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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

Need a Laugh? Try These Books

What a week. (Weeks, actually.) A hurricane that made my house shake so violently I had to take a Dramamine, an infinitesimal inconvenience considering the heartbreaking devastation from the Jersey Shore to Coney Island, including my own Hoboken. An election night that drew to a close two years of intense politicking, and lastly, a snowstorm that dropped another six inches of weather on our poor battered Northeast. I’m exhausted. Lucky, happy, reflective, sorrowful, and really, really tired.

So, considering everything good, bad, and in between, how about a laugh? I read a lot of sad books, I must admit, but for a change of pace I’ve listed a few of my favorite funny books, and polled my crack team of fellow readers for a few others.

Bridget Jones’s Diary and Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason, by Helen Fielding

The original chick lit—not including Austen, who can be pretty damn funny herself—and the least affected. Bridget is sympathetic, loyal, and utterly ridiculous. It doesn’t hurt that the object of her derision and affection is based on the luscious Darcy, played by Colin Firth for the BBC, so all mental pictures line up accordingly. Both books are hilariously funny and relatable, particularly Edge of Reason, which still makes me laugh just thinking about it. (The movies are a mixed bag—the first is fantastic, and the second is unwatchable.)

­Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five is based on Vonnegut’s own experiences as a soldier and prisoner of war during WWII, and it shows. There are many very moving and deeply grim moments in this tremendous novel, which follows Billy Pilgrim as he travels throughout the universe and time, from a planet called Tralfamadore, to his own death, and back to his time captured in Dresden. If it sounds odd, it is I suppose, but it’s deeply humanist, and laugh-out-loud funny. Vonnegut’s use of the tragicomic is masterful. Billy Pilgrim is a literary hero of mine, and Slaughterhouse-Five one of my favorite books of all time.

Then We Came to the End, by Joshua Ferris

If you’ve ever worked in an office (and most of us have had that pleasure), you’ll find much to laugh about in Ferris’ working man (and woman) satire. Written in the collective “we,” the book perfectly nails the vagaries of office gossip, communal fridges, coveted chairs, and the daily grind of a group of ad writers in Chicago. End elicits genuine laughs, while also deftly navigating the post-bubble layoffs of the early oughts and the intimacies and ambivalence of office friendships and the meaningfulness of our working lives. It’s funny in the best “been there, done that” way.

Other Suggestions

Chick Lit

  • A Rural Affair, by Catherine Alliot
  • The Baby Trail, by Sinead Moriarty
  • Diary of a Mad Bride, by Laura Wolf
  • Classic

    • Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
    • A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
    • Travel

      • Notes from a Small Island, by Bill Bryson
      • Round Ireland with a Fridge, by Tony Hawks
      • There's No Toilet Paper on the Road Less Traveled: The Best Travel Humor and Misadventure, edited by Doug Lansky
      • Memoir

        • Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson
        • The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke, by Angela Nissel
        • Photo of woman reading courtesy of Shutterstock.