5 Books That Will Have You Howling With Laughter

By: Sam Fletcher, August 16th, 2023 10:08 am.

It isn’t easy finding books that make us full-on belly laugh. Everyone’s tastes are so different. Here we’ll list some that continue to have us in hysterics.

And I know not everyone will agree.

There’s plenty I would’ve included, but we’re focusing on fictionalized (or semi-fictionalized) novels. We’re also looking for gut laughs as opposed to gentle ones These are great books if you need a laugh.

So, which books will have you laughing out loud for real?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams (1979)

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Vogons will destroy Earth to make way for an intergalactic bypass. But don’t panic; Arthur Dent and his alien pal Ford Prefect still have time to flee. As the title suggests, they hitch-hike the galaxy. And it’s here they meet colorful characters and answer life’s big questions. The epic science-fiction comedy saga saw five books published during Adams’ lifetime.

Although it could do without the terrible Vogon poetry.

It’s not easy describing this classic series to those who haven’t read it. If you enjoy British farce and Monty Python, you’ll love it. It’s a genre classic packed with quotable lines, ridiculous premises, and enduring characters. From a BBC Radio play to a cult video game and later a film, all were successful iterations of the franchise.

Deep philosophical predicaments have never been so much fun.

Based on a True StoryNorm Macdonald (2016)

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I don’t know about you, but this guy seems like a real jerk!

Usually, celebrity memoirs chart a triumphant rise to the top. Overcoming hardships, they get there in the end. Calling them ‘one step below instruction manuals,’ Norm opts for something else. Playing loose with the truth, he begins in Canada and ends up on the stage, with everything else in-between.

And it’s real funny.

Not only that, he’s a gifted storyteller. But you don’t need me to tell you if you’ve listened to one of his sets or interviews. Norm also wrote a screenplay for a big-screen adaptation before he passed away. If you like dry absurdist humor, then this is definitely for you. Some claim this to be the ‘best comedic novel,’ and it very much is a bunch of funny stuff with one thing after the other.

Lightning RodsHelen DeWitt (2011)

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It’s best to keep some ideas to yourself.

Like with Joe, eking out a living selling vacuum cleaners in Florida. One day, during a more lurid sexual fantasy, he has an idea for dealing with workplace harassment. Lightning rods! Each workplace will avoid lawsuits through the anonymous use of female employees. They can then ‘ease’ the sexual urges of male workers in the bathroom. Joe’s devices oversee this initiative as he becomes the CEO of a burgeoning new company.

Okay, so it may not be to everyone’s taste.

Using what amounts to a sarcastic absurdist joke as its premise, DeWitt runs with it. Preceding #metoo (DeWitt wrote it in the nineties), this furious feminist satire says it all. Nothing is off the table, from corporate speak to misguided sexist initiatives. All this while discussing the commodification of women’s bodies.

Compared to ‘Being John Malkovich,’ it’s a surreal feminist comedy focusing on all the right people.

Confederacy of DuncesJohn Kennedy Toole (1980)

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Who didn’t know this one was coming?

Anyway, for those that don’t know, Ignatius J. Reilly is living at home with his mother. Overweight, he holds a deeply-rooted contempt for the world. Possessing a Medieval History degree, Ignatius is thirty, educated, and unemployed. He also hopes to write his masterpiece. But job-hunting gets in the way as he stumbles from one misadventure to the next. Set in 1960s New Orleans, Ignatius carries the narrative amidst countless quirky subplots.

There’s a reason this novel always comes up when talking about hilarious books. It’s hilarious, that’s why. Some may not vibe with it, as it can be an acquired taste. But, once it does click, you get some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. Unfortunately, Toole couldn’t write more, given this book’s posthumous publication by his mother. More of this would be perfect.

After all, anything else is an affront to theology and geometry.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾Sue Townsend (1982)

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I include the whole series here.

As the title suggests, the book uses the diary of one Adrian Mole as its narrative framing device. Following the titular British teenager, the first book runs between 1981 and ’82. Seeing himself as an ‘intellectual,’ he writes about his family and Middle England life.

Not only is it a hilarious read, but it documents Thatcher’s Britain with precision. The book embraces a sense of yearning through its working-class adolescent perspective. And it does so with countless gags as the book satirizes teenage pretensions from the get-go. Later progressing into adulthood, its political targets are also on point.

The only franchise that could knock this off British bookshelves was Harry Potter.

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