In honor of National Tell a Joke Day on August 16th, this month’s task for our 2022 Reading Challenge is to read a comedic book. Below you’ll find a few recommendations to meet the task, but for even more suggestions, give us a call at 708-867-7828. Your librarians are here to help.
Download a printable form and keep track of your reading tasks throughout the year to earn a free book.
I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley
From despoiling an exhibit at the Natural History Museum to provoking the ire of her first boss to siccing the cops on her mysterious neighbor, Crosley can do no right despite the best of intentions — or perhaps because of them. Together, these essays create a startlingly funny and revealing portrait of a complex and utterly recognizable character who aims for the stars but hits the ceiling, and the inimitable city that has helped shape who she is. I Was Told There’d Be Cake introduces a strikingly original voice, chronicling the struggles and unexpected beauty of modern urban life.
Big Time: Stories by Jen Spyra
A bride so desperate to get in shape for her wedding that she enrolls in a new kind of workout program that promises the moon but costs more than she bargained for. A snowman who, on the wish of a child, comes to life in a decidedly less savory way than in the childhood classic. And in the title story, a time-hopping 1940s starlet tries to claw her way to the top in modern-day Hollywood, despite being ridiculously unwoke.
In this uproarious, addictive debut, Jen Spyra takes a culture that seems almost beyond parody and holds it up to a funhouse mirror, immersing the reader in a world of prehistoric influencers, woodland creatures plagued by millennial neuroses, and an all-out birthday bash determined to be the most lavish celebration of all time, by any means necessary.
Dear Girls by Ali Wong
In her hit Netflix comedy special Baby Cobra, an eight-month pregnant Ali Wong resonated so heavily that she became a popular Halloween costume. Wong told the world her remarkably unfiltered thoughts on marriage, sex, Asian culture, working women, and why you never see new mom comics on stage but you sure see plenty of new dads.
The sharp insights and humor are even more personal in this completely original collection. She shares the wisdom she’s learned from a life in comedy and reveals stories from her life off stage, including the brutal singles life in New York (i.e. the inevitable confrontation with erectile dysfunction), reconnecting with her roots (and drinking snake blood) in Vietnam, tales of being a wild child growing up in San Francisco, and parenting war stories. Though addressed to her daughters, Ali Wong’s letters are absurdly funny, surprisingly moving, and enlightening (and disgusting) for all.
New Teeth: Stories by Simon Rich
Simon Rich, “one of the funniest writers in America,” (NPR), is back with a collection of stories anchored by the heartwarming and hilarious tale of a true American screwball: Babe Ruth. Rich is known for his ability to wring humor and levity from American tragedy–the plight of Paul Revere’s horse, a child’s tragic misunderstanding–and his writing makes the most of a uniquely American desire for humor that doesn’t sear, but gently warms its subjects.
This collection shows Rich’s brand of humor-with-heart to its best affect, lambasting great screw-ups from history and beyond. From the story of three rats trying to make it in the big city to a tale of an improbable ne’er-do-well who takes “gallows humor” a bit literally, Screwball is a comedic tour de force by one of our greatest living humorists.
Wild and Crazy Guys by Nick de Semlyen
Wild and Crazy Guys opens in 1978 with Chevy Chase and Bill Murray taking bad-tempered (and slightly pathetic) swings at each other backstage at Saturday Night Live, and closes 21 years later with the two doing a skit in the same venue, poking fun at each other, their illustrious careers, triumphs and prat falls. In between, Nick de Semlyen takes us on a trip through the tumultuous ’80s, delving behind the scenes of movies such as Ghostbusters, Beverly Hills Cop, The Blues Brothers, Trading Places, and dozens more. Chronicling the off-screen, larger-than-life antics of Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Chevy Chase, Steve Martin, John Belushi, et al, it’s got drugs, sex, punch-ups, webbed toes, and Bill Murray being pushed into a swimming pool by Hunter S. Thompson, while tied to a lawn chair. What’s not to like?
Based on candid interviews from the stars themselves, as well as those in their immediate orbit, Wild and Crazy Guys is a fantastic insider account of the friendships, feuds, triumphs, and disasters experienced by these iconic funnymen, and reveals the hidden history behind the most fertile period ever for screen comedy.
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman
Although his career as a bestselling author and on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart was founded on fake news and invented facts, in 2016 that routine didn’t seem as funny to John Hodgman anymore. Everyone is doing it now.
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.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book full of words to live by.
We Had a Little Real Estate Problem by Kliph Nesteroff
In We Had a Little Real Estate Problem, acclaimed comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff focuses on one of comedy’s most significant and little-known stories: how, despite having been denied representation in the entertainment industry, Native Americans have influenced and advanced the art form.
The account begins in the late 1880s, when Native Americans were forced to tour in wild west shows as an alternative to prison. (One modern comedian said it was as “if a Guantanamo detainee suddenly had to appear on X-Factor.”) This is followed by a detailed look at the life and work of seminal figures such as Cherokee humorist Will Rogers and Hill, who in the 1970s was the first Native American comedian to appear The Tonight Show.
Also profiled are several contemporary comedians, including Jonny Roberts, a social worker from the Red Lake Nation who drives five hours to the closest comedy club to pursue his stand-up dreams; Kiowa-Apache comic Adrianne Chalepah, who formed the touring group the Native Ladies of Comedy; and the 1491s, a sketch troupe whose satire is smashing stereotypes to critical acclaim. As Ryan Red Corn, the Osage member of the 1491s, says: “The American narrative dictates that Indians are supposed to be sad. It’s not really true and it’s not indicative of the community experience itself…Laughter and joy is very much a part of Native culture.”
Lose Well by Chris Gethard
Let’s face it: we all want a seat at the cool table, a great job, and loads of money. But most of us won’t be able to achieve this widely accepted, black-or-white, definition of winning, which makes us feel like failures, that we’re destined to a life of loserdom. That’s the conventional wisdom. It’s also crap, according to comedian and cult hero Chris Gethard, who knows a thing of two about losing. Failing is an art form, he argues; in fact, it’s the only the way we’re ever going to discover who we are, what we really want, and how to live the kind of life we only dreamed about.
Setting flame to vision boards and tossing out the “seven simple steps” to achieving anything, the host of the eponymous Trutv talk show and the wildly popular podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People illustrates his personal and professional manifesto with hilarious and ultimately empowering stories about his own set-backs, missteps, and public failures, from the cancellation of his Comedy Central sitcom after seven episodes to rediscovering his comedic voice and life’s purpose on a public access channel.
With his trademark wit and inspiring storytelling—a cross between David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson—Gethard teaches us how to power through our own hero’s journey, whether we’re a fifteen-year-old starting a punk band or a fifty-year-old mother of three launching an Etsy page.