Reading group: which funny book should we read this month?

Terry Pratchett, PG Wodehouse, Muriel Spark, Beryl Bainbridge ... we want to start 2019 with a laugh, so nominate a book here

Let’s have a laugh this month on the Reading group: to start off the year, we’re going to be taking nominations for the book that brings you the most pleasure and the best chuckles. After all, as I’m sure you’re aware, it’s now 2019. Our new reality is doing everything it can to wipe the smiles off our faces and it feels like there’s plenty more dolour to come. But in this fortunate corner of the internet, we can take refuge. We can even spread a little light, taking our lead from none other than the immortal PG Wodehouse, who wrote in Something Fresh:

“As we grow older and realise more clearly the limitations of human happiness, we come to see that the only real and abiding pleasure in life is to give pleasure to other people.”

The fact that this line was actually the cue for various witticisms and sarcasms about the mercilessly efficient secretary Baxter and his failure to take pleasure in anything should only encourage us. Wodehouse was serious about spreading joy – even when he was joking. Something Fresh (the very first Blandings Castle novel) was written and published during the painful early years of the first world war, and must have given its many readers much needed respite. Wodehouse himself didn’t go overboard on such reflections, but perhaps the state of the world was on his mind when he wrote the following about “young idiot” Freddie Threepwood:

“His was a life which lacked, perhaps, the sublimer emotions which raised Man to the level of the gods, but it was undeniably an extremely happy one. He never experienced the thrill of ambition fulfilled, but, on the other hand, he never knew the agony of ambition frustrated. His name, when he died, would not live for ever in England’s annals; he was spared the pain of worrying about this by the fact that he had no desire to live for ever in England’s annals. He was possibly as nearly contented a human being can be in this century of alarms and excursions.”

Again, Wodehouse was joking – but you can understand how a few hours spent in the company of the Honourable Freddie might come as a relief from worrying about the world.

Just in case you think I’m advocating too hard for Wodehouse this month, I’m also happy to admit that there are other writers who have also written funny books. Perhaps not quite as funny as Plum, but still wonderful to read. In fact, this could be one of the broadest categories we’ve ever had on the Reading group, offering us a range stretching at least as far back as Aristophanes and his strap-on willies, up to the potential contenders for the new Comedy women in print prize.

Since I’ve already pushed a personal favourite, I’ll suggest others: Evelyn Waugh’s outstanding Sword Of Honour trilogy, a novel from Anthony Powell’s A Dance To The Music Of Time sequence, or anything by the late great Terry Pratchett. (Almost anything since we’ve already looked at Night Watch and The Colour Of Magic.) On that note, here’s a few of the other funny books we’ve covered on the Reading group to save you from nominating these again:

While we’ve already covered a few stone-cold classics, there are still 2,000 years worth of comedy masterpieces to choose from – including 50 more Terry Pratchett novels and around 75 books by PG Wodehouse. All you have to do to get your favourite into contention is to mention it in the comments below this article. I’ll put all the contenders into the hat towards the end of the week and announce the winner next Tuesday.

Contributor

Sam Jordison

The GuardianTramp

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