Top 10 Must Read Comedy Novels

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After a day spent procrastinating, I finally gathered the strength to study. The term end exam was the following day and suffice to say I hadn’t got past the pages declaring the author and date of publishing. Just as I laid my hands on my books, the God of Electricity had decided to play trickster. The flashlight was in the top drawer of the shelf just beside my dorm room door. Getting to that shelf, however, would prove more than just difficult!

You see, when you live like I do with more books occupying every square inch of the room than air, trudging around the dorm room in pitch darkness can be like walking on hot coals. Given the urgency of the situation, I figured the walk on fire was inevitable. I got up and the first step I took resulted in tumbling a stack of books. Swearing at my own clumsiness, didn’t suit my demeanor, so I took the tumbling stack of books in my stride and proceeded more carefully. A good minute passed while I tried to gauge and engage my next step until, “Ow!” I do like to believe that God gave us shins so that we can find furniture in the dark, and that is how I found the shelf! I rubbed my shin that was now throbbing with pain. I got the flashlight out and just as I flicked it on, The God of Electricity gave a quick wink to his friend the God of Darkness, while they fist-bumped each other, and the power came back on again! Surely, whoever said God has no sense of humour, didn’t know what they were talking about!

In the light I could see the stack of books that I had hit. To the delight of the God of Mirth, the books were some of my favourite comedy novels.

10. Lucky Jim


Author – Kingsley Amis

This novel proved a very lucky break for Kingsley Amis; it won him the Somerset Maugham Award for fiction.  The novel lets the reader take a peek into the life of James (Jim) Dixon, a professor of medieval history at an English University. It follows his life into post-war England where traditional class structure still binds the country. We witness how he battles people’s fatalistic attitudes that seem to pervade post-war England. Also, one cannot help but miss the heart-rending love story between Jim and Margaret Peele (girlfriend) through which Amis explores the complex human nature.

9. Cat’s Cradle

cats cradle

Author – Kurt Vonnegut

A very well read novel by Kurt Vonnegut, it sits pretty in the satirical comedy genre. What happens when we are faced with Armageddon? This is what the book explores, the madness that ensues when man is face to face with an Apocalypse. The book builds upon a new age theology crafted by a calypso singer. A sample for your benefit:

“Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
Man got to sit and wonder ‘why, why, why?”

This book is quite easily, one of the most relevant works of the 20th century and in an alternate universe, it would be unpardonable to not read it!

8.  Leave it to Psmith


Author – P. G. Wodehouse

Set in the Blandings castle and true to the nature of all stories set at Blandings, the plot revolves around retrieving a lost object. In this case: a necklace. The main character is Psmith (P is silent), who tires of working in his uncle’s fish business and puts an advertisement in the paper asking for employment. Also features a variety of other characters: Lord Emsworth (Earl of Blandings), his son Freddie Threepwood, his sister Lady Constance, Freddie’s uncle Joe Keeble and also a Canadian poet by the name of McTodd. All of them are people dealing with mundane problems posed by life, until they figure a solution that befits the answer to every problem: Steal a diamond necklace. An enterprise which has several players, only one of which is Psmith!

7. The Code of the Woosters


Author – P. G. Wodehouse

The world’s favourite master- servant pair is at it again only this time they are at Totleigh Towers. Bertie Wooster comes to  the rescue of his friend Gussie Fink-Nottle when he is faced with trouble in paradise with his beloved Madeleine Bassett. Also at Totleigh Towers, awaits Bertie’s favourite aunt Dahlia who expects him to steal a silver cow creamer! Bertie ends up with more than he bargained for when he is burdened with the task of restoring true love between Reverend Stinker Pinker and Stiffy Byng. The havoc that follows results in the code of the Woosters (Never let a pal down) needing a helping hand or two from Jeeves…

6. The Importance of Being Earnest


Author – Oscar Wilde

This is a play authored by Oscar Wilde and is actually called The Importance of Being Earnest, A Trivial Comedy for Serious People. The play is about a young man Jack Worthing, who is an honest and upright young man and an inspiration and source of adoration in the small town of Hertfordshire. Actually, this story is about two men, Jack has an alter-ego he calls Earnest. In an attempt to escape the dull and boring life of righteousness, Jack concocts a fake identity i.e. Earnest, which allows him to engage in wanton acts of fun while he is in London! His friend in London, Algernon, is his comrade as they paint the town red. But what happens when Algernon finds out that his friend Earnest is leading a double life? Of course, hilarity ensues!

 5. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy


Author – Douglas Adams

It was originally a radio series created for BBC radio but within a year of premiering on radio it had culminated into a novel and later into a series of 5 books. The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy is the first of these 5 books. This book is full of intriguing characters from various other parts of the galaxy. Yes, this book is the golden mean between comedy and science fiction. The main protagonists are Arthur Dent, an Earthling and his friend Ford Prefect who set out on a journey across space; where they meet a sprinkling of endearing and funny characters.

4.  Three Men in a Boat


Author – Jerome K. Jerome

Narrated in the first person by the author, the book centres around a two-week boat ride down the river Thames. The narrator, J is accompanied by his two friends George & Harris, also traveling with them albeit reluctantly is the fox-terrier Montmorency. The author reflects upon lighter facts of life, historical attributes of passing locales and also reproduces the thoughts of the dog Montmorency with uncanny ingenuity; all of this with a dash of hilarity! The book continues to amuse with its memorable witticisms, to quote just one, “Work is fascinating, and one could look at it for hours!

3. A Confederacy of Dunces


Author – John Kennedy Toole

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel by John Kennedy Toole has a baffling history. It was published eleven years after Toole committed suicide. He won the Pulitzer posthumously. The central character is Ignatius J. Reilly, who is an educated but unemployed 30-year old man who lives with his mother in an uptown neighborhood in New Orleans. Reilly is a sloth of a man who laments the ‘offenses against taste and decency’ that the modern world calls entertainment.  This result in comedic situations as Reilly gets himself embroiled in mishaps, adding truth to the assertion made by Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels): “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him“.

2.  Thank you, Jeeves

TY Jeevs

Author – P. G. Wodehouse

The first full-length novel featuring Wooster and Jeeves, one could say this is how history was made! Bertie insists on furthering his education of the Ukulele, a musical instrument, which in Bertie’s expert hands causes more distress to the listener than the pleasure it gives the player! Unable to convince Bertie to secede his musical pursuits, Jeeves leaves Bertie’s service and takes up a place at Chuffnell Hall. Meanwhile Bertie retires to a cottage owned by his friend Lord Chuffnell (owner of aforementioned Chuffnell Hall). What follows is a romantic imbroglio when Chuffy falls for Pauline Stoker but later has a falling out. Bertie, being the generous soul he is steps in to set things straight, but can he succeed in the absence of Jeeves?

1. Catch-22


Author – Joseph Heller

The thing that sets this apart from all the other novels in the list is that the story does not flow like a war chronicle; instead it toggles between the present and flashbacks. It is however, a very fresh take on story-telling and most certainly a story dying to be read! The plot revolves around Captain John Yossarian who is a bombardier in the U.S. Air Force. The story is set around World War II. All Yossarian wants is to come out of the war alive but his reporting officer, Colonel Cathcart steadily adds to the number of dangerous combat missions his men must accomplish. Cathcart’s sole intention being to further the good image of the American army. It’s a satirical look at war time culture and belongs to the black humour genre

P.S. Needless to say, studying for the term exams was procrastinated!


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