The funniest books ever (part three)

Here's the third instalment of our bookmarkable archive of the funniest books ever put into print - these eleven all coming from the Noughties.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate People by Toby Young (2002)
Bald guy gets good gig in New York hanging out with the rich and famous. Hate him. Then it all goes horribly wrong. Love him again. A true story of a bumbling journalist fucking up all the good opportunities which come his way.

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (2002)
The bizarre and darkly hilarious story of a disturbed adolescence in which the author is sent to live with the psychiatrist of his lunatic, soon-to-be-lesbian mother, comes out to the shrink’s adopted adult son and tries to find his way amid the madness of a most unconventional household.

Starter For Ten by David Nicholls (2003)
Like the best comic novels, it’s a rite of passage. A keen eye will catch its influences – Catcher In The Rye, Billy Liar, Adrian Mole, Great Expectations even - but these never threaten to stifle Nicholls’ own tale, one where the comedy comes from the difference between the narrator’s high aspirations and the awful, embarrassing reality. And who can’t relate to that?

Cooking With Fernet Branca by James Hamilton Patterson (2004)
James Hamilton Patterson's story of a misanthropic English ghost writer sparring with a woman from an East European McMafia family living next door in splendid Tuscan isolation gets the balance between farce and credible narrative spot on. I promise your life will be brighter if you read this book.

Loose Canon: A Portrait Of Brian Brindley. Edited by Damian Thompson (2004)
Brindley was a most extraordinary character: a flamboyant, Anglo-Catholic clergymen whose tiny flat resembled the Brighton pavilion and whose personal appearance was modeled on Roman Monsignoral attire. After an unfortunate scandal in the News of the World, the not overly pious Brindley took to writing columns for the Catholic Herald and extravagant recipes for the Church Times. He died celebrating his 70th birthday with a seven-course dinner at the Athenaeum somewhere between the dressed crab and the boeuf en croute. This collection of hilarious and moving essays by friends and colleagues, including Alan Bennett and Ned Sherrin, captures a true British eccentric.

 The Timewaster Letters by Robin Cooper (2004)
Spoon collector, thimble designer, professional fish fryer and world authority on wasps, Robin Cooper is a many of parts – and many incredibly silly but stupendously funny letters. Whether Cooper is organizing a surprise clarinet party for his wife, designing scarecrows made from beef (“based on Roman themes, such as ‘the Storming of Thebes’ and ‘Brutus Avenged’.”) or offering his services to the National Cavity Insulation Association as their “Poet in Residence”, the Timewaster Letters contain some of the most outrageous requests and ridiculous drawings you are ever likely to see. Robin Cooper is the alter ego of BAFTA-nominated comedy writer Robert Popper and really should be a fixture in every gentleman’s toilet.

 Screenburn by Charlie Brooker (2004)
Making a reader laugh is hard. Making them laugh to the point where beer pours down their nose and people around them are starting to complain is no mean feat. This collection of Brooker’s TV columns from the Guardian is swimming in bile and he succeeds brilliantly in skewering all that is anodyne on our TV screens while describing some of the offenders wonderfully well. Nigel Lythgoe looks like “Eric Idle watching a dog drown” and Ann Widdecombe has a face “like a haunted cave in Poland”. To use another of Brooker’s wonderful phrases, I laughed “until my eyes pissed acid.”

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson (2006)
I had come to loath Bill Bryson, but on holiday a couple of years ago The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid was the only book around. After three pages I was laughing aloud. When was the last time a book made me do that? Actually, 1989, The Lost Continent, Bryson’s first book. In between, he had become hugely successful, but his books were increasingly lazy, stuffed with stereotypes, and crushingly formulaic: cosy chuckles for tedious old farts. The Thunderbolt Kid and the Lost Continent are in another league. They are both essentially autobiographies and deal with Bryson’s childhood in America’s golden 1950s and his eccentric sports-writer father. The Thunderbolt Kid just edges it. It captures the hilarious innocence of a time when men had flat-top hair cuts that left them “looking as if they were prepared in emergencies to provide landing spots for some very small experimental aircraft”. 

 Delete at your Peril by Bob Servant (2007)
Delete At Your Peril is a very, very funny book, and a perfect Christmas present for anybody who has a) a sense of humour, and b) gets irritated by internet spammers and their tiresome scams. Bob Servant, 62-year-old window cleaner, and Dundee's former cheeseburger kingpin, wages war on the scammers and their promises of easy money, love and gainfully employment. The hilarity comes from Bob's outrageous demands and the way he pulls the spamers into his own crazy, mundane and out-of-register world. You will piss yourself and then quote sections of this book repeatedly within your circle of friends. 

Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris (2007)
Extract: “Jim Jackers was hard at work on the pro bono ads and had been working on them steadily for a few hours, since his return from helping Chris Yop throw his chair into Lake Michigan. Looking up from the blank page to the blinking clock, he discovered it was only three-fifteen. He decided that today was perhaps the longest day of his life. Not only had he been called an idiot to his face, but he could do nothing to counter that opinion, because he couldn’t come up with even a single funny thing to say about breast cancer.”

Foreskin's Lament by Shalom Auslander (2008)
Auslander was born and raised in an ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in New York. Foreskin's Lament, a memoir, is his vitriolic, insanely funny, ragingly angry attempt at ridding himself of the beliefs inculcated in him from childhood. On finding out his wife is expecting a son, for instance, he doesn't celebrate, but rather fulminates: Should I circumcise him or not? What will God do if I don’t? Will He kill me? Will He kill my son? Will He kill my son first, just so I experience that agony, and then kill me? When will He kill my wife?  It isn't what you'd describe as a comfortable read - it's laughter in the dark, and the dark is pitch-black - but it's brilliant, and when you're not shooting tea out through your nose, oddly moving.

 

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