When was the last time you laughed until your sides hurt?
Let’s face it: we’re all in need of a bit of humour right now, and sinking your teeth into a new book is the perfect lockdown diversion.
These are some of the funniest works of fiction you can read, ranging from the humorously bizarre to the darkly comedic…
Emma by Jane Austen
You might not think a book published in 1815 could be a barrel of laughs, but let Jane Austen’s Emma prove you wrong. 20-year-old Emma fancies herself as the matchmaker of her village, and sets out to find her friend Harriet a ‘suitable’ husband – but all of her best intentions go awry. Emma’s misadventures are accompanied by comedic characters, such as Miss Bates, who simply can’t stop talking.
Austen raises some serious points about the strictures of society, but it’s Emma’s well-meaning meddling that really captures the reader.
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
Scoop, by Evelyn Waugh. But check your neck first. You may laugh your head off...
— Michael Woodward (@shotwithspirit) July 8, 2020
Evelyn Waugh turns his satirical eye on journalists for the 1938 novel Scoop. William Boot writes the nature column in the newspaper Daily Beast, and after a series of misunderstandings is sent to cover a crisis in Ishmaelia, a fictional state in Africa.
Loosely based on Waugh’s experiences as a foreign correspondent in Ethiopia for the Daily Mail, it’s a searing portrayal of Fleet Street and the lengths journalists will go to get a scoop. The situation in Ishmaelia is deemed a ‘promising little war’ by the Daily Beast’s head honcho, and what’s actually happening in the country never quite matches up to what the journalists send home.
It’s fast-paced, fun and completely irreverent.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This is the first instalment of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series, and is a seminal book of sci-fi comedy. It follows human Arthur Dent, who manages to escape Earth before the planet is demolished. He sets off on a journey across the galaxy with his best friend Ford Perfect, an alien who has been masquerading as a human.
The book is hilarious, bizarre and memorable. Just wait until you get to the part revealing the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything.
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The tale behind this story is a sad one: John Kennedy Toole found no success during his lifetime, and A Confederacy Of Dunces was published 11 years after his suicide. It became a cult classic, posthumously winning Toole the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The novel itself is as laugh-out-loud funny as it is grotesque, following Ignatius J Reilly and his adventures through New Orleans. Everything about Reilly is supersized – including his ego. He’s on a quest to find employment, picking up short-lived jobs at a hot dog cart and a pants factory. He’s joined by a colourful cast of characters, including his browbeaten mother and a hapless police officer.
There truly is nothing like it – you’ll be swallowed up in Reilly’s trials and tribulations from the first page.
The Wangs Vs The World by Jade Chang
This debut novel published in 2016 breathes new life into the well-known road trip format.
After Chinese immigrant Charles Wang loses his beauty empire in the 2007-2008 financial crisis, he does what so many people do when facing a turning point in life: he hits the road. Wang takes his son Andrew, daughter Grace and new wife Barbra from their old Bel-Air life, embarking on a trip across the country.
It’s a funny and charming story of family and what it means to be an immigrant.
Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
If you don’t quite feel up for reading Jane Austen right now, why not try a modern update? Uzma Jalaluddin’s 2018 novel takes inspiration from Pride And Prejudice, centring around Muslim singleton Ayesha and her big family.
Ayesha refuses an arranged marriage – and then meets Khalid, who isn’t exactly who she thought she’d fall for. While the novel deals with serious topics like Islamophobia, at its core, it’s an uplifting and funny romcom.