Top 10 Funniest Novels Ever Written

Categories: Books

Finding funny novels is very, very hard. Every publisher describes any book with even a single joke as "funny," and being funny in print is much more difficult than being funny on film where you have sight gags and timing to aid you. That's why when we find a genuinely hilarious book, we share it with as many people as possible in hopes that the author will make so much money they'll keep it up. It's just too rare a commodity to let go to waste.

Below are the ten funniest novels we've come across. If you know one we missed, please tell us in the comments, as we'd love to find some more!


10. There's a (Slight) Chance I Might be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro

funniest1.jpg
Notaro's books of humorous essays should be required college reading for any creative writing course. If nothing else, to help show you all you have to look forward to in your career as a professional writer. Her first novel, a fictionalized account of her move to the Pacific Northwest and trying to fit in, isn't quite as side-splitting as her nonfiction, but it's worth the read just for the scene where she joins a gothic book club expecting Mary Shelley and gets Practical Magick. Yes, magick with a "k."


09. The Pro by Garth Ennis

funniest2.jpg
Yes, comic books count as novels. Anything good enough for Alan Moore should be good enough for you. Garth Ennis did this hilarious and definitely R-rated send-up of the superhero comic where a single mom who moonlights as a prostitute is given superpowers in a dare by an alien. It contains the greatest sodomy joke of all time, a sentence that we cannot believe we got paid to type.


08. John Dies at the End by David Wong

funniest3.jpg
We'd expect nothing but comedy gold from a Cracked.com writer, and that's what you get. We only had to read three pages of sarcastic paranormal horror story before we knew that it was the perfect gift for the most deranged members of our social circle. You probably won't like this one unless there is something completely wrong with you.


My Voice Nation Help
171 comments
zirimis344
zirimis344

I must make an umpteenth vouch for A Confederacy of Dunces.

Just recently finished reading this classic for the first time; to call it brilliantly, wildly funny doesn't come close to describing it. Toole's suicide was a great loss to the literary world - he could've been one of America's most prolific writers. I feel fortunate to have read this work that was almost never published. Dunces is now in the process of being made into a stage play, and many have unsurprisingly failed to bring it to the big screen.

A documentary on Toole can be found here: http://jktoole.com

Speaking of prolific, comedic genius; Kurt Vonnegut, anyone? Slaughterhouse-Five, Mother Night, Cat's Cradle, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and The Sirens of Titan, in that order.

godette
godette

Thanks for including "Lamb" - you know I love Christopher Moore! And thanks for some of  the others - going on my must-read list.

Stephanie Ruiz
Stephanie Ruiz

Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs Freaking hilarious-I can totally identify with his shenanigans...capers...

Ruthie Hernandez
Ruthie Hernandez

If you give a mouse a cookie. Look me in the eye. Running with scissors.

jimmsfairytales0com
jimmsfairytales0com

The only books on your list that I've read are Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and the Douglas Adams book [though I suggest that the whole of the Hitchhiker opus should count as one selection] These 2 mentions - and the quote from Irene Iddesleigh by Amanda McKittrick Ros that you provide - are enough to convince me that your taste in humour is OK (and I've downloaded the last mentioned for future delight, thanks for the tip)... though I think that you're WAY off beam in rejecting Catch 22 by Joseph Heller!

And the title of this article should be "Top 10 Funniest Novels Ever Written In The English Language". Culturism, culturism...

Also: why do you include There's a (Slight) Chance I Might be Going to Hell by Laurie Notaro "Notaro's books of humorous essays" in a list of NOVELS?

HOWEVER, your greatest sin is to omit Flann O'Brien entirely. His book At Swim Two Birds is surely the #1 in English-language comic writing. If you can read through this amazing book without having an embarrassing accident, you have excellent bladder control. Cattle rustlers and shootouts on the Dublin trams, a novelist who spends his whole time in bed and whose novel's characters rebel against him and change the plot... especially after he seduces one of them and leaves her pregnant. A foul-mouthed Good Fairy and her rival, the polite, cultured Pooka MacPhellimey, "a member of the devil class". Not to mention Finn Mac Cool, "a legendary hero of old Ireland. Though not mentally robust, he was a man of superb physique and development. Each of his thighs was as thick as a horse's belly, narrowing to a calf as thick as the belly of a foal. Three fifties of fosterlings could engage with handball against the wideness of his backside, which was large enough to halt the march of men through a mountain-pass" [this latest style of writing being a parody of the Gaelic classic The Dun Cow]...

paulk97
paulk97

It seems that Peter De Vries is all but forgotten. His novels break records for sustained comedy while maintaining believable story lines. Something few authors can sustain. Unfortunately, De Vries is largely out of print today — sad

boowarren
boowarren

Cannot believe he left off Thank You for Smoking or God is My Broker by Christopher Buckley.  Strong stuff.  Also shocked at the Confederacy of Dunces ommission.

mindbirdNEADB
mindbirdNEADB

Anyone who "can't get through" CATCH 22 is unqualified to judge and rank humorous books.  Of this list, the ones I have read are not funny, they are just absurd, and the absurd is only funny within a context of a reality.  This is a list of shallow boring books for indifferent skimmers. 

loremipsumdolor
loremipsumdolor

My what a crummy list of funny books. Hooker instead of Heller? Well that says it all. No Twain? No Toole? No Greene? No Wodehouse? No Amis? No Yoakum? No Robbins? No Waugh? No joke, a crummy list.

Firbette
Firbette

The two books that have made me laugh out loud on public transportation are Blue Heaven by Joe Keenan, and Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town by Stephan Leacock. And of course the Dortmunder books by Donald Westlake.

50GreenDodge
50GreenDodge

at the time (1985) I thought "Bright Lights, Big City" was a howler.  I probably wouldn't think it was so clever today.

curtains
curtains

Anything by P.G. Wodehouse. A Handful of Dust by Waugh. Three men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. Confederacy of Dunces, for sure. Richard Russo is a great writer, and very funny. Some of Lawrence Block's stuff, the Bernie burglar books are good. There's a kindle book I read the other day called The Last Stop by Kirt Boyd that's hysterical. And who can forget Garrison's Keillor's Lake Wobegone Days?

lexycross
lexycross

One Man's Odyssey to Annihilate Violence. The book is hard to find. I've read all the comedic masterpieces, but this book redefined comedy writing for me. Very dark. It was my favorite comedy work of any genre along with Animal House, Caddyshack, and Spinal Tap. I got a copy about 4 years ago. I think the book was the victim of some dispute between publishing houses, or something like that.

duf55mar
duf55mar

The Good Soldier Schweik,byJaroslav Hasek is about the funniest novel I've ever read.Unfinished because the author died of TB and disturbingly anti-semetic Despite that it is hilarious. It is a great book to learn a good fallback position to use with obnoxious loud authority figures,"Pardon me sir,I'm an idiot."

The best non fiction entry would have to me Mark Twain's ,Letter to the Gas Company.

jddlove
jddlove

I don't know if "1066 And All That" is still in print, but it's one of the funniest books of all time.

guylucky
guylucky

I don't blame Jef (with one f), the person that let him write the column on the other hand, I do hold at fault. The article was mis-titled. The correct title should have been 10 books I've read that I though were funny. In that case there would be little argument, but to say that these are the funniest novels ever written is just plain wrong. I don't know what the 10 funniest novels ever written are but to not list Candide, or Don Quixote, or Tristram Shandy or authors such as Beckett, Calvino, Bulgakov. And the authors don't even need to be dead Torgny Lindgren is brilliant and Jean-Philippe Toussaint (his books are funny & brilliant). Jef in part of the comments you said you are too busy writing to read. Stop writing for publication for at least two years and read, read, read. 

What No Grace Paley? No Flann O'Brien? No Witold Gombrowicz? Put your pencil down and start reading actual books. 

pkgoode
pkgoode

Let me guess: Jef with one F is 20 years old and lives in a vacuum. There's no other explanation for a list of the Top Ten Funniest Novels Ever Written that doesn't include Tom Jones, Catch-22, or Lucky Jim.

jeromeperzigian
jeromeperzigian

Without question, even while acknowledging the unquestionable subjectivity and ineffability of "funny," the funniest novel ever written is "The Great American Novel" by Philip Roth (1973).  From Aristophanes to Chaucer to Shakespeare to Swift to Twain right down to the staff of "The Onion," in terms of sheer comic inventiveness, nothing that has ever appeared in print compares.  That is not hyperbole:  nothing.  You have to know and love baseball, though.  And literature somewhat.  If you do, there is no blue mood this book will fail to lift you out of.

 

Briggsay
Briggsay

The Newbies: 

"How I Became a Famous Novelist" by Steve Hely

"Wake Up, Sir!" by Jonathan Ames

"Homeland" by Sam Lipsyte 

 

The Mainstays: 

Catch-22

Dunces 

Lucky Jim

 

'nuff said.  

priskill
priskill

"Hope: A Tragedy," by Shalom Auslander.  It has everything -- real estate, yuppie parents, ethnic angst and, oh yeah, Anne Frank in the attic.  Was reading this aloud to anyone who would listen and choking on my iced coffee.

 

Also, "National Book Award Winner," by Jincy Willett (spelling?)  Just too funny.

shsch
shsch

I can't believe Catch-22 was omitted from this list.  A truly, truly crazy book with the likes of Major Major Major or a character who supposedly had "flies in his eyes."  And then of course there's "catch-22" itself.   Joseph Heller's novel is tops in my book; and that's overall, period!

GolfNut
GolfNut

I can recommend a really funny book from New Zealand author Kay Wall - Mountain Mayhem.  Written in superb kiwi style and a cover to cover laugh out loud read.

peoplewillcome
peoplewillcome

Diary of Anne Frank...funniest book ever written.

Quentin Eichenauer
Quentin Eichenauer

"How Much For Just The Planet" - John M. Ford. Star Trek gets sent up in a Hollywood-style farce that combines the characters we know with a plot finally inane to be called Star Trek.

Jim
Jim

You don't think Archie Bunker is funny?  How about Louie DiPalma?  How about Kenny Powers?  I realize that these are TV characters, but still, all reprehensible but hilarious.  You just need to step outside your preconceived bias and understand how comically brilliant Dunces is.

Fizbin
Fizbin

How about A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole?  Force yourself to get past the first chapter and you find the funniest book ever written.  I was in college reading it on Amtrak on the way home for break and i had to keep putting it down so I could stop laughing. Also, The World According to Garp.

Budkn
Budkn

Read David Nevins "Bring on the Empty Horses" true stories and is funny.

Csupply
Csupply

Tom Jones is garbage.  I'm sorry, but it is a book that needs to be taken off the classics list.  It is repetitive and poorly aged.

Climbinglaura
Climbinglaura

The most surprisingly laugh-out-loud good book I've read in a long time is Winterdance by Gary Paulson. Paulson makes the trials and tribulations of the Iditarod rip-snorting funny.

Deej
Deej

I know I'm late to the party, but I would strongly recommend Richard Russo's Straight Man--hilarious, hilarious novel!  

Richard Lightburn
Richard Lightburn

Emma by Jane Austen (possibly others by her as well) Tristram Shandy by Laurence Stern Don Quixote by Cervantes Huck Finn by Twain Gargantua and Pantagruel by Rabelais (at least the first book of Pantagruel)  parts of Joyce are hilarious Gravitys Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

Harold Feldman
Harold Feldman

No mention of Confederacy of Dunces? How am I supposed to take this list seriously? This list is fucking dumb. I shall write a screed against it in my Big Chief notebook.

Wellington
Wellington

How is it possible you have left off BOTH Catch-22 AND A Confederacy of Dunces? HOW? I could probably try to understand leaving one of those classic comedies off, but BOTH? That just destroys any credibility you probably never had to begin with.

Chip
Chip

  "Venus on the Half Shell"   by Kilgore Trout (Actually Philip Jose' Farmer)  Like Pratchett, has you laughing out loud often.

Jlaac
Jlaac

Almost anything by Daniel Manus Pinkwater.  Lizard Music and Robert Nifkin should be standard fare for school children of all ages.  Borgel, The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death, Fat Men from Space--not for kids only! 

Jlaac
Jlaac

Great to see the Bertie and Jeeves books here.  They make me laugh out loud every time I read them.  I once had to read them out loud on a trans-continental flight because I was laughing so hard the passengers around me had to know why.

prosa1
prosa1

@boowarren 

Anyone who would not put "Confederacy of Dunces" on the top of this list has not read it or is just plain retarded.  Or both.

My Pyloric Valve just slammed shut in fury.

prosa1
prosa1

@guylucky 

Whatever the title of the article is, it comes down to opinion.  There are no unquestionable "funniest novels ever written."

Except for "Confederacy of Dunces."

hee.


lassie
lassie

Uh, that's David Niven.  British actor 1930s on, anecdotes about Hollywood.  The Moon Is A Balloon is another volume, and I highly recommend both.

Now Trending

Houston Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

General

Health & Beauty

Loading...