Ask A Librarian: Funny, Funny, Funny

I really enjoy fiction books that are humorous, fantastical and absurd, with lots of interesting details and great world building, like everything by Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Eoin Colfer and Walter Moers (although he isn’t that well known in the non-German speaking world, I believe), as well as things like Harry Potter, The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede and the Howl’s Moving Castle series. I recently started reading The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde and am liking it so far, too.

So, um, if you or anyone else has any recommendations, I’d be very thankful :)

They were out of print, but now they’re back, so you should check out Robert Aspirin’s Myth Adventures series, starting with Another Fine Myth. Skeeve is a magician’s apprentice to a demon named Ashz, working out of a bazaar in an alternate dimension. It’s light, funny, full of puns, and a quick read.

One name that came up over and over again when I researched Terry Pratchett was Christopher Moore. While his books aren’t high fantasy, they are very funny low fantasy and each stands alone. Try Lamb, the story of Biff, Jesus’ childhood best friend.

While less overtly humorous, but still engaging and absorbing, I highly suggest Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Shadow leaves prison only to become entangled in a war between the old gods and the new that stretches across America. It is absolutely absorbing and guaranteed to make stranger stop and tell you how much they loved it. Tom Hanks’ production company just purchased the rights to it and is developing it into a series with HBO, so now is the time to read it!

I would like to read more female written autobiographies. I enjoy the funny ones. I think I’ve read most of the basics, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, all of Chelsea Handler, Kelly Oxford’s is on its way. Any other recommendations along those lines? I think someone told me once that Penny Marshall has an autobiography that is great?

Have you read anything by Jen Lancaster? She’s a blogger who has parlayed her blog into a series of memoirs, I would suggest starting with Bitter Is the New Black. Jen’s voice is acerbic and materialistic, she’s immensely full of herself, but she also is brutally honest in cataloging her problems and the ups and downs of her life post-9/11 and the layoff that turned her world upside down.

I haven’t read Penny Marshall’s book, but she’s always funny, and her autobiography is called My Mother Was Nuts. If you enjoy show business memoirs, Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking made me laugh so hard I cried. She’s straightforward and funny about her mental health and substance abuse, as well as her kids and marriages.

If you want to lean a bit more serious (but still humorous), try Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home, a graphic novel memoir about her life growing up in a very unusual family. Bechdel is the one who created the Bechdel test for media, in that a film must pass it by having two named female characters who talk to each other about something besides a man.

My favorite things to read between semesters tends to me something that’s all-consuming and gripping that I can’t put down, which for me is almost always some kind of speculative fiction novel (though no matter what I’m reading, I’m always big on character and strong women). Last year I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms in a day, and immediately inhaled every other N.K. Jemisin novel I could find. Sunshine by Robin McKinley is one of my favorite books of all time and I think I read that in just a day or two when I first got it. I also like a lot of young adult fiction ““ all of Kristin Cashore’s books were definitely can’t-put-it-down reads, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson joined my list of “read it in a day” books over winter break (a list that also includes several Harry Potter novels). I’d love to find a few more books that will suck me in despite my desire to watch ALL THE DOCTOR WHO during my break in May, and I’d welcome suggestions if you have time!

Have you read any Mercedes Lackey? She writes high fantasy (that is, fantasy in its own world), often with young women as the central characters. There are now thirty books set in this world, in addition to seven short story anthologies. While all the books aren’t great, they are a comfort read for me that I’ve come back to time and time again, starting with Arrows of the Queen. In the first book of the Arrows trilogy, a young girl from a FLDS-like splinter group is suddenly thrust from her rural upbringing into the heart of deadly high court intrigue.

I would suggest picking up His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. It’s an alternate version of the Napoleonic wars in which all sides have dragons as part of their naval forces. Temeraire, the central dragon, is an unforgettable character, and Novik paints a vivid and fast-paced world of men and women and their fighting dragons. I picked it up because I’m a sucker for dragons, and this didn’t disappoint. It’s the first of a series, so if you finish it and are desperate for more, you have six more books to read.

Finally, find a copy of Garth Nix’s Sabriel. Sabriel is the daughter of a famed necromancer, sent to boarding school in England, and who must return to the Old Kingdom to fight Death to get her father back. I will admit I haven’t read this, but every time it comes up in conversation, various Persephoneers squeal and clap excitedly because they love it so.

Readers, what are your comfort reads? What do you turn to when you’re stressed or sick of the world? I seem to always fall back on books I read as a teenager or books about teenagers, so mine are Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block, Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty, and Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen.

By Jessica Werner

Free-range librarian in Seattle. A sucker for happy endings, teen angst, and books that make me want to sell my possessions and travel the world. Incurable homebody and type A. Send love letters and readers advisory requests to

13 replies on “Ask A Librarian: Funny, Funny, Funny”

First question-asker, could it be that you are ME? Every single recommendation in this column sounds amazing. What a great great topic. It is so affirming to me that I’m not the only one re-reading fantasy series that first caught me in my teens. Oh man – I’m so stoked about this right now!

I just want to let you know I do an internal fist bump every time I see this column is up. You’re doing an awesome job.

My copy of ‘The House of Spirits’ is sitting on my table ready for me to devour once I have finished some school work.

I’m nearly half way done ‘Everything is Perfect When You’re a Liar’ and I’m not as excited as I thought I would be. Oxford is only a year older than me and we grew up in the same area and I love her Twitter and Tumbler so thought I would enjoy it more than I am. Maybe the good stuff is still coming.

I really enjoyed ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’ by Jenny Lawson so am definitely up for checking out another blogger like Jen Lancaster. I have read and enjoyed Bechdel before so will also check her autobiography.

Thanks for the Carrie Fisher tip. I will definitely check that one out.

Yay! I love this column!

Yay, thank you! I’m excited to get reading! I’ve been hearing about Mercedes Lackey for years but never picked up one of her books, so perhaps now is the time. And I think maybe I’ve heard of the Novik series? Temeraire sounds like a familiar name. But anyways, it sounds awesome and I do love dragons, so that’s definitely going on the list (one week till classes are over!) And I’ve read Sabriel, and I really liked it – though I liked Lirael (the sequel) even better, mostly because it features the Disreputable Dog and Lirael is a badass librarian, so if you ever get around to reading them you have that to look forward to! But yeah, Sabriel = good recommendation, since I did indeed like it a lot and recommend it often these days.

For the first person, have you read the Bartimaeus trilogy by Jonathan Stroud? The first one is called The Amulet of Samarkand if you want to pick them up. Bartimaeus is a demon who is called on to do magic for magicians, including a very young and precocious magician named Nathaniel. The books focus on Nathaniel and Bartimaeus’ relationship, as well as Nathaniel as he grows up. They do get serious at points, but Bartimaeus is the funniest freaking narrator, he’s witty and sarcastic and absolutely hilarious and I highly recommend the series.

For the first person, I second Christopher Moore. He’s kind of kooky, and I like it!

Also, I would add Gail Carriger, who wrote The Parasol Protectorate. The first book is called Soulless. It’s a steampunk novel with vampires and werewolves. The main character is Alexia Tarabotti, who doesn’t have a soul (hence the name of the first book). I found it very funny and engaging. I had to run out and buy the others in the series because it was so good. :)

Small correction! Sabriel and the rest of the Old Kingdom trilogy are not set in England. It’s a country called Ancelstierre, resembling England in some ways but it’s very much an alternate world.

For the last poster, have you tried Divergent by Veronica Roth? Dystopian fiction, with some interesting ideas and a strong central character. Plus it’s currently being made into a film so you gotta get in there so you can say “the book was better” :)

I have read Divergent. It was definitely gripping and I read it super fast, but I had some issues when it was all over. The romance felt completely forced and didn’t ring true for me at all, and the ending felt insanely rushed and kind of…out of sync with the rest of the book. But it was good, and I will probably pick up Insurgent at some point this summer.

I fall back on my childhood books when I need a pick me up or a hiding place. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve read Tamora Pierce’s Lioness Quartet. I’ve slowly been buying up the other series she’s written too, so now I can spend almost a full month in that world if I need to.

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