Actually funny books

Yes, it’s subjective, but for our money there are too many books out there that claim to be hilarious and are actually just sort-of tittersome. These are all actually funny.

The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker

Howie is the most meticulous character in all fiction – prepare yourself to be very much in his company for the duration of a single lunch hour, during which he describes, diverges from and analyses every single thing that happens, turning this very slight book about not much at all into a hefty tome about basically everything in life, with bonus digressions on staplers, shoelaces, milk spout design and communal toilet etiquette.

Diary Of A Nobody, by George & Weedon Grossmith

A classic that launched countless sitcom characters, the Grossmith Brothers’ irresistible comedy of awkwardness and thwarted aspirations has aged incredibly well and proves that there are few things funnier than a man painting a bath red.

Wise Children, by Angela Carter

Gleeful in its sad silliness, rampant in its smart-arse theatrical architecture, this is the ultimate clash of high and low culture, an ornately written fictional autobiography of one Nora Chance, once a star of stage and screen with her identical twin sister, now relegated to a crumbling house in Brixton while her wreck of a famous family falls to bits in spectacularly public fashion.

My Year Of Rest And Relaxation, by Ottessa Moshfegh

Sardonic, brutal, unsentimental and hypnotically hilarious, this is possibly Ottessa Moshfegh’s finest work (although there’s some pretty strong competition). A pitiless narrator is desperate to escape her own life that she hatches a plan to drug herself for an entire year, but inevitably there are complications in the shape of a nagging and shallow best friend, an art project that goes worryingly wrong and the world’s worst therapist. And some Whoopi Goldberg VHS cassettes.

Weather, by Jenny Offill

Told in fragments and recollections, capsules and observations, Jenny Offill’s painfully smart sketch of marriage and motherhood beautifully plays with convention while remembering to actually cram in a load of great one-liners.

The Liar’s Dictionary, by Eley Williams

The first thing that happens in this book is someone tries to have a conversation while hiding a boiled egg in their mouth. There’s also the delicately plotted two-strand story of a fictional dictionary riddled with falsified entries, a shocking set piece with a pelican, cats with funny names and one of our favourite couples in modern literature, but the boiled egg thing really got us.

Black Moses, by Alain Mabanckou

A searingly, bleakly funny tale from the DRC, of the almost Orwellian fall from promise of one young man. His dreams are blown apart in the most illuminating and vivid ways, and then the novel builds to an unexpectedly manic and devastaing climax (and it’s still somehow funny).

The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break

The Minotaur, the actual Minotaur of myth, is now a grill chef in a diner. He lives in a trailer park and spends his time tinkering with cars. He’s also desperate to communicate, to love, to feel, to exist in a more meaningful way. This modern classic delves into themes of masculinity and quietness: a gently hilarious and awkward tale.

I Am Not Sidney Poitier, by Percival Everett

The lead character is literally called Not Sidney Poitier, he looks a lot like the actual Sidney Poitier, he is extremely wealthy, and he is desperate to make something of his life. That’s the set-up for this wildly inventive and multi-layered story of oppression, privelege, race and societal mania – shockingly funny in its expression, prescient and brave in its execution.

Buy every book on this list and save 10%!

Location 49 North Street, Bristol, BS3 1EN Phone 0117 279 1751 E-mail storysmithbooks@gmail.com Hours Tuesday-Saturday: 10am-6pm | Sunday: 11am-4pm | Monday: closed
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