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Top 5 with John Warner

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John Warner is the editor of the super-popular internet site, McSweeney’s. Recently, he was given his own humor imprint at Writer’s Digest. And today he’s here to play the Top 5 game with you. How does the Top 5 game work? John answers the question first, then you do, and then you check out all of his links!

Okay, here’s John. (I wonder if he knows I’ve blogged about him before?)


A portrait of the young artist as a smartass. I was probably about 11 years old.

Top 5 Funniest Novels of All-Time (That I’ve Read)

Humor in literature often seems to get a bad rap, but for my money, writing a really funny book is about the hardest thing there is. I’d need several more hands and feet to count the number of books that have made me cry, i.e., Old Yeller; The Road; To Kill a Mockingbird; The George W. Bush Legacy; Scratch ‘n Sniff: Onions! Onions! Onions! and so on.

But really really funny books seem harder to come by, (shameless promotional pitch alert) which was one of my motivations for trying my hand at fostering an imprint for humor writing, Tow Books. Starting a humor imprint might be pretty dumb, but I given the low odds of success for any publishing venture, and for humor specifically, but even I wasn’t dumb enough to try to set out to publish humorous novels, because writing a really funny novel is very very difficult.

Sarah Walker and Jason Roeder

celebrating the release of their books

with shots of Jack Daniels

That said, when I think about my favorite novels of all time, most of them are funny, and they’re the ones I’m most likely to press upon friends or acquaintances or people who come to my door trying to sell grapefruit.

So, here’s my list of the Top 5 Funniest Novels of All-Time (That I’ve Read)

(Please note, these are in no particular order.)

1. The Water Method Man by John Irving

The story of Fred “Bogus” Trumper, translator of Old Low Norse, failed husband, and possessor of a crooked urethra. There’s a couple of set pieces in here, including one of Trumper trying to learn to ski that makes me weep with laughter even after twenty readings. This was Irving’s last novel before The World According to Garp, a funny book in it’s own right, but not as funny as this one.

2. Home Land by Sam Lipsyte

Lewis Miner (known as “Teabag”) writes letters to his high school alumni newsletter. This book almost got me tossed off a flight to New York because I was laughing so hard they thought I was a security risk.

3. Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

Technically two novellas, but almost always sold in a single volume. It’s really astounding when you read these and realize they were written in the early 1930’s. They feel completely contemporary to this day, maybe more so than ever, particularly Day of the Locust, a satire of Hollywood emptiness.

4. The Columnist By Jeffrey Frank

A satirical “memoir” of Brandon Sladder, a Zelig-like Washington insider and columnist. During his book tours David Sedaris always recommends a book by another writer, and several years ago, he was recommending The Columnist, claiming it had more laughs per page than anything he’d read. He wasn’t wrong.

5. Assorted “campus novels”

As a possessor of a graduate degree, and a teacher of college, I have a serious weakness for the campus satire, and as I brainstormed my list, I realized that I could’ve quite easily filled the entire list with them. Instead, I’ll just list some of my favorites.

Changing Places by David Lodge

Small World by David Lodge

The Lecturer’s Tale by James Hynes

Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Straight Man by Richard Russo

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

So, my online friends, what are the funniest novels you’ve ever read?


John Warner is Chief Creative Czar of Tow Books, a new publishing imprint focusing on funny books for people with good senses of humor. The first titles, Really, You’ve Done Enough: A Parents’ Guide to Stop Parenting Their Adult Child Who Still Needs Their Money But Not Their Advice by Sarah Walker, and Oh, the Humanity: A Gentle Guide to Social Interaction for the Feeble Young Introvert by Jason Roeder were recently released. He is also editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and author of So You Want to Be President? a humorous look at politics and campaigning to be published March 2008. His previous book, Fondling Your Muse: Infallible Advice from a Published Author to the Feeble Young Introvert was an BookSense pick November 2005. He lives in South Carolina.

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  • Kimberly
    October 31, 2007

    Also in no particular order, and not linked, ’cause I suck at html

    1. “How to Raise a Jewish Dog” (Little, Brown & Co, 2007)

    2. The entire “Series of Unfortunate Events” (That’s cheating. I know. I don’t care. He had me at Baudelaire!)

    3. Hilary Carlip’s brilliant memoir “Queen of the Oddballs”

    4. Alain de Botton’s “How Proust Can Change Your Life” (does not necessarily require that you have made it through “Swann’s Way” – but it’s even funnier if you have.)

    5. Absolutely anything by David Sedaris. Short story collections, I know, but still…

  • lance reynald
    October 31, 2007

    clearly I don’t read enough humour…
    not in novel form…

    Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (though sometimes I recommend this one to the wrong people…hmm, humour)

    The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe. ( a non-fiction novel, no lie…I just looked that up… wouldn’t that be like most of todays memoirs? hmm? This made me laugh so hard I cried when I was about 13. It came with the highest recommendation, from my Dad. What the hell was he thinking?)

    a bunch of Woody Allen- Getting Even, Side Effects and Without Feathers. (ok, essays, not so much novels…but really great classic W.A. humour… come on, titles like- The Whore of Mensa… now that IS funny)

    we’ve reached the limits of humour reads with me… It takes a dark turn after Allen… Sure there is some Irving… but for the most part I head down some darker roads with novels.

    memoirs and essays, now those tend to be funny.

  • lance reynald
    October 31, 2007

    Kimberly…The de Botton is a classic!!!

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    October 31, 2007

    Some of the novels I’ve found funniest weren’t humor.

    Many of the humorous novels I’ve read weren’t funny.

    Like John said, “writing a really funny novel is very very difficult.”

    Rather than list books I’ve found funny, here are a few authors who never fail to make me laugh (in no particular order):

    1. Tom Robbins
    2. Carl Hiassen
    3. Jeffrey Eugenides
    4. Jasper Fforde
    5. Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket

  • Nathalie
    October 31, 2007

    If we are going to leave comics out…
    (besides most of the comics I would list would be French ones so nobody would even know what they are)

    – Good Omens (still giggling hopelessly after reading it five times)
    – Anything by Terry Pratchett, really. That guys does wonderful things to my brain.
    – Dirk Gently’s Holistic Agency (I quite like also The Dark Tea Time of the Soul)
    I could go on and name Woody Allen or David Lodgebut since I am french and read also Italian, here’s two foreign items for you.

    – For the French: a book called “Petites Nouvelles Horizontales” by one Cecile Philippe – Giggling erotica. Not translated into English but really should be.
    (I could have selected Pierre Dac or Tristan Bernard but …)

    – In Italian: Books by Stefano Benni (not sure he is translated into English). They are great.

    There are far more than just this, even leaving the comics out.

    Happy Halloween every one.

  • Robin Slick
    October 31, 2007

    (1) David Sedaris – It’s a tie between Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day — oh my god, I read “Big Boy” from Me Talk Pretty while alone in a restaurant and sat there like an idiot roaring out loud laughing in between gagging on my salad;

    (2) Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett – ’nuff said;

    (3) Town House by Tish Cohen – oh good lord, who can ever forget “The Groper” and Mrs. Brady, a one-eyed male cat wearing a bonnet;

    (4) Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA by Ellen Meister (the cast removal/coat closet scene at the wedding? Or the discovery of a crucifix where you’d least want to see one if you are Jewish?)

    (5) Three Days in New York City by me – because (1) Kim already picked David Sedaris and I didn’t want to do doubles but had no choice and (2) she also picked Hilary Carlip and John picked Sam Lipsyte who also would have been my choices; and (3) seriously, how many of you have read laugh out loud erotica? I was hoping Borders would devote a whole new labeled shelf to my genre but noooo…they need to make yet more room for their tribute to Nora Roberts. (Best book of the year – Quill Awards? Did I dream that or was it a nightmare?)

    Looking forward to the humor books published by Tow, John. And thank you!

  • John Warner
    October 31, 2007

    First, thanks to Sue for inviting me to her virtual space. I’m a frequent reader, but first time commenter.

    One of the things I notice when people make lists of funny books is that it really is hard to name a really funny novel. Like Lance says, it’s primarily the province of essayists or memoirists these days. I’m in the midst of trying to write a funny novel myself, and I’m finding the challenge very difficult. Being funny throughout a novel length manuscript without resetting things like you can with essays is, I think, sort of exhausting for a reader and finding the balance is hard.

    I’m looking forward to the suggestions. If I’d written my list a week later I might’ve added Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal

  • John Warner
    October 31, 2007

    I also wanted to say that I had a similar experience to lance with Kool-Aid Acid Test, though I was fifteen at the time. I ended up trying to write my junior year high school term paper on Tom Wolfe, but made the tragic mistake (to my grade anyway) of writing it in the style of Tom Wolfe. My teacher thought I’d lost my mind.

    Also recommended by Tom Wolfe, Bonfire of the Vanities though I wonder if it reads dated, at this point.

  • Ellen Meister
    October 31, 2007

    File this under Mutual Admiration Society if you must, but Robin Slick’s THREE DAYS IN NEW YORK CITY, marketed as erotica, is one of the funniest books EVER. Robin is a scream.

    Also glad to see Richard Russo’s STRAIGHT MAN on the list. I think all of Russo’s books are funny, but this one had me crying with laughter.

    Thanks for this great post. I’m definitely putting some of these books on my must-read list.

  • Aurelio O'Brien
    October 31, 2007

    I can’t play now, I’m hiding from Susan.

  • Oronte Churm
    October 31, 2007

    Well, hey, John. This is awkward. I thought you and my mom were in Ft. Lauderdale for the week. Is everything okay?

    I’ve been reading a book called PUNCHLINES, by William Keogh, on what makes American humor, and the answer he comes up with is that it’s so aligned with violence that it makes us uncomfortable to dissect it. Maybe. My top 5:

    1)Moby Dick. (The intro alone is oddly funny…Ishmael follows funerals when he’s i a certain mood.)

    2) Huck Finn. (Savage humor.)

    3) Catch-22. (A whole mindset that replicates itself endlessly in your mind after you’ve read it.)

    4) Ulysses. (That enjoyable breakfast that smells of piss.)

    5) Don Quixote. (Nuff said.)

  • John Warner
    October 31, 2007

    Don’t you worry about me and your mom, Churm. In the virtual world we are everywhere and nowhere at once.

    As Keough’s title makes plain, even the language we use to describe humor is violent. Satire has a “target.” Commedians sometimes “bomb,” and sometimes, “kill.” I’m teaching a humor writing class of undergrads this semester and I talk about how really good humor often leaves destruction in its wake and that’s something you have to grow comfortable with. Because they’re good people, I’m not sure they buy it, but I believe it to be true.

  • Aimee
    October 31, 2007

    My Pet Virus by Shawn Decker is my favorite. Who knew being a kid with AIDS could be so funny? It was so funny, in fact, that while sitting in the hospital with my Grandmother who had had a stroke and in the process broke her back in two places, I was actually laughing so hard I cried. If Shawn had been there I would have kissed him for making me smile at such a horrible moment.

    I loved it so much I asked him to send a signed copy to my friend who was fighting breast cancer at the time. And Shawn is such a cool guy, he did and didn’t even let me pay for the copy. (We’re not friends…I asked him through myspace.)

    Other than that…I don’t know. I feel like a lot of books have funny moments, like A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But aren’t meant to be humor.

    Oh and the collection of essays Tricks and Treats: Sex Workers Write about their Clients, was pretty funny. The crack head Rabbi paying for sex brought tears from laughing so hard.

    And I’ll say Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. Because really, when isn’t Tourette’s Syndrome funny?

  • Kimberly
    October 31, 2007

    Yeah – I guess I did opt more for funny books/collections vs. actual Novel-Novels (Lance, isn’t de Botton a killer? Have you read his The Art of Travel? Also brilliant!)

    So to revise a smidge, (if I may):

    I’ll replace Carlip/Sedaris memoirs/essays and join the the Tom Robbins and Carl Hiassen Fan Club (faves include Jitterbug Perfume and Skinny Girl, respectively). I like to think of them as Brain Candy. Perfect rainy/snowy day + coffee + fireplace reads.

    PS – Susan, I broke my ‘what-happens-in-the-Park-stays-in-the-Park’ rule. I had to forward Mr. H Aurelio’s photoshop wizardry. Please don’t hate me. 🙂

  • Oronte Churm
    October 31, 2007

    Great comedians, like other great writers, are deeply moral. Their humor attacks falsehood and leaves it in shambles. In fact, the best of them, like the Marx Brothers, Bugs Bunny, Lenny Bruce, are anarchists, holding nothing sacred (except what’s implied by negative example). Remember that Seinfeld episode where Mr. Pitt is pulling the Woody Woodpecker balloon in the Macy’s parade? George and Kramer watch from a high window:

    Kramer: You got a problem with Woody Woodpecker?
    George: Yeah. What is he, some sort of an instigator?
    Kramer [smirks dangerously]: That’s right. He’s a troublemaker.

    Viva troublemakers.

  • Susan Henderson
    October 31, 2007

    Just turned my pages in, so now I can play! Wheee!

    Hey, John, this question is curiously hard to answer. I have the same impulse as everyone else here to go for essayists and memoirists. Or even A. A. Milne, who is an absolute genius, but I suppose Winnie the Pooh would count as short stories these days.

    I love Nathaniel West, but I never thought of him as writing humor, I guess, and I think of that book as two short stories, or maybe novellas. And my top humor books – I think, in the end, I’d have to say Egger’s A HEARTBREAKING WORK OF STAGGERING GENIUS and Terry Pratchett’s THE AMAZING MAURICE AND HIS EDUCATED RODENTS – are books that punched me in the gut. I think, for me anyway, humor tends to move me most when it’s ultimately a sad story being told.

    I have some catching up to do around here, and am glad I finally have the time to do it.

    Regarding Aurelio…. hmmm, I think I’m just going to let him stay trembling in the corner over there while I think of some great payback.

  • Jason Boog
    October 31, 2007

    I love these lists. I’m copying all the books I haven’t read into my notebook. Here’s my list…

    1. Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole–I’ve never laughed harder at a book in my entire life, bless him
    2. Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart
    3. CivilWarLand in Bad Decline, George Saunders
    4. Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
    5. And, even though it sounds odd at first but makes sense if you think about it, White Noise, Don DeLillo

  • Kimberly
    October 31, 2007


    CH’s Skinny DIP (not Girl). I was intermingling TR’s Skinny Legs and All in my brain I think…

  • Jason Roeder
    October 31, 2007

    I’m going to add “The Ginger Man,” by J.P. Donleavy, which is both funny and brutal and infuriating. Kafka’s also very funny, of course. That probably isn’t surprising to the people hanging out here, but I bet many others can’t shake the image of an oversized man-bug dying with a rotting apple lodged in its back.

  • Sarah Bain
    October 31, 2007

    Okay, but here’s the thing. I will ALWAYS associate Nair with Mr. H. and why he uses it, I just don’t want to know.

    Humor books – hmmm, not fiction (or maybe it is) but LOVE those Sweet Potato Queen’s Big Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner and all those other Sweet Potato Queens books.

    Oh, but I’d better say: You Are a Dog: Life through the Eyes of Man’s Best Friend. Both funny and all. Oh, and We are the Cat.

    Okay, any Elinor Lipman novel is pretty damn funny too.

    Running out of ideas.

    Hmmm…must go shave my head.

  • Aurelio O'Brien
    October 31, 2007

    Just remember what John Warner said above, Susan, “In the virtual world we are everywhere and nowhere at once.” 🙂

    It’s true, humorous novels are few and far between. Probably, as John said, because they are hard to do, and why I enjoy the challenge writing them.

    1. Johnathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. It’s strange, because this book is very biting social satire and pretty damned ribald too, but somehow keeps getting made into children’s cartoons and such.

    2. Roughing It by Mark Twain. Not only is this novel hilariously funny, he really has the ability to bring you right back into the old, barely settled West.

    3. Mischief by Mark Bastable. I read this recently and it had me laughing out loud. Mark, if you’re out there, you need to get it back into print!

    4. Graham Chapman’s A Liar’s Autobiography. Okay, this one is a sort-of memoir, but not really and it’s very funny. If you liked Python…

    5. Any and all of Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City novels. Not LOL funny, but the kind of reading that makes you smile along the whole time. Very good character-driven humor.

  • Susan Henderson
    October 31, 2007

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m building me a nice, long reading list. I’m also glad for the reminders of books I love. How did I forget Saunders and Kennedy-Toole on my list???

    Sarah – There is NO NAIR.

    Aurelio – I forgive you already. Call me a sucker. But the next premier you go to, tell Chuck, sorry, but I’m walking the red carpet with you because you owe me good. You are such a troublemaker.

    Jason – Great to have you here. I love your wacky book cover.

    Everyone else – My kids are about to get off the school bus, and then we’ll trick or treat and I’ll try to give away these g-d Reeses’ Peanut Butter Cups before I eat them all. So my comments are brief today, but I just want to agree with all the shout outs to the fabulous humor writers we have right here at LitPark.

    Let me link a few random things today:

    Here’s a great trailer for Neil Gaiman and Beowulf fans.

    A blog I love but have never linked to before: Jonathan Levine Gallery.

    And two brilliant blogs by my wondertwin, Lance Reynald: One here, and another that shows some pretty hot costuming.

  • Nathalie
    October 31, 2007

    Lance mentions NaNoWriMo and I just can’t wait for tomorrow to break through and open those gates…
    Got a nice Halloween present in the mail: two author’s copies of an micro stories anthology I contributed to.
    Floating on a little cloud right now with a big fat smile on my face…

  • Ed Page
    October 31, 2007

    In Eric Lax’s On Being Funny: Woody Allen and Comedy, which was published in 1975, the following paragraph appears:

    Woody plans in the future to write at least one novel (Getting Even sold very well — about 30,000 hardcover copies and over 300,000 in paperback), because he thinks he could write a funny one and he feels there are so few. (The only funny novels he can think of are the Max Shulman novels, Portnoy’s Complaint, Catch-22 “and maybe” Catcher in the Rye.) But it will not be for a while: “I feel it is the kind of work one should do when he’s not young and vigorous. I feel that the six months or a year that it would take to write a novel, I should be writing for the theater, directing movies, and starring in them and stuff, because I think there will be a time in my life when I won’t want the strenuousness of those kinds of things. Also, one has to realize that there is generally less impact from novels than from films.”

    Then, in 1991, Eric Lax published Woody Allen: A Biography, which contains this paragraph:

    “I would like to develop as a writer,” he [Woody] said just before Side Effects was published. “I’d like to do amusing short stories and, hopefully, an amusing novel. The thing I don’t want to do is have years and years pass and just keep doing casuals; fifteen years after you’ve started, the subject matter changes but you’re still writing the same thing. If you look at Benchley and Perelman — and they’re the best, bar none, they’re absolutely brilliant — they were writing the same thing after twenty-five years. If I was them, I would rather have experimented with short stories and novels; it would have interested me.” Woody has stopped writing casuals, he says, “because I don’t want to look up on the bookshelf one day and see ten collections of basically the same thing.”

  • Carolyn Burns Bass
    October 31, 2007

    Gee, Kimberly, I thinking I’d missed a Hiassen. Maybe you mixed up SKINNY DIP with NATURE GIRL.

    SKINNY DIP is my favorite Hiassen, but I still adore EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES, maybe because it was my first TOM ROBBINS novel. I was young and naieve and oh so willing to discover life outside the classics.

  • Ed Page
    October 31, 2007

    As for funny novels I’d recommend, I can think of three:

    1. The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

    This is probably the funniest of the Jeeves and Wooster novels, but they’re all quite funny, so, actually, I recommend them all.

  • Ed Page
    October 31, 2007

    2. The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie

    You’ve enjoyed him as TV’s Dr. House. Now read his novel.

    Here’s how it starts:

    Imagine you have to break someone’s arm.

    Right or left, doesn’t matter. The point is that you have to break it, because if you don’t … well, that doesn’t matter either. Let’s just say bad things will happen if you don’t.

  • Ed Page
    October 31, 2007

    Now, my question goes like this: do you break the arm quickly — snap, whoops, sorry, here let me help you with that improvised splint — or do you drag the whole business out for a good eight minutes, every now and then increasing the pressure in the tiniest of increments, until the pain becomes pink and green and hot and cold and altogether howlingly unbearable?

    Well exactly. Of course. The right thing to do, the only thing to do, is to get it over with as quickly as possible. Break the arm, ply the brandy, be a good citizen. There can be no other answer.


    Unless unless unless.

    What if you were to hate the person on the other end of the arm? I mean really, really hate them.

    This was a thing I now had to consider.

    I say now, meaning then, meaning the moment I am describing; the moment fractionally, oh so bloody fractionally, before my wrist reached the back of my neck and my left humerus broke into at least two, very possibly more, floppily joined-together pieces.

    The arm we’ve been discussing, you see, is mine. It’s not an abstract, philosopher’s arm. The bone, the skin, the hairs, the small white scar on the point of the elbow, won from the corner of a storage heater at Gateshill Primary School — they all belong to me. And now is the moment when I must consider the possibility that the man standing behind me, gripping my wrist and driving it up my spine with an almost sexual degree of care, hates me. I mean, really, really hates me.

    He is taking for ever.

  • Ed Page
    October 31, 2007

    3. The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy

    Groucho Marx enjoyed this book so much he wrote Ms. Dundy a fan letter. “I had to tell someone,” he wrote, “(and it might as well be you since you’re the author) how much I enjoyed The Dud Avocado. It made me laugh, scream, and guffaw (which, incidentally, is a great name for a law firm).”

  • John Warner
    October 31, 2007

    For those of you who don’t know, Ed Page is the McSweeney’s Internet Tendency assistant editor/webmaster/copyeditor, essentially the three-in-one oil that keeps the machinery moving.

    It’s a little intimidating to think that Woody Allen has never managed to write his comic novel. I’d love to know if he’s tried. He’s back to writing the occasional casual as well.

    This is the second mention of The Dud Avocado that I’ve run across today. Bookslut linked to an interview eith Elaine Dundy about the reissue through the New York Review of Books.

  • John Warner
    October 31, 2007

    Re: The Sweet Potato Queens, last year I was on a panel at the Midwest Literary Arts festival with the author, Jill Connor Browne and she is like a rock star with her fan base. The room was stuffed to the gills, maybe 250 people, every last one drawn by her. She was hilariously funny on the panel.

    Twain is probably the all time master, the guidestar for any American satrist. In the previously mentioned humor writing class I assigned his takedown of Fenimore Cooper, and I think it’s probably their favorite piece of the semester.

  • Aimee
    October 31, 2007

    Yes, now I have many books to read. This is a great top 5. I cannot wait to get started.

  • Susanna Donato
    October 31, 2007

    Ah ha! I have new motivation to finish writing my novel now that I know you can have shots at your book signing!

    Funny books … When I was a teenager and in my twenties, I read “Red Sky at Morning” by Richard Bradford probably two dozen times. In fact, I can still laugh to myself at the impression of the narrator’s uncle and the scene with the dead horse …

    And while we are in New Mexico, “The Milagro Beanfield War” by John Nichols is pretty funny, too.

    I’m trying to think which books irritate my husband (when my laughter keeps causing him to interrupt whatever he’s doing to say “What? What?!” but they just aren’t coming to mind.

  • Antoine Wilson
    October 31, 2007

    PALE FIRE is the funniest book I’ve ever read, though I didn’t once laugh out loud. THE FERMATA, by Nicholson Baker is also a crack-up.

  • Shelley Marlow
    October 31, 2007

    Alain de Botton’s “How Proust Can Change Your Life” and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, John Irving, and Armistead Maupin, yes, all funny, plus:

    Peter Trachtenberg’s Seven Tattoos. Peter just won a Whiting Award, btw.
    Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis
    Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

  • lance reynald
    October 31, 2007

    psst…. shelley….visual, follow that link up there.


  • Lizzy
    October 31, 2007

    only being able to pick 5 is kind of cruel, in my opinion. But, whatever.

    In no particular order,

    1. Uglies/Pretties/Specials/Extras (Uglies Series), by Scott Westerfeld
    These books are targeted at young adults, and sold as young adult books, but they’re absolutely amazing and I reccommend them to everyone I know, and also to random people in bookstores that I don’t know. They’re set in the future and are sci-fi, but they’re also an interesting take on our society, because when the “uglies” turn 16, they get an operation to make them “pretty”. Go read them.

    2. White Oleander by Janet Finch
    Unbelievably well-written. Read this one too.

    3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
    a boy, a tiger, a lifeboat. This book needs no other explanation.

    4. Twilight/New Moon/Eclipse (Twilight series) by Stephanie Meyer
    best. books. ever. An insanely hot vampire, his insanely hot vampire family, and… a human. (They’re in love.) It’s not the usual perspective of vampires… it’s different and you should stop reading this right now and go out and buy these books. Seriously, go away.

    5. StoryPeople.
    Not really novels, but they’re still my top 5 favorite books. I suck at HTML so…

  • Shelley Marlow
    October 31, 2007

    lance: oow la la, that’s hot!

  • lance reynald
    October 31, 2007

    just a quick shout out to all my LitPark pals that are giving the NaNoWriMo challenge a shot this year;


    fast, hard, UNINHIBITED!!!

    You’re all awesome for going for it!

    see ya on the otherside of 50K!

    xo. LR

  • Kimberly
    October 31, 2007

    re: NaNoWriMo

    I’m soooooo tempted, since I just started a new, banal temp job that allows me to surf/read/write ALL DAY LONG… 🙂 and I have this story that deserves more depth than a film would do justice to…

    …but it’s also so daunting, as novelling would be a completely foreign territory for me (I’m better with punchy action descriptors and tight tight tight dialogue – prose often alludes me)

    I’m both terrified and compelled simultaneously.

    (One more glass of vino and I should be ready to sign-up. I have till 3am EST, right?)

  • lance reynald
    November 1, 2007


    I really must add to my list…

    Live from Golgotha: The Gospel According to Gore Vidal.

    I mean really, I started snickering on the very first line…

    “In the beginning was the nightmare, and the knife was with Saint Paul, and the circumcision was a Jewish notion and definitely not mine.”

    it took weeks to get the smirk off my face.

    I still recommend this book to all the wrong people… Some people just can’t manage to put piety in the right place…

    come on. the guy is like a Kennedy…

  • Nathalie
    November 1, 2007

    You have until 30th November, although I would not recomend starting that late.
    Beware: it is terribly addictive.

    50KW or bust.

  • Betsy
    November 1, 2007

    So hard, because a lot of the books that make me laugh out loud are also quite touching. But off the top of my head:
    1. Anything by George Saunders.
    2. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx.
    3. Tiny Ladies in Shiny Pants by Jill Soloway.
    4. Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno.
    5. A helluva lot of stuff by David Foster Wallace.

  • Susan Henderson
    November 1, 2007

    Nathalie – Congratulations! Why don’t you link that anthology for us? My own news is my piece is now out in the new Best Non-Required Reading, though I haven’t seen it yet.

    Ed – Great to have you here! I’ve never heard of the Dud Avocado, but we’ve been NetFlixing old Groucho Marx movies lately, so maybe that’s a sign of what I’m supposed to read next. Thanks for all the great quotes and excerpts!

    Carolyn – My mom had that Cowgirls book. I remember the cover.

    John – (Terry, isn’t your agent the one who grabbed the Sweet Potato Queens?) I’m such a huge fan of Twain, and my 11-year-old just read Huck Finn (we prepared for it with a big talk about language and historical context and stuff), and when he finished, he was kind of eh. And it killed me that it didn’t change his life, but maybe he read it a few years too early. I read his Don Quixote, though, and he loved it.

    Aimee – Hi Aimee.

    Susanna – Yeah, the shots are a great idea.

    Antoine – I’m shocked at how many books have been mentioned that I’ve never ever heard of.

    Shelley – Who was just talking about Peter’s book? Oh, maybe it came up during the Question of the Week about tattoos.

    Lizzy – Great to see your list of favorites! I’ll check out the StoryPeople link.

    Lance, Kimberly, Nathalie, and all you NaNoWriMo folks (Robin?) – Supposedly you can have writer buddies on NaNoWriMo, so go ahead and post your links here. This one’s for Lance:

    Betsy – The Shipping News as humor??? I must have read it with a much more serious tone. I love that scene of moving the house across the ice!

  • Aimee
    November 1, 2007

    Hi Susan! Just wanted to let everyone know that we survived Halloween in a town so small its a village (really) with my son dressed as President Bush in handcuffs with a sign that read
    Prisoner #798342
    1.Violations of the Constitution
    2. Treason
    3. Crimes against humanity
    It was the scariest Halloween ever. I thought I was going to have to fist fight a man dressed in a NasCar outfit. The people that did like him gave him extra candy though. Jack pot!
    here is my Nano link.

  • Kimberly
    November 1, 2007

    NaNo link:

    I’m already 500 words in. 🙂

  • Jim Stallard
    November 1, 2007

    Hi John!

    I finally checked out the TOW site, which led me here. I’d second the endorsement of “Code of the Woosters” and “Portnoy’s Complaint.”

    Two others:

    Thank You for Smoking (I used to work in that D.C. world).

    High Fidelity

    Also it’s interesting how supposedly serious memoirs can have funny moments. I remember thinking parts of “Ball Four” (well, I was only 14 at the time) and “Angela’s Ashes” were hilarious.

    And speaking of Mark Twain, I just read two days ago his essay on how screwed up the German language is. Brilliant.

  • Susan Henderson
    November 1, 2007

    Aimee – I love it! How old is your son? That’s a brave move.

    Kimberly – Thanks for the NaNo link. Keep writing.

    Jim – Welcome! Everyone, check out Jim’s link because it’s very funny to see how his mind goes from McSweeney’s to science.

    Okay, now for Aurelio. For those of you who were here earlier in the week, you know he’s in big trouble with me. I asked him to let you guys know I was tied up with edits and a tight deadline, and he went all nuts and posted a picture of me with the bald Britney do, etc. Anyway, I think we’re even now. Here’s Aurelio making up for past wrongs:

    litpark aurelio o'brien in drag
    litpark aurelio o'brien in drag
    litpark aurelio o'brien in drag
    litpark aurelio o'brien in drag

  • lance reynald
    November 1, 2007

    the last one…
    most certainly the winner…

    really, the finest thing the truck stop has on offer…

    and worth every last penny.

  • Jessica
    November 1, 2007

    The funny and sad truth is I can’t think of a novel that has made me laugh except for parts of Pride and Prejudice. Yeh. I can name memoirs and non-fiction (The Tender Bar, A Walk in the Woods) and such but the novels…oh wait, maybe Catch 22 but I read that 102 years ago.

    This means I’m
    1) maudlin
    2) depressed
    3) way too caught up in raising my teenage son
    4) light deprived
    5) funny-novel-challenged and in need of help from litpark friends. Thanks for these lists.

    Tom: I love the idea of an imprint highlighting humor. I agree, I think it’s massively hard to write comedy.


  • Aimee
    November 1, 2007

    My son is 10. I promise I have nothing to do with his politics. I just provide him the means to self-educate (and listen to a lot of AM radio around him.) Most people asked if he even knew what the sign meant and he explained it to them in great detail. My younger son was a ninja and tried to kick everyone. I kind of wished he was a real Ninja when the Nascar driver started swearing at us and dropped the f-bomb on my son. However, he might have thought my son was older because he kept yelling that it was a kids holiday, as he puffed his cigarette and chugged his Natural Light.

  • Jessica
    November 1, 2007

    Can someone kill me?

    I called John, Tom.

    I think I was thinking about TOW and mixed it with the sound of John and came up with Tom.

    Funny, right?

    Sorry about that!


  • lance reynald
    November 1, 2007


    we can’t forget Jonathan Ames- Wake Up, Sir.


  • Shelley Marlow
    November 2, 2007

    Here’s a link to go with my drag story, btw.

  • Shelley Marlow
    November 2, 2007

    Very charming ladies, and nice cleavage, Aurelio!

  • Susan Henderson
    November 2, 2007

    Lance – I like the Mrs. Roper look.

    Jessica – I tend to go for crushing (yet slightly hopeful) books, too.

    Aimee – This is like a Dave Barry column with way more tension and depth.

    Jessica – Sorry, I don’t believe in Capital Punishment.

    Lance – He’s phenomenal to watch live. A real performer.

    Shelley – That’s a great photo!

  • Jack Pendarvis
    November 7, 2007

    Is it too late to get in on this? What about Charles Portis and Flann O’Brien? Of Portis, I love THE DOG OF THE SOUTH the most, although others love NORWOOD and find it the funniest. His MASTERS OF ATLANTIS is pretty wonderful and funny as well. O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN is my favorite novel, maybe, and certainly the funniest I’ve ever read. A lot of people find his AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS better and funnier. Stanley Elkin is savagely funny. How about THE MAGIC KINGDOM? Lorrie Moore’s ANAGRAMS is the heartbreaking kind of funny. While we’re at it, let’s start a Thomas Berger and/or Peter Devries revival. Okay, bye!

  • Susan Henderson
    November 8, 2007

    Jack! Great to see you here! How about I link this funny writer?

  • Dan Burt
    November 9, 2007

    Here’s a list of novels featuring laugh-out-loud humor:

    -My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl

    -Life is a Strange Place by Frank Turner Hollon

    -The Magic Christian by Terry Southern

    -I Love You, Beth Cooper by Larry Doyle

    -Handling Sin by Michael Malone

    -Hairdo by Sarah Gilbert

  • Susan Henderson
    November 11, 2007

    Hi Dan, I’m glad you’re! I think you just named the only Roald Dahl book I’ve never read. I’ll check out the others, too.

Susan Henderson