As a rule, I don’t read out and out comedy. But humour is hugely important to me in literature. If a book doesn’t make me laugh, even if it’s in a despairing manner, then I am very unlikely to rate it highly. But there are some books that are so funny – cannot be read in public due to inappropriate cackling funny – that they have to go on here…
1. The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher
I recently picked up a pretty much untouched copy of Storm Front for 20p (in the brilliant original covers too rather than the more boring versions available now) so my series reread is looking imminent. Butcher just makes me laugh till my sides ache. He’s not afraid to poke fun at himself, entire genres of literature, popular culture… in fact anything is fair game. I don’t think there is one character in these books that hasn’t made me laugh at some point – go read them.
2. Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett
Just, the entire series. But special mentions to Men at Arms, Feet of Clay, Thud, Going Postal, Making Money, The Truth, Wyrd Sisters, I Shall Wear Midnight… These are the main culprits for the whole cackling loudly and getting funny looks on the bus phenomenon. Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax are both a particular delight.
3. ood Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
THEY’RE MAKING A TV SERIES. THEY’RE MAKING A TV SERIES. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I was utterly unprepared for this news and it’s probably going to mean I have to reread it soon just to remember the glory that is Aziphrale and Crowley. A true work of genius that makes you laugh in so many different ways – from a quietly amused snort at the observational humour (The Best of Queen) all the way to full on laughing so hard you cry (Crowley).
4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I’ve recently been listening to the radio adaptation yet again and giggling at the gang’s antics. I love Richard’s well meaning bewilderment, the Marquis’ flamboyant arrogance and Door’s innocence hides a very wry sense of humour. The quirky details of London Below are just delightful and the seething but hilarious evil of Croup and Vandermar makes them wonderful villains.
5. The Midnight Mayor by Kate Griffin
Matthew Swift is a delight. Downtrodden, resistant to rules, snarky and always in a whole heap of trouble. Regardless of what name she’s currently writing under, Kate Griffin is an author with an eye for detail and a brilliantly funny character voice. An utter delight that I’ve read again and again.
6. The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
One of my favourite books, The Goblin Emperor crackles with a different sort of funny. Maia is incredibly self deprecating and his outsider observations of life at court allow for some wonderful wry humour. This is interspersed with moments where supporting characters break out of their formal manners (often at times of high emotion) in a way that just makes you grin.
7. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This book makes me laugh so much. The brilliant banter between the characters, the cleverly repeated motifs like Kaz’s ‘scheming face’ and some highly inventive threats all make for what should be required reading for fans of heist books.
8. The Martian by Andy Weir
Laugh out loud, packed with the cheesy sense of humour of a man trapped on a barely inhabitable planet with only himself for company. Crusoe for the SF age, but packed with pop culture references, inappropriate jokes and disco music.
9. The Folly Series by Ben Aaronovitch
My love of these books is well known. British Police Procedural + Wizardry + Jazz + Peter’s hapless attempts to survive his all encompassing Jamaican immigrant family result in some sublime moments of culture clash. Peter’s attempts to bring the Folly’s teachings into the twenty first century are hilarious and Leslie is just full of sass – go read them now.
10. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
Yes, it’s an incredibly tense spy/mystery/ political thriller fantasy novel with a very emotional investigation of the consequences of empire building and belief systems thrown in…. But by god it is funny. Incredibly knowing and wry, a keen eye for the absurd combines wonderfully with the entire delight that is Sigrud and Shara.
Honourable mentions: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, The Harry Potter Series by J K Rowling, The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman, Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie, The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, The Copper Cat Series by Jen Williams and The Rogues of the Republic Series by Patrick Weekes.