Awarded annually, the Thurber Prize for American Humor is the highest recognition of humor writing in the United States. A panel of national judges selects three finalists from seven or eight semi-finalists.
Previously held in New York City, in 2018, the Thurber Prize returns to its hometown roots in Columbus, Ohio for a December 5th, red carpet event culminating in the announcement of this year’s winner. I’m rooting for Vacationland, one of my favorite reads of last year.
Would Everybody Please Stop? by Jenny Allen
In her debut essay collection, the longtime humorist and performer declares no subject too sacred, no boundary impassable. With her eagle eye for the absurd and hilarious, Allen reports from the potholes midway through life’s journey. One moment she’s flirting shamelessly-and unsuccessfully-with a younger man at a wedding; the next she’s stumbling upon X-rated images on her daughter’s computer. She ponders the connection between her ex-husband’s questions about the location of their silverware, and the divorce that came a year later. While undergoing chemotherapy, she experiments with being a ‘wig person.’ And she considers those perplexing questions that we never pause to ask: Why do people say ‘It is what it is’? What’s the point of fat-free half-and-half? And haven’t we heard enough about memes? Jenny Allen’s musings range fluidly from the personal to the philosophical. She writes with the familiarity of someone telling a dinner party anecdote, forgoing decorum for candor and comedy.
Book | Audiobook CD | Download Audiobook
Vacationland by John Hodgman
Disarmed of falsehood, he was left only with the awful truth: John Hodgman is an older white male monster with bad facial hair, wandering like a privileged Sasquatch through three wildernesses: the hills of Western Massachusetts where he spent much of his youth; the painful beaches of Maine that want to kill him (and some day will); and the metaphoric haunted forest of middle age that connects them.
Vacationland collects these real life wanderings, and through them you learn of the horror of freshwater clams, the evolutionary purpose of the mustache, and which animals to keep as pets and which to kill with traps and poison. There is also some advice on how to react when the people of coastal Maine try to sacrifice you to their strange god.
Though wildly, Hodgmaniacally funny as usual, it is also a poignant and sincere account of one human facing his forties, those years when men in particular must stop pretending to be the children of bright potential they were and settle into the failing bodies of the wiser, weird dads that they are.
Book | Large Print | eBook | Download Audiobook
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Father Greg Lockwood is unlike any Catholic priest you have ever met—a man who lounges in boxer shorts, loves action movies, and whose constant jamming on the guitar reverberates “like a whole band dying in a plane crash in 1972.” His daughter is an irreverent poet who long ago left the Church’s country. When an unexpected crisis leads her and her husband to move back into her parents’ rectory, their two worlds collide.
In Priestdaddy, Lockwood interweaves emblematic moments from her childhood and adolescence—from an ill-fated family hunting trip and an abortion clinic sit-in where her father was arrested to her involvement in a cultlike Catholic youth group—with scenes that chronicle the eight-month adventure she and her husband had in her parents’ household after a decade of living on their own. Lockwood details her education of a seminarian who is also living at the rectory, tries to explain Catholicism to her husband, who is mystified by its bloodthirstiness and arcane laws, and encounters a mysterious substance on a hotel bed with her mother.
Lockwood pivots from the raunchy to the sublime, from the comic to the deeply serious, exploring issues of belief, belonging, and personhood. Priestdaddy is an entertaining, unforgettable portrait of a deeply odd religious upbringing, and how one balances a hard-won identity with the weight of family and tradition.