Stop Me if You've Read This One: Suggested Readings
The following is a brief guide to the many exemplary books (and authors) that are official Stop Me if You’ve Read This One selections. All official selections are available for checkout from the Library. Paperbacks, e-book, and audio formats may also be available.
The 2014 Adult Winter Reading Program also offers many Book Discussion Groups and Read It/Watch It film screenings where readers may join in smart conversations about these suggested readings.
Book Discussion Groups Read It/Watch It Film Screenings
Authors A-J | Authors K-S | Authors T-Z
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Since it debuted in 1978 as a BBC Radio series, Douglas Adams’ comic sci-fi opus has become an international phenomenon. Adams was continually revising and updating his epic yarn, but there are a few constants: hapless adventurer Arthur Dent, an alien who mistakenly assumes that automobiles are Earth’s dominant life form, the dour robot Marvin the Paranoid Android, and a woman named Trillian who, along with Arthur, is the only other human survivor of Earth’s destruction. And, yes, it’s really funny.
You’re Not From Around Here, Are You? by Louise A. Blum
Subtitled “A Lesbian in Small-Town America,” Blum’s memoir describes her determination to be out, loud, and pregnant in a conservative town in Appalachia, where she and a local woman fall in love and move in together. The citizenry respond with, among other things, prayer vigils on the village green. With razor wit and deft precision, Blum depicts small-town life with all its comforts and terrors.
A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Rachel Cantor
Rachel Cantor helps local readers escape the winter blahs with a discussion of her debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World. Cantor, whose résumé includes an Italian childhood, French jazz festivals, and Australian food festivals, dishes up an uproarious tale of Leonard, who operates a pizza chain complaint hotline and finds himself inundated with medieval Kabbalists, rare book librarians, and latter-day Baconians. Cantor’s stories have appeared in The Paris Review, One Story, Kenyon Review, Fence, and other publications.
Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein
A pair of Harvard philosophy majors attempt to explain philosophy to the rest of us by telling classic jokes … and it works! “The construction and payoff of jokes and the construction and payoff of philosophical concepts are made out of the same stuff. They proceed from the same impulse: to confound our sense of the way things are, to flip our worlds upside down, and to ferret out hidden, often uncomfortable, truths about life. What the philosopher calls an insight, the gagster calls a zinger.”
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
Jennifer Crusie has written a hilarious take on the romance novel in which her heroine Minerva is asked on a date on a bet. She and the rich, successful Calvin Morrisey agree to cut their losses and never see each other again … but fate has other plans. Soon they’re dealing with jealous exes, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, and a gamble on true love.
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
In this quirky revisionist Western, sibling gunslingers Charlie and Eli Sisters are hired to track down and kill a prospector during the California gold rush. Along the way they encounter a witch, a bear, a dead Indian,
a parlor of drunken floozies, and a gang of murderous fur trappers. Eli’s deadpan narration is both strangely funny and unexpectedly heartbreaking. Comparisons to Charles Portis’ True Grit are in order.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
When author Durrell’s unconventional family could no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they relocated to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. This memoir was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up a delightful account of Durrell’s family’s experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home.
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Saturday Night Live alum Tina Fey’s best-selling collection of nonstop witticisms has been called “a spiky blend of humor, introspection, critical thinking and Nora Ephron-isms for a new generation.” It follows Fey through an awkward childhood, an adolescence with a coterie of gay friends, and a fish-out-of-water stint at college. Then it’s on to Chicago’s Second City, SNL, and the creation of her comedy hit 30 Rock.
Elvis, Jesus and Coca-Cola by Kinky Friedman
Country crooner, comic social critic, and erstwhile Texas gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman is also a best-selling crime novelist. In Elvis, Jesus & Coca-Cola, Kinky (who appears as a Lone Star private eye in
the books) must contend with a missing woman who left his name scribbled in her bloody apartment, the drug overdose of a documentary filmmaker and his missing footage, and a possible conspiracy by Elvis Presley impersonators. In other words, just an average day in the Kinkster’s world.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The world will end next Saturday. Just before dinner if you can believe the world’s only totally accurate book of prophecies (written in 1655). In Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s inventive novel, the armies of Good and Evil are amassing and all appears to be unfolding according to divine plan. Except that a fussy angel and a fast-living demon aren’t ready for the End Times and team up to delay the Rapture. Also, someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.
Is It Just Me? Or Is It Nuts Out There? by Whoopi Goldberg
Famed comic Whoopi Goldberg takes on the decline of civility in modern society. “People yak on cell phones in restaurants, and even at church. Folks in carpools wear enough cologne to make your eyes bleed. Family outings to the ballpark are ruined by rowdy drunks. People talk in movie theaters like they are in their living rooms.” Is It Just Me? takes a funny and excruciatingly honest look at how a loss of civility is messing with our quality of life.
The Princess Bride by William Goldman
A comedy/fantasy masterpiece, William Goldman’s The Princess Bride has everything an adventure yarn should: Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men.
Beautiful ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles. And a few good jokes.
This liberating, savagely comic collection of the funniest writing by black Americans provides a sampling of underground classics, rare grooves, timeless summer jams, poetry and prose juxtaposed with the blues, hip-hop, political speeches, and the world’s funniest radio sermon.
Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen
Suffering the double whammy of a marital breakup and being hit by a drunk driver, author Rhoda Janzen returned to her roots, staying with her father (the Mennonite equivalent of the Pope) and her cheerfully flatulent mother. While healing physically and emotionally, Janzen dated a Christian rocker and a Mennonite boy-toy 17 years her junior. Mennonite In a Little Black Dress has been described as “snort-up-your-coffee funny, breezy yet profound, and poetic without trying.”
We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy by Yael Kohen
What’s it like to be a woman in the male-dominated world of comedy? Yael Kohen’s oral history begins with Phyllis Diller and moves through such greats as Joan Rivers, Lily Tomlin, Gilda Radner, Molly Shannon, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig. Described as “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of female comedy,” the book is packed with hilarious anecdotes about life on stage and off.
Foolscap by Michael Malone
A quiet university drama professor discovers that the only copy of his play Foolscap has been stolen by America’s best-known playwright, Ford Rexford. Now the reticent scholar must pursue Rexford to England and navigate a universe of British eccentricity. Michael Malone’s novel satirizes the worlds of academics, theater, and the English upper class in a humorous blend of character study, intrigue, and dramatic lore.
The satirists at The Onion have created the last book you’ll ever need — because it’s about everything. The life stages of an ant? Check. Places to kill one’s self in Utica, New York? Sure. With hundreds of entries for all 27 letters of the alphabet, this is the book we all need to avoid the sting of eternal ignorance.
Drawing on many different types of verse—epigrams, street ballads, music-hall lyrics—this celebrated volume offers a wide range of comic pleasures. These poems are by turns subtle, down to earth, macabre, ingenious, acerbic, ribald, and cheerful. Famed comic poets such as Tom Hood, W. S. Gilbert, and Ogden Nash are represented in force, but many unfamiliar or unexpected names are also included.
During the Great Depression, Dorothy Parker was one of America’s funniest, wittiest women. This collection of plays, essays, book reviews, and short stories finds her mercilessly skewering the hypocrisies, vanities, myths, and foibles of contemporary men and women.
Four Comedies by Plautus
Four comedies by the Roman playwright Plautus—The Braggart Soldier, The Brothers Menaechmus, The Haunted House, and The Pot of Gold—confirm that rollicking pacing, bawdy humor, and irreverent characterizations never go out of style. Translated by Erich Segal. These plays inspired the madcap comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, America’s favorite nasal-voiced essayist considers using the water in a vase of flowers … and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life to the most deeply resonant human truths.
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
This comic novel chronicles 15-year-old Bee’s efforts to locate her mother, Bernadette, who is so afraid of the world at large that she has a virtual assistant in India run her most basic errands. Now the agoraphobic Bernadette has vanished rather than participate in a family vacation to Antarctica. Author Maria Semple—who cut her comedy chops writing for TV shows such as Arrested Development, Ellen, and Mad About You—has written a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.
Ciao, America by Beppe Severgnini
Italian newspaperman Beppe Severgnini and his wife rented a creaky house in Washington, D.C., determined to adapt to a country obsessed with ice cubes, air conditioning, and recliner chairs. Severgnini searches for the “real America,” holding up a mirror to the country’s manners and mores. By the end of his visit, he has come to grips with life in these United States – and written a charming, laugh-out-loud tribute.
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
This American comic masterpiece centers on Ignatius J. Reilly, an obese, fractious, fastidious denizen of New Orleans. The extremely unemployable Ignatius endures zany adventures both high and low, encountering a stripper and her talented cockatoo; a septuagenarian secretary, Miss Trixie, whose desperate attempts to retire are constantly, comically thwarted; gay blade Dorian Greene; sinister Miss Lee, proprietor of the Night of Joy nightclub; and Myrna Minkoff, the girl Ignatius loves to hate. Dunces is as complicated as a Dickens novel, and just as beautifully tied together in the end.
The author bemoans the state of punctuation in the UK and US, mixing humor and instruction to remind us of the importance of punctuation to the English language. Chapters are devoted to apostrophes, commas, exclamation marks, italic type, dashes, brackets, ellipses, emoticons, and the grossly misunderstood hyphen.
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber
James Thurber’s most famous comic story centers on the ineffectual Walter Mitty, who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world. Walter imagines himself a U.S. Navy pilot weathering a storm at sea, a heroic surgeon, a deadly assassin, and a Royal Air Force pilot on a suicide mission. The imaginative yarn has inspired the likes of Harvey Kurtzman (founder of Mad magazine), playwright George Axelrod (The Seven Year Itch) and Road Runner animator Chuck Jones.
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell
Sarah Vowell devotes her vacation to visiting the sites of famous political assassinations, Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas. With wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism, Vowell examines the ways murder has been used for fun and profit, for political and cultural gain. Examples: The jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and the less-than-uplifting politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial – not to mention a 19th-century biblical sex cult.
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
In this masterful farcical stage comedy, two upper-class wastrels invent a fictitious alter ego—the Earnest of the title—to escape burdensome financial and social obligations. Earnest treats as trivial the very things Victorian society held dear: social position, marriage, fiscal responsibility. In 1895 it was viewed as a completely frivolous undertaking; over the last century it has been recognized as a brilliant social satire.
John Dies at the End by David Wong
Originally an Internet phenomenon, David Wong’s shaggy dog story blends
sci-fi, paranormal happenings, and slacker consciousness to tell a wild tale
of meat monsters, flesh-eating flies, and the entry to hell just beneath a nice Midwestern town. It’s been called “a mash-up of Douglas Adams and Stephen King” and “the rare genre novel that manages to keep its sense of humor strong without ever diminishing the scares.