5 Authors to Read When You Need a Laugh

What we are living through right now, with this Coronavirus pandemic, is like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetimes. I find the uncertainty paralyzing at times. From talking to my loved ones, it seems most of us are overwhelmed by the conflicting emotions we are feeling all at the same time. We are all coping the best we can, in our owns ways. For me, music and humor are the two big coping mechanisms I’m using right now (along with romance novels.) I’m finding myself drawn to things that I know are going to make me feel good. Somedays it feels too risky to dive into something new, not knowing how it’s going to make me feel.

I’m getting lots of requests for book recommendation that will be uplifting and distracting for readers. Over the weekend, it occurred to me that there are certain authors I’m turning to as well right now, knowing they will make me laugh.

5 Authors to Read When You Need a Laugh


John Hodgeman

Comedien and actor Hodgeman’s humor is smart, honest, and often self-deprecating. He’s a master of one liners and deadpan delivery – I highly recommend listening to his audiobooks.  My favorite, Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches, is a collection of excellently written stories that are so hilarious my face hurt from laughing. Hodgeman points out how his “problems” are due to his privilege, and his honesty makes him a sympathetic character. Medallion Status: True Stories From Secret Rooms, explores what it’s like when someone who has been semi-famous for being on TV is no longer on TV. He’s a master at pointing out how ridiculous something is but simply describing it in straight forward language. Both books get 5 stars from me for humor and writing quality.

David Sedaris

My all time favorite non-fiction writer, Sedaris has remarkable skill at finding the humor in every day situations. He can be pretty crude and cynical but it works because he’s never trying too hard to get a laugh. My favorite of his essay collections is Naked, which was published in 1998. It includes what I see as some of his best essays, mainly Plague of Tics and Naked. Many Sedaris fans will argue that Me Talk Pretty One Day , published in 2000 is his best collection and I agree it’s a close call.The Youth in Asia is definitely one of his greatest essays, and You Can’t Kill the Rooster is a classic. If you’ve read these older works of Sedaris’ then you’ll especially enjoy his newest collection, Calypso, published in 2018. Here, his sharpness is almost better than ever, along with his ability to tie together two seemingly unrelated scenes. My favorite essay in this book is A Modest Proposal.

Jim Gaffigan

Jim’s comedy is pretty clean and he speaks to readers on a truly basic level. Writing about food, parenthood, and family life, while questioning social norms. His first book, Dad is Fat, didn’t resonate with me much because I’m not a parent. Though I still found it brilliantly written. His second, Food: A Love Story spoke right to my heart though! What I appreciate most about Jim’s comedy is how he calls things out as he sees them. He’s not ashamed of the things society “says” he should be, like eating at McDonalds or enjoying hot dogs.

Jenny Lawson

Also known as The Blogess, Lawson writes candidly about mental health, parenthood, and tackling life in general. Her first memoir, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, chronicles her life growing up in rural Texas, through to her marriage and  life with her husband. The premise of this essay collection is that the most mortifying moments of our lives (the ones we’d like to pretend never happened) are actually the ones that define us. Her second book, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, is my favorite of the two by far. If you or anyone you love has suffered from depression, this book will resonate with you on a deep level. At times, reading it felt like someone had taken thoughts directly from my brain and put them in this book. It’s laugh out loud funny, also poignant, and a accurate look at what life is like with mental illness.

Otessa Moshfegh

If you’ve read any of her novels, you’re probably wondering why she’s on this list! Moshfegh’s humor is not the comedic LOL types mentioned above. It’s a subtler, dark humor. Her characters get themselves into bizarre situations and make questionable decisions. Yet they remain relatable in a human way, in that we might not have faced this exact scenario but we can relate. According to Goodreads, Moshfegh has published eight novels, and I’ve only read two so far, so I can’t say for sure all of her books would feel the same humor-wise, but I’ve heard they do. I read My Year of Rest and Relaxation last year and I didn’t quite “get it” at the time. It’s only since pondering it, discussing it, and reading another of her books, that it makes more sense. I’m tempted to re-read it now because it seems especially relevant, as the protagonist is a woman in her twenties who wishes to isolate herself from the world by medicating herself into oblivion. I read Eileen earlier this year, after hearing David Sedaris talk about why he likes Moshfegh’s writing. It was then that I “got it,” and found myself laughing while reading about Eileen’s dark twisted life.

I’d love to hear what you think about these authors. Does humor bring you comfort in hard times? What’s something you’ve read lately that made you laugh out loud?!

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