For those of us who are avid readers, the humor genre is sort of the tilapia of the bookstore, while Tolstoy and Thoreau are the filet mignon. Comedy books are cheap, generic and simple. They’re typically written by already-famous people telling stories about their own lives and filling up pages with pictures from their personal photo albums. Honestly, they’re like journals. I could crank one of these out in about a week, but I’m pretty sure mine would not top the New York Times bestseller list.
So while it’s embarrassing when someone asks what you’re reading and you have to answer, “Uh, ‘Uganda be Kidding Me’ by Chelsea Handler,” these books are worth a shot. There are some truly fabulous ones that will make you laugh out loud and share with a friend. They’re easy reads, whereas something like the 784-page “The Goldfinch” took me a year to finish.
My recommendation is to stock your bookshelves with a little bit of everything; then you have options to suit your mood.
I’ll preface the section below by saying that female humor is a little different from male humor (think the quick wit of Nick Hornby or David Sedaris). Female comedians tend to gravitate toward embarrassing sexual escapades or battles with wrinkles and belly fat. If that’s not for you, move along to Tad’s movie review.
My favorites from the humor shelves include the following:
Mindy Kaling, “Is Everyone Hanging Out without Me? (And Other Concerns)” – I love Mindy Kaling. She’s quirky, insecure and self-obsessed in ways that are relatable rather than annoying. I adore this book. I laughed out loud and shared a copy with one of my best friends, who is a Mindy clone. Reading the book I can actually hear those same words coming out of Michelle’s mouth. She’s crass and self-deprecating while also genuinely wondering why we can’t have the day off work for the Academy Awards.
Best quote: “You should know I disagree with a lot of traditional advice. For instance, they say the best revenge is living well. I say it’s acid in the face — who will love them now?”
Nora Ephron, “I Feel Bad about My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman” – This is a fantastic collection of essays that can be knocked out in a day, and it makes a great gift for a mother or grandmother (I think the three of us passed around my copy). Nora Ephron is a gem that the younger generation missed out on. She had a dysfunctional marriage to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein, and the ensuing drama is the subject of the movie “Heartburn,” starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Ephron also wrote “When Harry Met Sally” and “Silkwood.” She was a genius but she also wasn’t afraid to poke fun at serious subject matter.
Some of you younger ladies might shy away from a book about aging, but trust me, it’s timeless, and if you do not have a fear of wrinkles yet, you will.
Best quote: “When your children are teenagers, it's important to have a dog so that someone in the house is happy to see you.”
Chelsea Handler, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” – Chelsea is possibly the most famous female comedian. She had a show on the E! network several years ago called “Chelsea Lately” that was raunchy and hilarious, and she managed to get really great guests.
I liked her before she got famous. We humans – especially women – have this need to feel as though we “discovered” someone, and then when everyone else starts liking them we drop them like a hot potato. I just think she got less funny over time.
“Are You There Vodka” was the first Handler book that I read, and it’s the best. It’s self-deprecating laugh-out-loud style actually humanizes this comedian as she talks about her love for her late mother and the incessant embarrassment caused by her overweight, obnoxious father.
Handler has a few other books, including the aforementioned “Uganda Be Kidding Me” and each new paperback becomes increasingly self-serving and inside-jokey and includes more Polaroids of her international vacations with her rich friends. But she puts her pants on one leg at a time like the rest of us, right? Uganda be kidding me.
Also worth a read: “Bossy Pants” by Tina Fey and “Yes, Please” by Amy Poehler. Because of course. They’re Tina Fey and Amy Poehler.
What’s on your bookshelf? Share your recommendations by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.