Don Levy

We are in the middle of summer and along with barbecues and road trips, it’s the time we want to relax by the beach or pool with a breezy, light read. Considering the awful recent events of this year from the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile to the shooting at Pulse Night Club in Orlando to the shooting of police in Dallas and Baton Rouge, it’s been a traumatic year. Nothing can help us forget these tragic events, but I think we all need our spirits raised. Therefore, I’m going to suggest some books that hopefully cheer you up and tickle your funny bone.

Emma by Jane Austen. I know that most people would be surprised that I wouldn’t choose Pride and Prejudice but I have a soft spot for Emma. Jane Austen described Emma Woodhouse as “handsome, clever and rich.” Emma thinks she has a talent as a match maker and blunders in trying to set her friends up. If the plot sounds familiar, the movie Clueless with Alicia Silverstone was an updated version of Emma. I always enjoy Austin’s wit and wisdom and Emma gets into some funny situations.

Scoop by Evelyn Waugh. My father was a sports writer for the Times Union, so I have a soft spot for books about newspapers. Waugh was a master of the comic novel and my favorite is Scoop. It tells the story of William Booth, a minor nature writer who is mistaken for his famous cousin, novelist John Courtney Boot. William is hired by The Daily Beast to be a foreign correspondent and is sent to the African nation of Ishmealia, where he accidentally writes about the biggest news scoop of the year. The book is a delight from start to end.

The Thurber Carnival by James Thurber. I was introduced to James Thurber through the TV show My World and Welcome to It, with William Windom playing a writer/cartoonist based on Thurber. I later wound up reading Thurber. The Thurber Carnival is a good introduction to his stories. It has the full length biography, My World and Welcome to It. It also has his famous short story, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” and his fables, including my favorite, “The Unicorn in the Garden “. He could be written off these days as a curmudgeon and a misogynist, but he was a great sardonic wit.

The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck. When I was a teen, one of my favorite newspaper columns I read every day in was the one written by Erma Bombeck. She found comic gold writing about living with her family in the suburbs. She could make a trip to the supermarket sound like a funny adventure. She was so popular she was a regular on Good Morning America. Family dynamics might have changed from the 70’s but I’d like to think that if she was still alive she would have something funny to say about cell phones at the dinner table. I think she’s a very underrated writer.

Holidays on Ice and Naked by David Sedaris. It’s hard for me to pick just one book by Sedaris, but I prefer some of his earlier books to his most recent one, Let’s Explore Owls With Diabetes. He usually finds the humor in all sorts of points in his life. His best stories are about growing up in his crazy family. Holidays on Ice has one of his most famous stories, “Santaland Diaries” about his experience working as an elf at Macy’s in NYC.

I have to admit there are more books that made me laugh like Bossypants by Tina Fey or Something Fresh by P G Wodehouse. Are there other books that made you laugh? Please comment below and continue the conversation.