If your book club is looking for something to lighten the mood at your next meeting, we’ve rounded up some new books with a humorous touch. From cleverly witty to laugh-out-loud funny, these books are sure to generate thoughtful conversation as well as a smile. Check out our recommendations below, complete with publishers’ descriptions.
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
She was the first person to see me as I had always wanted to be seen. It was enough to indebt me to her forever.
In the male-dominated field of animation, Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses are a dynamic duo, the friction of their differences driving them: Sharon, quietly ambitious but self-doubting; Mel, brash and unapologetic, always the life of the party. Best friends and artistic partners since the first week of college, where they bonded over their working-class roots and obvious talent, they spent their 20s ensconced in a gritty Brooklyn studio. Working, drinking, laughing. Drawing: Mel, to understand her tumultuous past, and Sharon, to lose herself altogether.
Now, after a decade of striving, the two are finally celebrating the release of their first full-length feature, which transforms Mel’s difficult childhood into a provocative and visually daring work of art. The toast of the indie film scene, they stand at the cusp of making it big. But with their success come doubt and destruction, cracks in their relationship threatening the delicate balance of their partnership. Sharon begins to feel expendable, suspecting that the ever-more raucous Mel is the real artist. During a trip to Sharon’s home state of Kentucky, the only other partner she has ever truly known — her troubled, charismatic childhood best friend, Teddy — reenters her life, and long-buried resentments rise to the surface, hastening a reckoning no one sees coming.
A funny, heartbreaking novel of friendship, art, and trauma, The Animators is about the secrets we keep and the burdens we shed on the road to adulthood.
My Italian Bulldozer by Alexander McCall Smith
When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already late book, it seems like the perfect escape from stressful city life. Upon landing, however, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers his hired car is nowhere to be found. With no record of any reservation and no other cars available it looks like Paul is stuck at the airport. That is, until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative. While there may be no cars available there is something else on offer: a bulldozer.
With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts and so begins a series of laugh out loud adventures through the Italian countryside, following in the wake of Paul and his Italian Bulldozer. A story of unexpected circumstance and lesson in making the best of what you have, My Italian Bulldozer is a warm holiday read guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman
At 32, Faith Frankel has returned to her claustro-suburban hometown, where she writes institutional thank-you notes for her alma mater. It’s a peaceful life, really, and surely with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow on Turpentine Lane her life is finally on track. Never mind that her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk, too busy to return her texts (but not too busy to post photos of himself with a different woman in every state). And never mind her witless boss, or a mother who lives too close, or a philandering father who thinks he’s Chagall.
When she finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home, she wonders whether anything in her life is as it seems. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence…
Elinor Lipman may well have invented the screwball romantic comedy for our era, and here she is at her sharpest and best. On Turpentine Lane is funny, poignant, and a little bit outrageous.
The Antiques by Kris D’Agostino
An irresistible, incisive, fast-paced comedic drama about a family who reunites after the death of its patriarch, just as a hurricane tears through town. For fans of Jonathan Tropper, Emma Straub, and Karen Joy Fowler.
On the night of a massive hurricane, three estranged siblings learn that their father is dying. For the first time in years, they convene at their childhood home in Upstate New York, where the storm has downed power lines, flooded houses, and destroyed the family’s antique store.
The Westfalls are no strangers to dysfunction. But never have their lives felt so out of control. Armie is living in their parents’ basement. In Manhattan, Josef, a sex-addicted techie, is struggling to repair his broken relationship with his daughters. Their sister, Charlie, who works in Hollywood as a publicist for a wayward young actress, just learned that her son has been expelled from preschool. Amid the storm, they come together to plan their father’s memorial service, only to learn his dying wish — they must sell his priceless Magritte painting. As their failures are laid bare, they discover that hope often lurks in the darkest of places. And so, too, can hilarity.
Complete with an irresistible plot and deeply flawed, affectionately rendered characters, Kris D’Agostino’s breakout novel charts the unexpected epiphanies that emerge in chaos. A rollicking tableau of life in all its messy complexity, The Antiques is a heartbreaking, nimble, laugh-out-loud funny send-up of modern family life.
Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett
Twelve-year-old Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: She knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly 18 months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know — like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother’s silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and the endurance of humor after loss.
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
From the New York Times best-selling author of The Middlesteins comes a wickedly funny novel about a 39-year-old single, childfree woman who defies convention as she seeks connection.
Who is Andrea Bern? When her therapist asks the question, Andrea knows the right things to say: she’s a designer, a friend, a daughter, a sister. But it’s what she leaves unsaid — she’s alone, a drinker, a former artist, a shrieker in bed, captain of the sinking ship that is her flesh — that feels the most true. Everyone around her seems to have an entirely different idea of what it means to be an adult: her best friend, Indigo, is getting married; her brother — who miraculously seems unscathed by their shared tumultuous childhood — and sister-in-law are having a hoped-for baby; and her friend Matthew continues to wholly devote himself to making dark paintings at the cost of being flat broke.
But when Andrea’s niece finally arrives, born with a heartbreaking ailment, the Bern family is forced to reexamine what really matters. Will this drive them together or tear them apart? Told in gut-wrenchingly honest, mordantly comic vignettes, All Grown Up is a breathtaking display of Jami Attenberg’s power as a storyteller, a whip-smart examination of one woman’s life, lived entirely on her own terms.
The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall
Willow Havens is 10 years old and obsessed with the fear that her mother will die. Her mother, Polly, is a cantankerous, take-no-prisoners Southern woman who lives to shoot varmints, drink margaritas, and antagonize the neighbors — and she sticks out like a sore thumb among the young, modern mothers of their small conventional Texas town. She was in her late 50s when Willow was born, so Willow knows she’s here by accident, a late-life afterthought. Willow’s father died before she was born, her much older brother and sister are long grown and gone and failing elsewhere: it’s just her and her bigger-than-life mom, Polly.
Willow is desperately hungry for clues to the family life that preceded her, and Polly has her own secrets that she won’t reveal. Why did she leave her hometown of Bethel, Louisiana, 50 years ago and vow never to return after a mysterious and terrible incident? Who is Garland Jones, her long-ago suitor who possibly killed a man? And will Polly be able to outrun The Bear, the illness that finally puts her on a collision course with her closely guarded past and a final trip back to Bethel that will end with them, like Huck Finn, riding a river raft back home?
The Book of Polly has a kick like the best hot sauce, and a great blend of humor and sadness, pathos and hilarity. This is a bittersweet novel about the grip of love in a truly quirky family and you’ll come to know one of the most unforgettable mother-daughter duos you’ve ever met.
Edgar and Lucy by Victor Lodato
Edgar and Lucy is a page-turning literary masterpiece’a stunning examination of family love and betrayal.
Eight-year-old Edgar Fini remembers nothing of the accident people still whisper about. He only knows that his father is gone, his mother has a limp, and his grandmother believes in ghosts. When Edgar meets a man with his own tragic story, the boy begins a journey into a secret wilderness where nothing is clear, not even the line between the living and the dead. In order to save her son, Lucy has no choice but to confront the demons of her past.
Profound, shocking, and beautiful, Edgar and Lucy is a thrilling adventure and the unlikeliest of love stories.
The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn
A hilarious and emotionally charged novel about a couple who embark on an open marriage — what could possibly go wrong?
Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They’ve got a 200 year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It’s the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school’s “hot lunch,” dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, “chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife’s version of chopping wood.”
When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they’ve made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There’s a part of her, though — the part that worries she’s become too comfortable being invisible — that’s intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she’s known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy — “real life,” or the “experiment?”
Next Year, For Sure by Zoey Leigh Peterson
In this moving and enormously entertaining debut novel, longtime romantic partners Kathryn and Chris experiment with an open relationship and reconsider everything they thought they knew about love.
After nine years together, Kathryn and Chris have the sort of relationship most would envy. They speak in the shorthand they have invented, complete one another’s sentences, and help each other through every daily and existential dilemma. But, as content as they are together, an enduring loneliness continues to haunt the dark corners of their relationship. When Chris tells Kathryn about his feelings for Emily, a vivacious young woman he sees often at the Laundromat, Kathryn encourages her boyfriend to pursue this other woman — certain that her bond with Chris is strong enough to weather a little side dalliance.
Next Year, For Sure tracks the tumultuous, revelatory, and often very funny year that follows. When Chris’s romance with Emily evolves beyond what anyone anticipated, both Chris and Kathryn are invited into Emily’s communal home, where Kathryn will discover new possibilities of her own. In the confusions, passions, and upheavals of their new lives, both Kathryn and Chris are forced to reconsider their past and what they thought they knew about love.
Offering a luminous portrait of a relationship from two perspectives, Zoey Leigh Paterson has written an empathic, beautiful, and tremendously honest novel about a great love pushed to the edge. Deeply poignant and hugely entertaining,Next Year, For Sure shows us what lies at the mysterious heart of relationships, and what true openness and transformation require.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman
The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.
At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.
With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty — and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail.
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
When Isabelle Poole meets Dr. Preston Grind, she’s fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher’s baby, and totally on her own. Izzy knows she can be a good mother but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching.
Dr. Grind, an awkwardly charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family, even after tragedy struck his own. Now, with the help of an eccentric billionaire, he has the chance to create a “perfect little world” — to study what would happen when 10 children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. He calls it The Infinite Family Project and he wants Izzy and her son to join.
This attempt at a utopian ideal starts off promising, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families disintegrates: unspoken resentments between the couples begin to fester; the project’s funding becomes tenuous; and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment in the first place.
Written with the same compassion and charm that won over legions of readers with The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson shows us with grace and humor that the best families are the ones we make for ourselves.
Oink by J. L. Newton
Pigs, poisoned cornbread, a feminist network, and a university tainted by corporate values. First in the Emily Addams’s Food for Thought series.
Emily Addams, foodie professor of women’s studies at Arbor State — a land grant university in Northern California — finds herself an unlikely suspect in the poisoning of a man she barely knows: Professor Peter Elliott of Plant Biology, the hotshot developer of a new genetically modified corn.
How did her cornbread end up in his hand as he lay in the smelly muck of a pig’s pen?
As Emily and her colleagues try to identify who and what has poisoned Peter, they also struggle to keep a new and corporate-minded administration from defunding the women’s and ethnic studies programs.
In the process of solving the mystery, Emily and her network deepen their ties to each other — and uncover some of the dark secrets of a university whose traditionally communal values are being polluted by a wave of profit-fueled ideals.
Oink comes with recipes.
Release date: April 18
The F Word by Liza Palmer
Olivia Morten is perfect. Maybe she’s constantly hungry, but her body is to die for. Maybe her high-flying publicist job has taken over her life, but her clients are L.A.’s hottest celebrities. Maybe her husband is never around, but he is a drop-dead-gorgeous doctor. And maybe her past harbors an incredibly embarrassing secret, but no one remembers high school… right?
When Ben Dunn, Olivia’s high school arch nemesis and onetime crush, suddenly resurfaces, all of her hard-won perfection begins to unravel. As she finds herself dredging up long-suppressed memories, she is forced to confront the most painful truth of all: Sometimes who we become isn’t who we really are.
Release date: April 25
Beartown by Fredrik Backman
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream — and the price required to make it come true.
People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.
Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.
Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. In this story of a small forest town, Fredrik Backman has found the entire world.
Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
From the creator of The Honest Toddler comes a fiction debut sure to be a must-read for moms everywhere.
There are good moms and bad moms — and then there are hot-mess moms. Introducing Ashley Keller, career girl turned stay-at-home mom who’s trying to navigate the world of Pinterest-perfect, Facebook-fantastic and Instagram-impressive mommies but failing miserably.
When Ashley gets the opportunity to participate in the Motherhood Better boot camp run by the mommy-blog-empire maven she idolizes, she jumps at the chance to become the perfect mom she’s always wanted to be. But will she fly high or flop?
With her razor-sharp wit and knack for finding the funny in everything, Bunmi Laditan creates a character as flawed and lovable as Bridget Jones or Becky Bloomwood while hilariously lambasting the societal pressures placed upon every new mother. At its heart, Ashley’s story reminds moms that there’s no way to be perfect, but many ways to be great.
Release date: May 2
Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan
When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside — but he’s not alone. The entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe to stake claim on their matriarch’s massive fortune. With each family member vying to inherit Tyersall Park — a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore — Nicholas’s childhood home turns into a hotbed of speculation and sabotage.
As her relatives fight over heirlooms, Astrid Leong is at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by her ex-husband — a man hell bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to China’s second richest man, billionaire Jack Bing, still feels second best next to her new step-daughter, famous fashionista Colette Bing.
A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a kidnapping at Hong Kong’s most elite private school to a surprise marriage proposal at an Indian palace, caught on camera by the telephoto lenses of paparazzi, Kevin Kwan’s hilarious, gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets of Asia’s most privileged families and their rich people problems.
Touch by Courtney Maum
From the author of the acclaimed I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, a satirical and moving novel in the spirit of Maria Semple and Jess Walter about a New York City trend forecaster who finds herself wanting to overturn her own predictions, move away from technology, and reclaim her heart.
Sloane Jacobsen is one of the world’s most powerful trend forecasters (she was the foreseer of “the swipe”), and global fashion, lifestyle, and tech companies pay to hear her opinions about the future. Her recent forecasts on the family are unwavering: The world is over-populated, and with unemployment, college costs, and food prices all on the rise, having children is an extravagant indulgence.
So it’s no surprise when the tech giant Mammoth hires Sloane to lead their groundbreaking annual conference, celebrating the voluntarily childless. But not far into her contract, Sloane begins to sense the undeniable signs of a movement against electronics that will see people embracing compassion, empathy, and “in-personism” again. She’s struggling with the fact that her predictions are hopelessly out of sync with her employer’s mission and that her closest personal relationship is with her self-driving car when her partner, the French “neo-sensualist” Roman Bellard, reveals that he is about to publish an op-ed on the death of penetrative sex — a post-sexual treatise that instantly goes viral. Despite the risks to her professional reputation, Sloane is nevertheless convinced that her instincts are the right ones, and goes on a quest to defend real life human interaction, while finally allowing in the love and connectedness she’s long been denying herself.
A poignant and amusing call to arms that showcases her signature biting wit and keen eye, celebrated novelist Courtney Maum’s new book is a moving investigation into what it means to be an individual in a globalized world.
Release date: May 30
Which of these novels do you want to read with your book club? Share in the comments!
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