I almost felt depressed after reading the newspaper last night. If doom and gloom gets you going, you are onto a winner. Page after page of bad news and sad news, unnerving tales of a rising tide of crime and economic woe. To top it all there was a piece on Nostradamus and his prediction that world war III will start this year. The only saving grace was a tiny article in the bottom left hand corner of page 15, about a lost cat that found its way home. Whoop-de-do.
Life is a serious business but we have constant reminders of it every time we pick up a paper, switch on the TV or radio or even pop to the shops. I stand patiently in line waiting to pay for my milk (and the little chocolate bar I know I shouldn’t be buying – but if Nostradamus is right, breaking my diet is the least of my worries). I can’t help but overhear concerned conversations on the refugee crisis and Brexit. It’s not that I’m not interested (I am) but I need some space from this day-to-day despondency.
What I need is a good laugh. Some turn to mirthful movies, some enjoy live comedy, me? I don’t think you can beat a funny book. In the quest to tantalise my funny bone I have tried out six of the best that will amuse, entertain, and are likely to cause anything from a titter to a guffaw (depending on your particular predilections when it comes to humour).
I do enjoy a funny travel tale and In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson (about his travels in Australia) is one of my picks. I read it prior to visiting family down under. Bryson informed me to expect a sociable country, hot sun, cold beer, and animals that could end my life with one bite or sting. As I sat on the plane en-route to Sydney, I made a mental note to avoid anything slithering, anything with eight legs, and to check my insurance prior to swimming in the deep blue sea. It is Bryson’s thirst for adventure mingled with an uproarious perception of the many wonders he encounters that fills me with glee. Despite my rising panic about the perils of visiting Oz, I couldn’t put it down.
The blurb explains it in one fell swoop “I hereby bet Tony Hawks the sum of one hundred pounds that he cannot hitch hike round the circumference of Ireland, with a fridge, within one calendar month.” It’s no surprise that the bet came about following a few beers, and this simple, yet hilarious tale of man and fridge, manages to be inspirational and plain daft at the same time. It manages to feature surfing, sex, and a whole host of enlightening characters that Tony and his fridge meet along their journey.
Moving away from the non-fiction funnies, a facetious story often does the trick, and Billy Liar by Keith Waterhouse is certainly one of those. Billy gets a little fed up of his day to day existence (don’t we all from time to time), but rather than just moan about it, Billy decides to escape his mundane family and job by weaving an intricate fantasy life. It’s a sort of coming of age novel and we join Billy, as he experiences the priceless perils and pitfalls of his quest for a more interesting life.
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Skipping to another type of fantasy, science fiction is not everyone’s first choice for amusing prose. I must admit I had my reservations and wasn’t quite sure what I would find on delving into The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. To my pleasure, I found myself on a witty journey and soon formed an odd affinity to a group of intergalactic adventurers. I shared their excitement on discovering an expired planet and the hilarity of the anti-climax, a voicemail message from the inhabitants of the dead planet relaying their greetings and apologies that they were “out right now.”
If you prefer your books a little less interstellar (and more war-torn and slightly crazy) then you could come back down to earth with Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Join the hero, Yossarian, as he desperately tries to navigate away from death while flying ever more perilous missions for the belligerent colonel. You have to be insane to fly for the colonel and Yossarian knows that if he could get a doctor to diagnose his insanity he wouldn’t have to fly. But if Yossarian has the rationale to explain this to the doctor he must be sane, surely? So, he must continue to fly (he must be insane). Oh dear it sounds like a catch-22 to me! This book will twist your melon but it’s worth it.
Enough of dead planets and war, what of love? Romantic comedies are always popular and Helen Fielding has a lot to be thanked for, Bridget Jones made us feel better about ourselves (who hasn’t fallen out of a taxi clutching a vodka bottle or run through the snow-covered streets in an overcoat and tiny pants)? Although I have seen the movie, I can’t profess to reading the book (but I’m sure it’s good fun). However, as an alternative you could take a look at High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. A witty book which takes us along for ride with the music-loving owner of a record store as he negotiates the highs and lows that come with love.
A funny book has the ability to lift your spirits and to propel you (even for a short-time) to a better place. Laughter is good for the soul, not only does it make you feel ten times better but it’s been proven to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. Maybe laughter really is the best medicine, so grab a funny book and improve your health!
Emma Challoner-Miles is a busy wife, mum, teaching assistant and freelance writer. When she isn’t cooking tea, making phonics fun, or glued to the laptop she can be found walking Roy – her adorable, but slightly crazy Border Collie, reading (anything and everything, dreaming of a life in the sun, and drinking wine (anything and everything).
She’ll be with us writing a guest post on a the third Saturday of every month!