Good Books to Read if You Need a Gut-Busting Laugh

Almost every story has a dash of humor. But sometimes what you really need is a shaking, full-bodied, laughing fit. Consider Literati your in-house comedy curator!

Work your smile muscles with some of our favorite literary comedies. From cultural essays to heartfelt memoirs, these are the best books to read for a delightful afternoon. Sit back, relax, and chuckle to your heart’s content.

Big Time: Stories – Jen Spyra

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For quick-witted humor, try this collection of twisted, odd-ball stories by Jen Spyra. With comedy chops honed at Late Show and The New Yorker, Spyra slips between the absurd and laugh-out-loud funny with each bitesize tale. 

Catch some giggles over a time-traveling Hollywood starlet, a sexist snowman, or a proto-influencer cavewoman. A perfect pick-me-up and remedy to the drolls of everyday life, you’ll reach for this collection again and again. 

Why you’ll love Big Time: Stories:

  • Cutting social satire on millennial life
  • Spyra’s sharp, wacky sense of humor
  • Gut-busting jokes worthy of real laughs 

The Code of the Woosters – P. G. Wodehouse

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Kooky eccentrics, stiff upper lips, and over-complicated social mores—you can thank P.G. Wodehouse for popularizing these tent-poles of classic British comedy.

Following the flustered butler Jeeves, The Code of the Woosters delivers evergreen jokes with cutting wit, all the while poking fun at England’s uppercrust society. Pour yourself a hot cuppa, and see for yourself why Wodehouse has produced hearty chuckles for almost a century.

Why you’ll love The Code of the Woosters:

  • Wodehouse’s unmistakable wordplay
  • Comedy-of-manners hijinks and pranks
  • Classic jokes that never go out of style

The Wangs vs the World – Jade Chang 

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As a Chinese immigrant, Charles Wang worked hard to establish his cosmetics empire, finally achieving the American Dream. But when the Wang fortune crumbles, this family must let go of their lavish lifestyle and find something truly priceless—an actual connection with each other.  

Jade Change’s riches-to-rags debut novel is perfect for fans of Schitt’s Creek. You’ll be laughing until the wheels fall off on this dysfunctional family road trip. 

Why you’ll love The Wangs vs the World:

  • Chang’s culturally-informed family dynamics
  • Recognizable (but never cartoonish) modern characters
  • Family heart mixed with smart laughs 

We Are Never Meeting in Real Life – Samantha Irby

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For Samantha Irby, nothing is off-limits in comedy. Every situation always has a silver lining of humor, from disastrous hookups to difficult adult friendships. But We Are Never Meeting in Real Life isn’t all giggles—Irby includes plenty of honest reflections on her challenges as a Black, queer, and plus-sized woman.

Irby proves that you can learn about yourself, empathize with another person’s worldview, and become more cognizant of oppressive institutions while still laughing your butt off. Pick up this essay collection to get your head and heart in on the chuckles.

Why you’ll love We Are Never Meeting in Real Life:

  • Irby’s distinct blend of authenticity and charm
  • Relatable pre-midlife crises explored
  • Proof that humor hides in every situation

Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life – Steve Martin

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When it comes to funny, Steve Martin is undeniably an expert. But for a deeper look behind this rubber-limbed comedy legend, you’ll need to hear more than the jokes—enter Born Standing Up.

Tackling Martin’s early life, this memoir deftly weaves between his Californian childhood stories and distinct observational humor. By the end, you’ll have learned about Martin the human as much as Martin the comic. If you’ve always wanted a peek behind the curtain at the funny man behind so many iconic comedies, crack open this book and savor the writings, life, and thoughts of Steve Martin. 

Why you’ll love Born Standing Up:

  • Peek at pre-fame celebrity life
  • Martin’s intelligent but approachable wit
  • Breakdown of comedic structure and philosophy

Heartburn – Nora Ephron

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Heartburn follows cookbook writer Rachel Samsat as she navigates a flailing marriage and career—all while pregnant. It’s the type of messy plot that makes Ephron’s work so engrossing, and her brassy East Coast wit adds to the laughs. 

Nora Ephron, the Queen of Rom-Com, will charm you, tickle you, and warm your heart with relatable humor. This novel is a sure-fire favorite for any need-a-laugh collection. 

Why you’ll love Heartburn:

  • Ephron’s sharp yet optimistic comedic voice
  • Nuanced take on women “having it all”
  • Dark humor found at life’s lows

More Cheers with Literati’s Book Clubs

Caution to public commuters and park readers—the above books might lead to unexpected outbursts of laughter. Consider yourself warned if you bring one of these reads on the bus.

Want more mood-boosters for your nightstand? Or maybe a change in pace with another favorite genre? Our Literati Book Clubs cover them all, and each book is handpicked by today’s top visionaries and writers. Try out a monthly book box to sample the best books of 2020 and beyond.

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