1 June 2017 Susannah

What Books Make You Laugh?

What books make you laugh

Do you often laugh over books? I mean a real belly-laugh, with tears in your eyes?

Humour is a very individual thing. A friend recently lent me a book which he told me he’d nearly died laughing over. For me the book failed to even raise a smile. Another friend adores Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim and says it never fails to make her laugh out loud. I quite like it, but have never laughed over it. I do laugh over E.F. Benson’s fabulous novel Secret Lives, Bill Bryson can usually have me chuckling happily, and some of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum novels have made me literally ache with laughter (these books are not worthy literature – in fact, they are rather foolish books, but they do make me laugh).

The scene in the maze at Hampton Court in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat is a wonderful piece of comic writing, P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels and Richmal Crompton’s Just William books can always raise a smile or laugh, and my Dad tells me he laughed heartily through Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

Other very funny books include the Flashman novels by George MacDonald Fraser and Tom Sharpe’s Wilt. There must be something wrong with anyone who cannot laugh at Mr Collins in Pride and Prejudice and the Bridget Jones books also make me laugh.

“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine”, was Lord Byron’s advice, while Dostoyevsky thought that laughter was the most reliable gauge to a man’s character. Do let me know what books you find funny. Share the laughter around with some literary recommendations for surely we all, like Elizabeth Bennet, “dearly love to laugh”.


   Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
   Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
   The World of Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
   Just William by Richmal Crompton
   Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
   Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser
   Wilt by Tom Sharpe
   Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
   Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.


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Comments (41)

  1. Patrick Alley

    Spike Milligan’s “Puckoon” is somewhat Rabelaisian but has many ridiculously funny bits. John Mortimer’s autobiography “Clinging to the Wreckage” is funny. Even the title is a droll reminder of where we octogenarians sit in life!
    The repartee between Samuel Johnson and Boswell is very funny as well.

  2. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A mash-up of D H Lawrence and Mary Webb. I can’t read it without laughing out loud. And anything by Barbara Pym.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Humour is such an individual thing, isn’t it. I hardly smiled over Cold Comfort Farm, but many friends adore it, so I am clearly missing something. I shold try it again.

  3. Judy Nicol

    Sorry, the author of The Card is Arnold Bennet , not Mathew Arnold!

  4. Judy Nicol

    I see nobody has mentioned The Card by Mathew Arnold – I was in hospital recovering from an operation and every time I laughed it hurt, and then a nurse came in to find out what I was laughing at – must reread it to see if I still think it is so funny.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      It is many years since I read Arnold Bennett and did not find Clayhanger or Anne of the Five Towns funny, but have never read The Card. Thanks for the suggestion, Judy.

  5. Gwynn Roberts

    In my opinion Ulysses is one of the greatest comic masterpieces of ever written, and even after several readings I still find new things which give me many a satisfying chuckle. Flann O’Brien’s ‘At Swim-Two-Birds’ and ‘The Third Policeman’ also make me laugh.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I’ve just got home from leading a literary tour in Ireland, and have come much more to agreeing with you about the humour in ‘ Ulysses’. It was fabulous to visit places associated with it, and to hear the words read in Irish accents. And Flann O’Brien’s ‘ At Swim-Two-Birds’ is also very funny – haven’t read ‘ The Third Policeman’, so will add that to my list. Are you still in your ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ group?

  6. Di Hopkins

    For a really funny book I recommend “AMan you can Bank On” by Derek Hansen. There was so much wacky humour and comic scenarios it left me helpless with laughter. Literature it’s not, but an hysterical read it is!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I’ve never heard of it, but it sounds hilarious. Thanks for the recommendation, Di.

  7. Patricia

    “Our Man in Havana”, Graham Greene, was very , very funny. I read it years ago, and wonder if it is still works.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have not read that one, but did laugh a lot over his ‘Travels with my Aunt’.

  8. Donald Nairn

    Your essay made me realise how long it is since I read a really funny book. I used to find passages in Charles Dickens
    novels very funny,ie Mr Wopsle’s performance of Hamlet in Great expectations. As an adolescent I had to lie down to read PG Wodehouse.There was the cricket match in England Their England by AG McDonald.
    A really funny book that I would recommend to people is The Innocent Anthropologist:Notes From A Mud Hut, by Nigel Barley
    published in the Penguin Travel Series in 1986. What makes this book even more enjoyable is that it is the account of Dr Barley’s
    fieldwork in the Cameroons for his PHD. It is all true!

    • Susannah Fullerton

      The Nigel Barley book sounds most unusual and intriguing. Thanks for the recommendation. Yes, laughing out loud over a book is something of a rarity.

  9. Helen

    Mr Rosenblum’s List,by Natasha Solomons is a book that made me laugh and it also made me feel quite sad as well. It is a beautifully crafted,tender story.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, it is a lovely book and an unusual mix of funny and sad.

  10. ‘Lucky Jim’ had me crying with laughter the first time I read it. Bill Bryson on a good day can also reduce me to helpless giggling. But my most embarrassing ‘laugh out loud’ moment was laughing out load on the local bus on the way home from Uni while reading Spike Milligan’s ‘Puckoon’ – I can still remember the funny looks I received from all the sober North Epping residents in the late 1960s.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have never read Puckoon, but can imagine the situation on the bus. Really funny books probably have to be read in the privacy of home.

  11. Ruth Williamson

    I laughed aloud while reading Jasper Fforde’s book, “The Eyre Affair”, but must admit I’d never have ventured to read in that particular (science)fantasy genre without the bait of literary connections.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I liked The Eyre Affair, but not enough to read more of his series. I am just not a sci-fi / fantasy reader, I guess.

  12. Kelly

    Darling buds of May series by HE Bates, Mapp & Lucia series by EF Benson & anything by PG Wodehouse. ????????????

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, the Mapp and Lucia series is hilarious. It is many many years since I read H E Bates, so I must re-read. And Wodehouse is always funny. Thanks for your suggestions.

  13. Helen

    Ferdy in Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer struggling to remember the name of that cove he first met at Oxford who is still pursuing him (Nemesis) – always makes me laugh.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      GH thought Ferdy Fakenham was the best character she ever created. I agree he is wonderfully funny, especially with Nemesis.

  14. Suniti Joshi

    Bill Bryson, P.G. Wodehouse, Stephan Leacock, Georgette Heyer, Douglas Adams, Giovanni Guereschi ( Don Camillo series),
    And many more.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      A great list – thanks. I should have thought of Heyer as I am a huge fan, but I do not know the Don Camillo series. Will add them to my list of books to read.

  15. R Hastie

    Richard Russo’s ‘Straight Man’, ‘Nobody’s Fool’ & more recently ‘Everybody’s Fool’…laugh out loud with Steinbeck like empathy for his characters

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have never read Richard Russo. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I’ve never even heard of that one. Thanks for the suggestion – will add it to my list.

    • Merrowyn Deacon

      Anything by Norman Lindsay… that man had such a whacky sense of humour. I also love Shane Maloney’s books, made famous by the brilliant acting of David Wenham, Mick Molloy& co. Brilliantly written by John Clarke for channel 7, when free to air cared about anything other than Aussie Rules Footy.

      • Susannah Fullerton

        Yes, Norman Lindsay’s sense of humour was amazing.
        I have not read any of Shane Malony so will look out for his books. Thanks.

  16. Michael Taylor

    Psmith in the city by Wodehouse had me in stitches.
    All the Jeeves books are also extremely funny.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, Wodehouse is another very funny writer. I love the Jeeves books especially.

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