I love funny books, but only if there’s substance behind the funny. Here are a few authors that, I think, succeeded in this difficult venture.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal – This novel is formatted as a collection of linked short stories (think Olive Kitteridge or A Visit From the Goon Squad) with one character connecting them all: Eva Thorvald, a food protege who becomes a star chef behind a super chic and exclusive dinner club. This book is a hilarious look at foodie culture (with some excellent audio book actors, if you choose to go that route) but at the same time has a lot of heart, taking a look at motherhood, love and loss.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer Finally – a Pulitzer Prize-winning book that’s funny! Less is hilarious in the same way that Bridget Jones’s Diary is. Terrible things happen to protagonist Arthur Less, but they’re terrible in the way that it’s terrible Bridget Jones lands in a pig sty while skydiving. There’s a lightness in the style of the writing, but at the same time, the book’s themes are heavy, about love, loss, growing up and growing old.
Baby You’re Gonna Be Mine by Kevin Wilson Generally, short stories are not my favorite form of fiction; I often find they’re too dark, too dense and too serious, like the writer is trying really, really hard to be “literary.” But I love this collection, which contains a lot of adults acting like children (which, for me, is always funny) and stories that are so interesting conceptually. My favorite is “Wildfire Johnny,” which is kind of like a dark comedy that ends in a very resonating place.