August 26 - Ha-ha (or in spanish ja-ja)

This is the place to report on two humorous books of your choice.

Please format your annotations like this:

Your name
1 —
Author's name. Title of book. Year of publication. Number of pages.

Plot Summary: approx. 3-line plot summary.

Appeals: pacing, characterization, story line, frame

2 —
Author's name. Title of book. Year of publication. Number of pages.

Plot Summary: approx. 3-line plot summary.

Appeals: pacing, characterization, story line, frame

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Danica Sheridan
1 —
Franken, Al. Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. New York: , 2003. 9hrs 51mins, 10 CDs.

Plot Summary: Comedian Franken takes on the far political right - from Ann Coulter to Dick Cheney- using meticulous research to pick apart a multitude of statements and actions proving them to be fictitious, deceitful, and often just plain stupid. Written with entertaining anecdotes and touching personal accounts of world events, Franken deftly negotiates the dense and wacky world of politics.

Appeals: Political. Exhaustively reseached and extremely analytical. Takes no prisoners. Hollywood/Washington D.C. glamour. Read by the author, like a buzz-saw hacking through steel, in a passionate, often tender, often sarcastic tone.

2 —
Bombeck, Erma. A Marriage Made in Heaven or Too Tired for an Affair. New York: Harper Collins, 1993. 297 pages.

Plot Summary: More intimate than her usual work, “Marriage” is no less laugh out loud funny as Bombeck takes readers through her fifty-year marriage to a man who STILL has no idea how to change the toilet paper.

Appeals: Every day life turned into extraordinary laughs. Small cast of unremarkable characters doing unremarkable things. Love of family despite theirs (and her) shortcomings. Mid-twentieth century, surburban American. At times, so funny you may have trouble breathing.

Michael Habata
1 —
Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. 2003. 153 pages.
Plot Summary: A ten-year old girl experiences the Islamic Revolution growing up in Tehran. She and her family resist the social changes and restrictions imposed by the religious conservatives, . War breaks out against Iraq. Later her family sends her to Vienna where she will be safe.

Appeals: While not a traditionally humorous book, Satrapi finds humor in looking back on how she and her family responded to the social upheaval and change in cultural values going on around her. A graphic novel, the book will appeal to young people through its visual nature and striking illustration style. The characters of young Marjane and her parents are complex and evolve through the narrative. The story is a poignant and moving recollection of coming of age in difficult circumstances.

2 —
Adams, Douglas. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe. 1980. 216 pages.
Plot Summary: Arthur Dent and his alien friend Ford Prefect escape the destruction of Earth. They and fellow travelers including Zaphod Beeblebrox, president of the Galaxy, make their way to Magrathea, where they discover that the Earth had been constructed by super-intelligent mice to find the solution to the Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

Appeals: Very dry, British humor; fast pacing, wry observations on modern life and social practices; simple characters to which one can relate immediately; parody/homage of many classic science fiction devices; story does not feel especially dated.

Oleg Kagan
1 —
Allen, Woody. The Insanity Defense. 2007. 352 pages.
Plot Summary: Basically a reprint of the zany stories, essays, plays and whatevers from "Getting Even," "Without Feathers," and "Side Effects".

Appeals: fast-paced, hilarious if you like satire, hyperbole and wordplay, can come across as corny, occasional philosophy humor, full of one-liners, not so many sight-gags or spit-takes.

2 —
Reiner, Carl. My Anecdotal Life: A Memoir. 2003. 236 pages.
Plot Summary: Anecdotes, funny, sad and touching(but mostly funny), from life of acclaimed writer and director Carl Reiner(Dick Van Dyke show, etc.).

Appeals: An easy read that will keep you laughing and squeeze your heart at the same time. Reiner recounts tales of his Hollywood life, including the story behind the 2000-year old man, and the man himself. Clean, amusing humor, as good for a 4-year-old as a 83-year-old. Also, the audiobook is excellent; even though I own the book, I've listened to the audiobook twice.

Glenda Gamboa
1 —
Hornby, Nick. The Polysyllabic Spree. 2004. 143 pages.

Plot Summary: This is a collection of Nick Hornby's book reviews in The Believer. For a little over a year, he writes about books he's read and attempted to read.

Appeals: Nick Hornby's voice is smart, unselfconscious, and honest. His choice of words and comparisons are highly intuitive and along with his asides and parenthetical comments are hilarous.

2 —
Valdes, Javier. Gente como nosotros. 1997. 227 pages.

Plot Summary: A collection of short stories. Javier Valdes infuses dark humor as he takes the reader through the lives of different urban residents. He takes their hopes and dreams, mixes them with dark humor, and allows us to see how they rise, or more often fall, to the occasion.

Appeals: The stories are short and fast-paced. The humor is irreverant. It examines the dark tendencies of ordinary people through humor.

Sarah Clark
1 —
Ruth Reichl. Garlic and Sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise. 2005. 333 pages.
Plot Summary: When food critic Ruth Reichl moves from L.A. to New York to work for the New York Times, she has no idea how recognizable she will be. This hilarious book chronicles the disguises and characters she creates in order to go unnoticed in some of New York’s best restaurants.

Appeals: Fast-paced, strong characters, food and restaurant-oriented. Will appeal to both restaurant snobs and people who dislike the pomp and circumstance of the restaurant world. Keeps you laughing and hungry.
2 –
Lorrie Moore. Birds of America: stories. 1998. 291 pages.
Plot Summary: A collection of short stories that are equally witty and heartbreaking. In the darkest and most hopeless situations, Moore’s characters can still crack jokes and make the reader smile
Appeals: Deep emotive force, stories of strained or broken relationships (both familial and romantic). Offbeat style.
Classics that are Still Funny
1 –
Miguel de Cervantes. Don Quixote (a new translation by Edith Grossman). 2003 (orig. 1615). 940 pages.
Plot Summary: Don Quixote is the tale of a man so engrossed in books of chivalry that he decides to embark on his on journey as Don Quixote. Grossman’s translation allows for all of the wordplay, irony, jokes, and physical comedy to shine through. A delight.
2 –
Voltaire. Candide: or Optimism. 2005 (orig. 1759). 291 pages.
Plot Summary: Candide lives in the best of all possible worlds, or so it seems until he is expelled from his castle for necking with the lovely Cunégonde. A hilarious and naughty romp that urges the reader to consider what happiness really is.

Cathy McGowan
1 —
Miles, Jonathan. Dear American Airlines. 2008. 180 pages.

Plot Summary: Bennie Ford is en route to his estranged daughter's wedding when his flight is cancelled. His frustration is so great that he begins to write an irate letter to American Airlines. His rant is at times humourous, and as many rants are, also about something else - in his case, the thought that his whole life has gone wrong, although he is unsure what would have been right.

Appeals: a very full characterization of Bennie, past poet and current polish translator, pacing that meanders into many reflections on the past, humour with painful roots, giving it depth

2 —
Sedaris, David. When You Are Engulfed in Flames. 2008. 323 pages.

Plot Summary: A collection of essays ranging in topic from naming the spiders in his French countryside home to buying a skeleton for his partner for Christmas (it's something he really wanted) to being less help around the house than his mother-in-law. All told in a way that recognizes what's funny about the way people are.

Appeals: The cynical humour of David Sedaris is always interesting and good for a laugh. The reader feels they know him after reading one of his books, and they can be read as a collection or separately.

Elizabeth Guth
1 —
Sedaris, Amy. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence. 2006. 299 pages.

Plot Summary: A tongue in cheek guide to throwing parties that has practical suggestions as well as hilariously over the top tips. Besides the party throwing suggestions and recipes there are also craft ideas (most involving cutting up pantyhose). Great for people who enjoy both attending and throwing parties.

Appeals: well known author (or last name at least), visual design of book – lots of funny pictures and illustrations, deadpan humor while delivering some usable advice.

2 —
Evanovich, Janet. Twelve Sharp. 2006. 310 pages.

Plot Summary: Stephanie Plum, a moderately incompetent bounty hunter from New Jersey, is going about her business chasing down the usual bunch of kooks and oddballs with her even kookier partner Lulu, when she becomes involved in finding a much more serious criminal and the child he kidnapped.

Appeals: likeable main character, 1st person POV, VERY quirky secondary characters, mix of slapstick and seriousness, fast paced, element of romance, strong sense of place – New Jersey

Sheila Purcell
1 —
Perrotta, Tom. Election. 1998. 200 pages.

Plot Summary: A high school government teacher plots to sabotage an overachiever's bid for class president. The school jock becomes her competition.

Appeals: quirky characters, multiple narrations from the kids and adults, political satire, students apear to be archetypes but their narratives reveal deeper perception.

2 —
Irwin, William. The Simpsons and Philosophy: The D'oh! of Homer. 2001. 303 pages.

Plot Summary: A series of essays that reveal Eastern and Western philosophical concepts in America's favorite cartoon. This part humorous, part intellectual analysis explains philosophy in layman's terms and throws in ironic and hysterical references for good measure.

Appeals: easy to read but sophisticated, engrossing, layered, political, multiple points of view, informal, inside jokes

Rachel Longaker
1 —
David Remnick and Henry Finder, Eds. Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from The New Yorker. 2001. 480 pages.

Plot Summary: A compilation of humor essays from the venerable magazine that span from the 1920's through 2000. Many of the contributers are well known in the magazine's Shouts and Murmurs section, such as Calvin Trillin and Bruce McCall. Other writers include Woody Allen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Thurber, and Garrison Keiller.

Appeals: Easy and fun to read, but like a rich meal, best to savor these pieces slowly, not in one gulp. Witty and sophisticated without being pretentious. A variety of writers, topics, and styles ensures that if one or two entries are disappointing, the next one is bound to be a winner. Many are laugh-out-loud funny.

2 —
David Sedaris. When You are Engulfed in Flames. 2008. 323 pages.

Plot Summary: A collection of autobiographical essays that offer Sedaris' insights about the human condition, his family and romantic relationships, and the life he shares with his partner in New York and in France.

Appeals: Humorous details about everyday life seen from Sedaris' unique viewpoint, which is dark and self-conscious, urban and edgy.

Kim Tocco
1 —
Linda Palmer. Love is Murder. 2004. 275 pages.

Plot Summary: Morgan Tyler, head writer for the daytime drama "Love of My Life" is a suspect in the murder of her boss, Damon Radford. While battling self-involved soap stars, zany episodes, and nefarious plots, Morgan must clear her name while dealing with her growing attraction to the lead detective on the case.

Appeals: Fast-pacing, colorful characterization, interesting story line with twists, witty dialogue.

2 —
Rita Rudner. I Still Have It, I Just Can't Remember Where I Put It. 2008. 249 pages.

Plot Summary: Rita handles fiftysomething living, older motherhood, and life in Los Angeles with grace, humor, and self-deprecation.

Appeals: Fast pacing, laugh-out loud humor, sharp observations, poignant moments.

Simon Lee
1 —
Roy Blount Jr. Be Sweet: A Conditional Love Story. 1998. 289 pages.

Plot Summary: A compilation of funny, smart, sad, and — at times — silly memoirs that an average American could potentially relate to.

Appeals: Fast-paced story with short chapters, conversational style of writing, first-person perspective, stories may be familiar, present-day popular culture (eg. sports and entertainment), humorous and upbeat.

2 —
Charles Bukowski. Post Office: A Novel. 1971. 208 pages

Plot Summary: A realistic view of the United States Postal Service, the number one employer in the nation. Henry Chinaski’s ridiculous work life, personal life, and view of the postal service as it is summed up in the first sentence of the book: “It began as a mistake.” The bitter humor is integrated with a well-portrayed “behind-the-scenes” look at the poor treatment, working conditions, and atmosphere that post office employees endure, and residents do not see.

Appeals: Funny and dark, gritty realism to the novel. The realism applies in both character (himself as Chinaski) and subject matter (life and work in the Post Office). Written in prose with plenty of profanity.

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