Vacation might seem like a good time to catch up on all those weighty classics you’ve been meaning to read, but is War and Peace really going to keep you entertained on a long international flight? Instead, treat yourself to some lighter fare—like one of the following funny books guaranteed to make you laugh out loud in your seat. (Ignore any odd looks from your neighbors. They’re just jealous that your book is more enjoyable than theirs.)
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Bill Bryson
You can’t make a list of funny travel books without including something by Bill Bryson, and A Walk in the Woods is perhaps his most beloved work. This classic travelogue of his hike along the Appalachian Trail—and the quirky characters he meets along the way—has been cracking readers up since it was first published more than 20 years ago.
What People Are Saying: “[Bryson] plunges into the wilderness and emerges with a consistently comical account of a neophyte woodsman learning hard lessons about self-reliance. Bryson … carries himself in an irresistibly bewildered manner, accepting each new calamity with wonder and hilarity.” – Publishers Weekly
Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple
In this cleverly formatted novel, a woman goes missing after her 15-year-old daughter asks her parents to take her to Antarctica as a reward for her good grades. While the disappearance of a parent could be a grim premise, Where’d You Go, Bernadette treats its subject matter with a light, deft touch and a hefty dose of humor.
What People Are Saying: “The tightly constructed Where’d You Go, Bernadette is written in many formats—e-mails, letters, F.B.I. documents, correspondence with a psychiatrist and even an emergency-room bill. … Yet these pieces are strung together so wittily that Ms. Semple’s storytelling is always front and center, in sharp focus. You could stop and pay attention to how apt each new format is, how rarely she repeats herself and how imaginatively she unveils every bit of information. But you would have to stop laughing first.” – The New York Times
We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, Samantha Irby
Samantha Irby is willing to write about anything in We Are Never Meeting in Real Life, from family to intimate bodily functions. These essays are raw, refreshingly honest, and occasionally raunchy—but they’ll never fail to make you laugh.
What People Are Saying: “[This is] not a book for those who prefer their writing with a side slice of stirring, poetic lyricism. Nor is it for a reader who bemoans that female writers and comedians are becoming increasingly ‘unladylike.’ Anyone else happy to jump through those hurdles will find a deeply satisfying read on the other side.” – The Irish Times
The Jeeves and Wooster Series, P.G. Wodehouse
Follow hapless young Bertie Wooster as he bumbles his way through a series of misadventures from which only his irreproachable valet, Jeeves, can save him. These characters appear in more than a dozen volumes, including novels and short story collections. Start with one of the most popular novels in the series, The Code of the Woosters—or dive into The Inimitable Jeeves, a collection of some of Jeeves and Wooster’s most hilarious episodes.
What People Are Saying: “What makes Wodehouse wonderful … isn’t the preposterous lunacy of the plots, or even the easy nostalgia of the setting; it is his prose. At the core of all of his stories is the surprise of language at its most flexible, fresh and fun.” – The Guardian
I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race, and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyonce, Michael Arceneaux
In I Can’t Date Jesus, journalist Michael Arceneaux writes humorously and incisively about pop culture, religion, dating, and growing up gay and black in the American South.
What People Are Saying: “Arceneaux has a biting sense of humor, referring to the persistence of Catholic guilt, for example, as ‘the herpes of your conscience,’ and a nasty roommate as ‘land’s answer to Ursula the Sea Witch.’ Arceneaux’s confident voice and unapologetic sense of humor will appeal to fans of Roxane Gay.” – Publishers Weekly
Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
The struggles of 30-something Bridget, a single woman struggling to lose weight and “form a functional relationship with a responsible adult,” feel so real you can’t help but laugh. If you enjoy Bridget Jones’s Diary, consider reading the sequel, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason—which, for my money, is even funnier.
What People Are Saying: “Newspaper columnist Fielding’s first effort, a bestseller in Britain, lives up to the hype: This year in the life of a single woman is closely observed and laugh-out-loud funny.” – Kirkus Reviews
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris
One of America’s favorite humor writers is in peak form in Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, with essays touching on his quirky family, his partner Hugh, and his own embarrassing foibles.
What People Are Saying: “Beneath his sardonic wit, linguistically punchy one-liners and spirited eccentricities of individual characters, is an understated melancholy of fallibility, one that lingers under the occasional bluster and side-splitting laughs that make him a perennial bestseller and public radio fundraiser goldmine. This frail intricacy is easy to gloss over, especially when you’re laughing so hard, but it’s there, tucked away in even the funniest of stories.” – Pop Matters
Saving Fish from Drowning, Amy Tan
Saving Fish from Drowning is about a group of American tourists who embark on an Asian trip that turns into a comedy of errors and cultural misunderstandings. You’ll laugh—and cringe—to see the blunders these tourists make while traveling in a land so different from their own.
What People Are Saying: “Saving Fish from Drowning is engaging and enjoyable. Tan’s warm-hearted humour and characteristically kooky characters serve to keep the reader hooked, while her clear-eyed questioning undercuts a tendency toward whimsical sentimentality.” – The Independent
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, Allie Brosh
The illustrated essays in Hyperbole and a Half, many of which originated on the author’s popular blog of the same name, use wry humor and simple but evocative comics to tackle everything from dogs to depression.
What People Are Saying: “While [Brosh] self-deprecatingly depicts herself in words and art as an odd outsider, we can all relate to her struggles. Rather than laughing at her, you laugh with her. It is no hyperbole to say I love her approach—looking, listening, and describing with the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian.” – Bill Gates
Yes Please, Amy Poehler
This memoir by Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live veteran Amy Poehler offers a smart, funny glimpse into the comedian’s life, from what it’s like to impersonate Hillary Clinton to her experiences of motherhood and divorce.
What People Are Saying: “This is not a treacly self-help book or spiritual guide but rather motivation from a hilarious and kindhearted champion. A wise and winning—and polite—memoir and manifesto.” – Kirkus Reviews
I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats, Francesco Marciuliano
Cat lovers will laugh with delighted recognition at these poems written from the point of view of their furry friends. Here’s an example from I Could Pee on This: “I lick your nose / I lick your nose again / I drag my claws down your eyelids / Oh, you’re up? Feed me.”
What People Are Saying: “This collection of tongue-in-cheek poems, all written by cats, made me alternately chuckle and laugh out loud. With titles like ‘Who Is That on Your Lap?,’ ‘This Is My Chair,’ ‘Kneel Before Me,’ ‘Nudge,’ and ‘Oh Christmas Tree,’ Marciuliano captures cats’ personalities purr-fectly.” – The Conscious Cat
More from SmarterTravel:
- 12 Best New Books to Read on Winter Trips
- 7 New Books You Can Download at the Airport
- 8 Best Travel Books and Their Real-Life Destinations
Follow Sarah Schlichter on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.