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Staff Picks Category: Humor

Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher []

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Poor beleaguered Jay Fitger, English professor at Payne University, is required to write an endless stream of recommendation letters. So much so, that this novel is entirely composed of them. He writes letters to his department chair, his ex-wife and ex-girlfriend, both at the same university, and many others; for students he admires and students who he caught plagiarizing in his class. Through these letters the less glamorous side of academic life is open to view, with comic results. You will want to read excerpts of these aloud. And you will be thankful you don’t have to write as many recommendation letters as Fitger.

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Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin []

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This is a love story. A love story about Pizza. This silly tale is sure to draw many ears…

A raccoon has to figure out how he can get his little paws on what he cherishes most in the world, but he is having a difficult time getting anywhere close to a cheesy, gooey pie. Good thing the narrator is on this furry buddy’s side. Don’t worry, the end of this story is a happy one.

My least favorite thing about this book is how hungry I get while reading it. Let’s just say, I relate a lot to the main character.

If you enjoyed Secret Pizza Party, try Dragons Love Tacos.

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The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by Eric Weiner []

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Eric Weiner is a grump with a mission — trying to discover the happiest places in the world, and what makes them that way. From the World Database of Happiness in Rotterdam, Netherlands, to the Gross National Happiness of Bhutan, from binge drinking and happiness in Iceland to binge drinking and unhappiness in Moldova, Weiner travels the world and discovers some of what makes different people happy, and the many paths one can take to get there.

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The Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips []

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Marie Phillips, author of the delicious satire Gods Behaving Badly, now turns her gift for parody on the legends of King Arthur and his knights of Camelot. It’s a bit of Terry Pratchett meets Jane Austen meets The Princess Bride. The underdogs at Camelot are the heroes of this comic novel: Sir Humphrey of the Table of Less Valued Knights (the rectangular one in the draftiest corner, where they only get leftovers and watered-down wine) takes up a quest to find a damsel’s missing fiancé. Meanwhile in the neighboring kingdom, the freshly-minted and unwilling Queen Martha runs away from her destiny while another knight is tasked with bringing her back to the exceptionally unpleasant Prince-Consort-who-wants-to-be-King Edwin. Nobody is quite what they appear, except perhaps the elephant Jemima. Even the Lady of the Lake is a substitute, annoyed with having to hold on to the magic sword while the original Lady has run off with Merlin. Full of wit, surprises and off-the-wall characters, this contemporary re-visioning of medieval myths is a lot of fun.

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Texts from Jane Eyre: and other conversations with your favorite literary characters by Mallory Ortberg []

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Do you ever send or receive text messages? Did you take English in high school or college? If you answered “Yes” and “Yes”, you will LOL at Mallory Ortberg’s witty, imaginary e-conversations between famous literary figures.

Besides Jane herself the classics are all here, from Homer and Shakespeare to Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. My favorite was Moby Dick:

do you ever worry
that the whale is like
a metaphor

a metaphor?

yeah

sometimes

me too
me too
do you wanna nail stuff to the mast?

yeah

Some of the poets are great too (Lord Byron is down in the dumps because he realizes that he can never have sex with the rain).

YMMV depending on what books you’ve read and enjoyed, but feel free to skip around and cherry-pick your favorites. This a perfect “bathroom book” to dip into at random and experience in a non-linear 21st century modality.

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When I Knew by Robert Trachtenberg []

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These stories of queer moments, crushes, fantasies, and coming out will make you smile, cringe, and maybe even tear up. Trachtenberg arranges the stories to oscillate between the quippy and the emotionally charged and highlights something amusing from each story with a provocative illustration. Although I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I would have loved seeing a broader representation of queerness and more stories from POC. Check out more of our LGBT Teen staff picks!

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Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison []

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There are six things very wrong with my life:

  1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.
  2. It is on my nose
  3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.
  4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic teachers.
  5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.
  6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

Step into the hilarious life of Georgia Nicolson. She is a British teen who includes lots of fun slang in her very detailed journal. This light and silly read will have you laughing out loud at Georgia’s funny antics.

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Dodger by Terry Pratchett []

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Dodger is the latest novel by Sir Terry Pratchett, best known for his satirical Discworld series of fantasy novels. Pratchett’s usual wit and love of language shine through in this historical piece set in Victorian London and with a cast of characters that includes Charles Dickens, Benjamin Disraeli, Angela Burdett-Coutts, and Queen Victoria.

Dodger takes place above and below London, with the city’s ancient Roman sewers playing a prominent part. Much of the drama comes from the meeting of the upper and lower classes, the rich and poor, and the politics of the street vs. the politics of the state.

Pratchett has, very consciously, taken liberties with the setting and refers to the work as a historical fantasy, not a historical novel. The most obvious example is the inclusion of the almost certainly fictional Sweeney Todd. Less noticeable to most readers will be the the adjustment to the lives of Sir Robert Peel and John Tenniel whose careers did not, in fact, overlap as suggested in the novel. These changes may bother some, but if you take them in stride you will find Dodger to be a very enjoyable adventure story brought to life by its rich setting and colorful language.

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The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson []

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I picked this up because of the intriguing title and because it was Swedish without being a grim, dark thriller.  It does have crime though, so you won’t feel deprived.  Anyhow, this crazy old character escapes from a nursing home and goes off on a series of adventures that recall his long and fascinating life.  It’s ironic, absurd, clever and surreal, populated by unique and sometimes famous figures from the past and present.  It shares the unlikely Forrest Gump just-happened-to-be-in-the-right-place-at-the right-time premise, so be prepared to suspend your disbelief once and for all.  Once you do, it’s wickedly entertaining, fast paced and very funny.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple []

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A couple of creative, perceptive and witty misfits star in this novel.  Mother, wife and lapsed architect Bernadette lives in Seattle with her high-tech superstar husband and too-smart-for-social-success teenage daughter.  They live in a beyond weird old house and can’t cope with their perfectly privileged and PC neighbors or private school.  The format is as original as the characters: the story unfolds through letters, emails, diary entries and school documents.  Maria Semple wrote for TV’s Arrested Development, so you’d expect the dialogue and plot twists to be hilarious, and they are; there are scenes that would be fabulous onscreen.  There’s also sincerity and real character development in these quickly-turning pages.

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The Woman Who Died A Lot by Jasper Fforde [, ]

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This latest entry in the Thursday Next series of genre-bending literary absurdist fantasy adventure novels is immensely satisfying.  Fforde doesn’t miss a chance for a farcical or pun-driven punchline; the twists and knots and mobius strips in the overlapping plot lines make perfect sense in the impossible logic of his alternate world, despite (or because of) which, they still provide surprises.  Thursday has been pushed into semi-retirement but nevertheless manages to be at the center of the action, valiantly trying to save the world from Goliath Corporation (mission statement: to own everything and control everybody), the smitings of a wrathful deity, asteroid collisions, overdue library books, and genetically engineered fake versions of herself.  The reader on this Recorded Books version has done a brilliant job of voicing the many characters and pacing the reading with a deadpan nonchalance.

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How To Sharpen Pencils by David Rees []

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Humorist/artisanal pencil sharpener David Rees carefully guides us through the various #2 sharpening techniques and the history of the famed utilitarian instrument.  The book, half manual/ half comedic piece, is both instructional and hilarious.  Rees provides information on setting up a pencil sharpening workshop, pre-sharpening stretches, fancy pencil sharpening routines and of course, sharpening styles and techniques.

Note: this volume is not recommended for fans of mechanical pencils or electric sharpeners!

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