wrong button. Good funny books are rare aren’t they. The Pirates series by Gideon Defoe is making me laugh, and the late great Alan Coren’s columns are wonderful.

  14. Jane Austen 😉
    Very few books leave me laughing out loud, but Wodehouse does it, and Sense & Sensibility did it. Sometimes Ivy Compton-Burnett does too. Oh, and the Provincial Lady. In terms of modern celeb women, I really want to read Moranthology, and hadn’t realised that Miranda Hart had written a book – but I was really disappointed by Dawn French’s autobiography.

  15. Glad about your post as you highlighted a Dawn French one! new one for me.

  16. I don’t tend to enjoy “funny” books that much generally, as they’re usually a particular type of lowest common denominator kind of humour that I just don’t connect with. Anything that has a deadpan or sarcastic sense of humour will usually raise at least a smile for me. That and so-bad-it’s-good writing tends to work as well.

  17. As everyone else has said, Bill Bryson is always a safe bet if you’re looking for something funny to read. The last book that had me laughing out loud was Willy Russell’s ‘The Wrong Boy’. It was a book group read which I would never have chosen for myself in a million years but it was really funny and warm.

  18. I wonder if my wife would like the hart book she likes her on tv especially in call the midwife ,all the best stu

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