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Books to Laugh With

By kileyturner
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tagged: funny
Thanks so much to our 49th Shelf community for sharing books that made them laugh out loud. Many aren't straight comedy but shoot humour from unexpected places, making the whole read that much more incredible.
The Flying Troutmans

The Flying Troutmans

edition:Hardcover
also available: Paperback Paperback
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"Min was stranded in her bed, hooked on the blue torpedoes and convinced that a million silver cars were closing in on her (I didn't know what Thebes meant either), Logan was in trouble at school, something about the disturbing stories he was writing, Thebes was pretending to be Min on the phone with his principal, the house was crumbling around them, the black screen door had blown off in the wind, a family of aggressive mice was living behind the piano, the neighbours were pissed off because …

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one

yeah, so things have fallen apart. A few weeks ago I got a collect call from my niece, Thebes, in the middle of the night, asking me to please come back to help with Min. She told me she’d been trying to take care of things but it wasn’t working any more. Min was stranded in her bed, hooked on blue torpedoes and convinced that a million silver cars were closing in on her (I didn’t know what Thebes meant either), Logan was in trouble at school, something about the disturbing stories he was writing, Thebes was pretending to be Min on the phone with his principal, the house was crumbling around them, the back screen door had blown off in the wind, a family of aggressive mice was living behind the piano, the neighbours were pissed off because of hatchets being thrown into their yard at all hours (again, confusing, something to do with Logan) . . . basically, things were out of control. And Thebes is only ­eleven.

I told her I’d be there as soon as I could. I had no choice. There was no question. Our parents are dead. Min didn’t have anybody else. And in just about every meaningful way, neither did I. Admittedly, I would have preferred to keep roaming around Paris pretending to be an artist with my moody, ­adjective-­hating boyfriend, Marc, but he was heading off to an ashram in India anyway and said we could communicate telepathically. I tried it a couple of days before he left. I love you, don’t go, I said silently, without moving my lips. He was standing next to me, trying to photograph a gargoyle. You’re a little in my way, he said. Can you move? No amount of telepathy worked with him, but maybe you have to be thousands of miles away from someone in order for your thoughts to work up the speed and velocity required to hit their ­target.

At the airport, Thebes came running over to me dressed entirely in royal blue terry cloth, short shorts and cropped top, and covered in some kind of candy necklace powder. The empty elastic was still around her throat. Or maybe she wore that thing all the time. She had fake tattoos all over her arms and her hair was intense purple, matted and wild, and she melted into me when I put my arms around her and tried to lift her off the ­ground.

Hey, you crazy kid, I said. How are you? She couldn’t talk because she was crying too hard. How are you, Thebie? I asked again. How are things? I didn’t have to ask her. I had a pretty good idea. I let her wrap herself around me and then I carried her over to a plastic airport chair, sat down with her sprawled in my lap, all arms and legs, like a baby giraffe, and let her cry.

How’s the songwriting going? I finally whispered in her ear. I really liked that line . . . take a verse, Mojo . . . you know? I said. She was always ­e-­mailing me her lyrics and cc’ing David Geffen on ­them.

She frowned. She wiped the snot off her face with the back of her hand, then onto her shorts. I’m more into martial arts now, and ­yo-­yoing, she said. I need to get out of my ­head.

Yeah, I said. Using your kung fu powers for ­good?

Well, she said, I feel good when I flip ­people.

Hey, I said, where’s your ­brother?

She told me he was outside waiting in the van because he didn’t know how to work the parking and also he didn’t actually have his driver’s licence, only his learner’s, he’s fifteen, he’s all jacked up on rebellion and whatever, he just wanted to wait in the van and listen to his ­music.

We headed for the exit and kind of stumbled around, falling over each other. Thebes kept her arm wrapped around my waist and tried to help me with my bag. All I had was one large backpack. I didn’t know how long I’d be staying but it didn’t really matter anyway. I’d lost my boyfriend and didn’t care about my job and there was no reason to go back to Paris. I didn’t own anything besides books, and Marc could keep those if he wanted ­to.

It was sunny and warm and the sky was a sharp, cartoony blue compared to the wet clay skies of Paris, and there was Logan sitting in their ­beat-­up van staring straight ahead at something, not us, music blasting from inside, like the van was a giant Marshall amp. Thebes ran up to the van and threw herself against the windshield. Logan snapped out of his rock ’n’ roll reverie for a second and smiled. Then he got out of the van and walked, glided, over to me and gave me a big hug with one arm and asked me how it was ­going.

All right, I said, how about ­you?

Mmmm, he said. He ­shrugged.

Hey, what’s this? I asked him. I grabbed his arm and squeezed his ­bicep.

Yeah, right, said ­Thebes.

And, dude, your pants! I said. Did you steal them from Andre the Giant? I snapped the elastic band on his boxers. Logan opened the door to the van and threw my stuff ­in.

How was Paris? he ­asked.

What? I ­said. Oh, Paris?

Yeah, he said. How was ­it?

Thebes turned down the volume on the music. Then she told me I should drive instead of Logan. She said she’d been planning her funeral on the way ­there.

I got dumped, I ­said.

No way! said ­Logan.

Well, yeah, I ­said.

You can’t get dumped in Paris, said Logan. Isn’t it supposed to be all–
By a guy or a girl? asked ­Thebes.

A guy, I ­said.

Logan stared hard at Thebes for a few seconds. He said you were gay, she ­said.

No I didn’t, said ­Logan.

You totally did! said ­Thebes.

Okay, Thebes, listen, said Logan. I didn’t–

Hey, I said. It’s okay. It really doesn’t matter. Really. But it was a ­guy.

But you’re not that old, said Thebes, right? You can still find someone if you look hard. How old are ­you?
Twenty-­eight, I ­said.

Okay, ­twenty-­eight, she said. She thought for a second. You have like two years, she said. Maybe you should dress up more, ­though.

Logan ended up driving back to their house because I didn’t know how to tell him not to and because he hadn’t seemed interested in relinquishing control of the wheel anyway. Logan and Thebes yelled at each other all the way back, the music cranked the whole ­time.

Thebes: Stay in your lane, moron!

Logan: Don’t lose your fucking shit, man!

Thebes: I don’t want to die, loser! Use two hands!

Logan: Do NOT grab the steering wheel!

Then Thebes went into this strange kind of commentary thing she does, quoting the imaginary people in her head. This time it was a funeral director, I think. She said: With an impact this severe there is not a hope of reconstructing this kid’s face. She banged the back window with her ­fist.

What was that? I asked ­her.

The lid of my coffin slamming down, she said. Closed casket. I’ll be unrecognizable ­anyway.
It was great to see the kids again. They’d changed a bit, especially Logan. He was a young man now, not a child. More on his mind, maybe, but with less compulsion to share it. Thebes was more manic than the last time I’d seen her. I knew what that was about. It’s hard not to get a little hysterical when you’re trying desperately to keep somebody you love alive, especially when the person you’re trying to save is ambivalent about being saved. Thebes reminded me of myself when I was her age, rushing home from school ahead of Min so I could create the right vibe, a mood of happiness and fun that would sustain her for another day, or so I thought. I’d mentally rehearse what I thought were amusing anecdotes to entertain her, make her laugh. I didn’t know then that all my ridiculous efforts only brought her further down. Sometimes she would laugh or applaud ­half-­heartedly, but it was always with an expression that said, yeah, whatever, Hattie, nice try, but everything is ­bullshit.

––

My birth triggered a seismic shift in my sister’s life. The day I was born she put her dress on backwards and ran away towards a brighter future, or possibly towards a brighter past. Our parents found her in a tree next door. Had she been planning to jump? She’s been doing that ever since, travelling in two opposite directions at once, towards infancy and death. I don’t know exactly what it was about me. By all accounts before I existed Min was a normal little girl, normal enough. She could pick a direction and stick with it. Our family photo albums are filled, halfway, with shots of Min laughing and smiling and enjoying life. And then, suddenly, I’m in the picture and Min’s joy evaporates. I’ve spent hours staring at those photos trying to understand my sister. Even in the ones in which I don’t appear it’s easy to see by Min’s expression that I am just beyond the lens, somewhere nearby.

Min’s had good days, some inexplicable breaks from the madness, periods of time where she functions beautifully and life is as smooth as glass, almost. The thing I remember most clearly about Cherkis, Thebes’s and Logan’s dad, is how nuts he was about Min and how excited he’d get when Min was on the ­up-­and-­up, taking care of business and acting normal. I liked that about him, but it also broke my heart because he had no idea of the amount of shit that was about to fly. Eventually, though, he did come to understand, and he did what I did, and what so many others in her life have ­done.

He ­left.

Min had a vague notion of where he’d gone. At first it was Tokyo, about as far away as you can get from here without being on your way back. He moved around the Pacific Rim, and then Europe for a while, South America, and then South Dakota. He’d call sometimes to see how the kids were doing, how Min was doing, if she wanted him to come back. No, she didn’t, she said, every time. And if he tried to take the kids she’d kill herself for real. We didn’t know whether this was a bluff or not, but nobody wanted to challenge it. They were all she had, she told him. Cherkis wasn’t the type of guy to hire a lawyer and fight for custody. He told Min he’d wait until the kids were old enough to decide for themselves and take things from there. He didn’t want to rock Min’s boat. He didn’t want anybody getting ­hurt.

I moved to Paris, fled Min’s dark planet for the City of Lights. I didn’t want to leave her and the kids but the truth is she scared me and I thought she might be better off without me, too. Especially if I was the embodiment of her particular anguish. It had been hard to know whether to stay or go.

It’s impossible to move through the stages of grief when a person is both dead and alive, the way Min is. It’s like she’s living permanently in an airport terminal, moving from one departure lounge to another but never getting on a plane. Sometimes I tell myself that I’d do anything for Min. That I’d do whatever was necessary for her to be happy. Except that I’m not entirely sure what that would ­be.

So the next best thing to being dead was being far away, at least as far as Paris. I had a boyfriend, Marc, and a job in a bookstore, and occasionally I’d go home, back to Manitoba, to Min and Thebes and Logan, for Christmas or the odd birthday, or to help with Min if she was in a really bad patch, but of course that was complicated because I never knew whether I should be there or ­not.

I wanted to be an artist, in Paris, or a psychiatrist. Sometimes I’d haul a giant pad of sketch paper and some charcoal pencils to the square in front of the Louvre or wherever the tourists were and I’d offer to sketch them for free. I didn’t feel right about charging anybody, because I wasn’t really doing a good job. In every sketch, it didn’t matter if I was drawing the face of a man or a woman or a kid, I’d include a detail from Min’s face, from what I could remember at that precise moment. Sometimes it was the shape of her eyebrows, or her wide lips, or a constellation of tiny freckles, or even just a shadow beneath the cheekbone. The people I sketched were always slightly confused and disappointed when I showed them my work, I could tell, but most of them were kind, especially because I didn’t expect any ­payment.

Our father died in a drowning accident in Acapulco when Min and I were kids. He drowned trying to save us. We’d been racing and had swum out farther than we should have and Min had started panicking, screaming for help. The current was strong and we couldn’t get back to the shore no matter how hard we pushed against the water. I remember yelling at Min to move sideways and to let go of me. After that, my memory of events is blurry. I have a feeling that Min was pushing me down, under water. I think that I remember her hand on my head, or on my shoulder, but maybe I’m wrong. Our mother told us that Dad had heard our screams and had swum out to get us, but that he too had got caught in the undertow and disappeared. They said it was a riptide. Other people on the beach eventually grabbed a boat from somewhere and rescued us, but by then Dad was gone. Min was fifteen and I was nine. They left us lying in the sun on the beach, crying and vomiting up salt water, while they searched for ­him.

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Sputnik’s Children

Sputnik’s Children

A Novel
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
tagged : literary

A literary, genre-bending novel full of heart

Cult comic book creator Debbie Reynolds Biondi has been riding the success of her Cold War era–inspired superhero series, Sputnik Chick: Girl with No Past, for more than 25 years. But with the comic book losing fans and Debbie struggling to come up with new plotlines for her badass, mutant-killing heroine, she decides to finally tell Sputnik Chick’s origin story.

Debbie’s never had to make anything up before and she isn’t starting now. Sputnik …

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Woefield Poultry Collective, The

Woefield Poultry Collective, The

A Novel
edition:Paperback
tagged :

Woefield Farm is a sprawling thirty acres of scrub land, complete with dilapidated buildings and one half-sheared, lonely sheep named Bertie. It’s “run”—in the loosest possible sense of the word—by Prudence Burns, an energetic, well-intentioned twenty-something New Yorker full of back-to-the-land ideals, but without an iota of related skills or experience. Prudence, who inherited the farm from her uncle, soon discovers that the bank is about to foreclose on Woefield Farm, which means t …

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Bina

Bina

A Novel in Warnings
edition:Paperback
also available: Hardcover

The extraordinary bestselling novel from the acclaimed writer whose previous book, Martin John, was shortlisted for the Giller Prize, and whose debut, Malarky, won the Amazon First Novel Award.

"My name is Bina and I'm a very busy woman. That's Bye-na, not Beena. I don't know who Beena is, but I expect she's having a happy life. I don't know who you are, or the state of your life. But if you've come all this way here to listen to me, your life will undoubtedly get worse. I'm here to warn you ..." …

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Excerpt

I always found fellas very difficult. I never got tangled up in them for that reason. I put my head down and lived a rea­sonable life. Or rather once I put the head down, I lived a reasonable life.

Women are no easier. So don’t be fooled thinking other­wise.

They are all awful, awful, awful.

All humans are awful.

All of us are awful.

Be very suspicious.

Stick to cats or carp.

Goats are less trouble than humans.

He’s mad as a goat, they’ll say. Yet I never met a goat as mad as a man.

Goats never caused me mounds of grief.

Goats never sat like a pile of rank mush in my kitchen.

Worse thing they ever did was eat something they couldn’t digest, yet you’d no more go down their throat after it. You leave them be. You let them decide, do you want to live or die? Do you want to carry on or take a left turn?

A man though, he could get into your kidneys and irritate them & you in a very special way. It’s why women are up in the night to go to the toilet as they age. They are widdling the confused strain of anger gathered up in there all day. I’ve no explanation as to why men are up piddling all night too, except perhaps it’s God’s subtle way of tormenting them. He goes straight for the pipe does our Saviour.

Out of the toilet quick, Bina!

Before I’m distracted.

I’m an awful woman for distraction.

Curiosity was my downfall.

You’ll see yet.
 
 
But let us return to the goats.

Not demanding, goats.

Unless they sneak out.

Then and even then, and only then, it’s the humans cause a big fuss. The goats don’t much mind the humans; they carry on doing what they do, a simple desire to eat briars unim­peded. Armoured tongues. Clipping nibbles. Head in. Chomp crunch. Down. Down. You could be dying on the ground and a goat would eat all the way around you, and not take a lick or a bare sniff at you. He’d follow the feed.

Not the humans! Oh no, big fuss when goats escape. They’re out on the road! Mad. Arms waving. Phones ringing. Thumb-stabbing slipped texts to the wrong farmer. They raise their voices. They’ll shout at any man who’ll hear. Any ear. Or woman. And amid shrieking carnival and lifeboat dispatch you’d wonder wherever did they think goats were before we put them into fields and sheds? Where do they think the wild goats are? The goats just keep on eating and buck about. They don’t mind your trumpet or your texts.

I’ve had to give up my goats on account of the humans. Let me be clear on that, it wasn’t the other way round. I haven’t given up my goats for any reason aside from Eddie. Don’t listen when they say oh it’s her age or her health or the diabetes or she needs to lose weight. I haven’t the diabetes. It’s Joanie, God rest her, who had the diabetes. None of us knew. She kept it quiet and now she’s dead and that’s what happens when you keep things quiet. Though I do believe in keeping some things quiet. Phil had it too, the diabetes.[1]

I am as strong as steel. Unbendable Bina. It’s just the humans are doing me in. Not the goats, not the diabetes. I don’t even eat cakes. If I start eating cakes, it’s because they drove me to it. Eddie would drive you to eat cakes. I’m surprised I didn’t plunge my face down into a Victoria sponge, with him and now this other tall fella breaking my brain to crumb.

* * *

There has to be a plan. I’ll have to kill the cat if I’m to go. That’s a pity. For the best. Nice cat though. Except when it piddled all over the place early on. Including on my new pil­lows, because Eddie locked the poor craytur in my bedroom. Them’s the sort of stupid thing Eddies do.

I didn’t want it to get out, he said.
You locked him in my bedroom for two days and gave him no food because you didn’t want him to get out?

He didn’t get out tho’, he said.

He couldn’t get out! He was locked in!

That cat’s not dead, said he. As if there were some fear the cat would be dead if it lived a normal
cat’s life.

It’s very hard to get run over when you are locked inside my bedroom.

Most cats die. Most cats let out die. They die on the road.

And he believes it. He holds fast. Plain, dry, seasoned obliv­ious. Smothered with fungal oblivion. He could live, die and rise again entirely oblivious that man. Every time the thought revisits me that I should have left him in that ditch. I am thinking it as I write this to you. I’m warning you not to lift men out of ditches and don’t trust the common declaration “all he needs is a bang on the head.” Eddie received a big bang on the head when he landed off his motorbike in my ditch and there is no evidence of it improving him. I don’t know how I didn’t take the cat and brain him with it. Except the poor crea­ture had suffered enough. My pillows never recovered and the smell of cat piss still lingers. It’s a reminder. Heed your remind­ers. Your mistakes always come with reminders. Often there’s a smell of a reminder. Log it. Sniff it. Choke on it. Make your nose passport and border control. Let no one in.

Since Eddie’s gone, I’ve put items in his bed to remind myself he is gone. But I had to throw out the mattress,[2] the pillows and sheets he’d slept on for years, because he was filthy anytime he lay down on them. You could never wash the smell of him away. I’ve one room stinks of cat’s piss and another of Eddie. I hesitated though, because according to my prophecy I thought the smell of him could, if I left it, serve as a warning. I’m happy to say I’m past needing a warning, which is why I am able to batter this out to yourselves. I’ve transcended.

I often wonder at the women who give birth to awful young fellas like Eddie. I think there’s a case to be heard for shoving the likes of Eddie back up and starting all over again. I believe in abortion since I met Eddie. It’s only a shame you can’t abort a 40-year-old.
 

* * *

I believe in obliteration. I believe in removing useless speci­mens from the planet. I don’t say it aloud, but I’m committed. You can only say it aloud if God has told you to do it. He hasn’t, but On My Oath if I were called I would serve. Likewise, I believe that the more useful amongst us should also have some choice about when we go. That is why I joined the Group when the Tall Man came to my door.
 
Eddie’s gone quiet now.

So we are waiting. That’s all I do now.

Wait.

Suspiciously.

Primed.

[1] See, Malarky: A Novel in Episodes.  
[2] I wonder now if I hadn’t had the delay on needing to get a new mat­tress might I have saved Phil. Maybe, in the end, Eddie will have killed the pair of us without even trying.

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Not Being on a Boat

Not Being on a Boat

edition:Paperback

Rutledge, an aging, divorced man, has treated himself to a Cruise on the Mariola. The Cruise is not just any cruise. It's the whole shebang. It's around the world. It's a lifestyle change: G & Ts and tuxedos and cigars and cognac galore. The service is top-rate. And Rutledge's steward, Raoul, is a good kid.

But then a day trip to a Caribbean port ends in commotion. Some people don't make it back onto the ship. Rutledge, nonplussed, makes use of the vacant machines in the Fitness Room and the unoc …

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Falling for Myself

Falling for Myself

edition:Paperback

In this searing and seriously funny memoir Dorothy Ellen Palmer falls down, a lot, and spends a lifetime learning to appreciate it. Born with congenital anomalies in both feet, then called birth defects, she was adopted as a toddler by a wounded 1950s family who had no idea how to handle the tangled complexities of adoption and disability. From repeated childhood surgeries to an activist awakening at university to decades as a feminist teacher, mom, improv coach and unionist, she tried to hide b …

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I Am Herod

I Am Herod

edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

Losing religion one false beard at a time.

On a whim, armchair-atheist Richard Kelly Kemick joins the 100-plus cast of The Canadian Badlands Passion Play, North America's largest production of its kind and one of the main tourist attractions in Alberta. By the time closing night is over, Kemick has a story to tell. From the controversial choice of casting to the bizarre life in rehearsal, this glorious behind-the-scenes look at one of Canada's strangest theatrical spectacles also confronts the ro …

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From the Far Side of the River

From the Far Side of the River

Chest-Deep in Little Fishes and Big Ideas
edition:Paperback
also available: eBook

As he braves rills, rivers, and ocean waters in search of his elusive quarry, Paul Quarrington's casts are as likely to call up thoughts of his troubled marriage, his father's death, or one of midlife's existential questions as they are to yield a fish, big or small. But whatever his trials and triumphs, he is never without his wickedly perverse sense of humor. Whether you're a dedicated river wader or an armchair angler, you'll find him an irresistible companion.

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