Indiana Author Month '15

John David Anderson’s Top Belly Laugh Books

Like a good trail mix or a supreme pizza, stories are composed of lots of ingredients, and as a reader I try to appreciate them all whenever I crack open a new novel: a well-paced plot, rich characters, snappy dialogue, lightsaber duels, you name it. But even a novel that is lacking in one or more of these key elements can win me over pretty easily…provided it makes me laugh. I heart funny to the extreme, and it shows in my own writing. My parents raise their kids to be God-fearing Christians. Others raise them to be citizens of the world. My parents raised me to be a smart aleck (keeping it PG).
So in the spirit of appreciating things that are funny, here are eight books that actually made me laugh out loud, sometimes to the point of wetting my cheeks (you thought I was going to say something else, didn’t you?). Why eight? Because you were expecting ten, and humor relies on a writer subverting the reader’s expectations. Maybe you’ve read them. Maybe you haven’t. Maybe you read them and you didn’t laugh because you had your sense of humor surgically removed as a young child and now sit on your lawn with a permanent scowl on your face throwing your boots at passersby. Regardless, I’m sure your list would be different. We don’t all laugh at the same things. Except little kids sneezing birthday cake all over the place. That’s always hilarious.
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made—This book sucked me in when it introduced Timmy’s pet polar bear Total. As a young reader I loved Nate the Great. Timmy ratchets the goofy children’s detective novel up a notch with an earnest protagonist whose misfortunes are point-and-laughable, though we still continue to root him on.
Catch 22—Teens and adults only need apply here, sorry, but I would be remiss not to include this one. Catch 22 is a crash course in satire and irony, and it shows, more than any book on the list (maybe more than any other book in the American canon), what makes a humor such a fabulous vehicle for delivering commentary on some of the least funny things we can imagine.
Me and Earl and The Dying Girl—Again, I can’t recommend this one to my target audience as it skews a bit more to the YA crowd. But if you are a part of that crowd, and you’ve just finished Fault in Our Stars and just want to hoot at something off-beat and oddly heartfelt, I think Jesse Andrews’s book is worth a look.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court–Many of the authors on my list are, joke-for-joke, funnier than Mr. Clemens (IMHO), but most of the authors on my list probably owe him a debt of gratitude (as do I) for showing us the way. While far from my favorite novel of Twain’s, Connecticut Yankee is the one that made me laugh the hardest. Pure imaginative nonsense layered on top of Twain’s usual social satire.
The Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom—Prince Charming is freakin’ hilarious. There is a difference between funny and clever, but I think Chris Healy’s book punches both bags with gusto. A witty voice with a cheek so deep you could stick a hundred tongues in it. He turns fairy tales upside down and then belly-tickles them until they are all out of laughs.
Dave Barry Slept Here—I chortle merrily (not sure there is another way to chortle) at everything Dave Barry writes, but this was my first exposure to his over-the-topness, and for a long time (unfortunately) it taught me most of what I know about history. Now that I actually know a little bit about history, it’s even funnier.
Amelia Rules—The lone graphic novel series on the list, Jimmy Gownley overtrumps Big Nate for me because I feel the heart beating strong beneath the humor. Amelia’s worldview seems to perfectly capture the often absurd drama of growing up, and the cast of supporting characters provides constant comic relief.
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy–This is the one. Probably one of the ten books that made me want to be a writer to begin with (my first attempt at a novel in high school was farcical sci-fi). The same reason I’ve seen Monty Python’s The Holy Grail ten times—every scene is guffaw-worthy, and the plot is almost incidental to the punchline. I have snort-laughed my way through Arthur Dent’s adventures more than thrice, and I am not the kind of reader who reads anything over again.
Grab your towels, ponder the meaning of 42, and go find a funny book to read. As Mark Twain says:
“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”
So let us arm ourselves.

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One thought on “John David Anderson’s Top Belly Laugh Books

  1. So many great book recs here! We are huge Hero’s Guide fans at my house. We own all three and can’t wait for the next. It’s my go-to series for recommending middle grade humor. And I just checked an Amelia Rules book out at the library today—for me, the mom. She makes me laugh (and sometimes even cry!) with her wit and amazing band of friends.

    Like

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