Those British mavens of humour are at it again. Fall down funny 'til you die. Even the Queen is amused. They have compiled a "Top Ten Funniest Book List" .
A happy circumstance is that my cherished influence, P.G. Wodehouse, has two books on the list. Tally-ho, say I. Has there ever been a more revered porcine heroine than The Empress of Blandings? She is one swill character.
In addition to being a source of inspiration and entertainment to me, P.G. Wodehouse and I had two brief flutters of interaction. During World War Two (admittedly before my time but it shows how great his influence) my father was with the Canadian Army and stationed in Britain. He was a bookish man (though he volunteered at the age of 31) and among his duties during The Phoney War (and longer) was to tend to the military library. It was during this time that Wodehouse wrote his ill-advised humorous(?) observations about Nazi occupation. He was classed by many as a traitor. His books were removed from many libraries in Britain, but my father refused to do so, saying the worth of the book was not dependant upon the worth of the author. His military masters were not amused.
The other flutter was, before I myself embarked upon the author's trade, I wrote a fan letter to P.G. Wodehouse. By then he was living in Remensburg, part of The Hamptons in New York. And I received a hand-written reply of appreciation and thanks.
As an afterthought: "Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog)" [# 4] is in my top ten of all books.
Top 10 Funniest Books According to AbeBooks.co.uk Customers
- Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse (1933)
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
- Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome (1889)
- Wilt by Tom Sharpe (1976)
- A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
- Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
- The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse (1938)
- Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding (1996)
- Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall by Spike Milligan (1971)
Just one female author, Helen Fielding of Bridget Jones and big knickers infamy, is on the top 10. Most of the main protagonists in the top 10 are also male. Three Men in a Boat still makes readers smile 120 years after publication. Three novels in the 1970s are there as well as a pair of Wodehouse books from the 1930s. Two books about war show their is humor in the worst circumstances. Spike Milligan's Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall was the only piece of non-fiction to make the top 10. Drunken public speaking, pointless bureaucracy and pompous bureaucrats, relationships on the rocks, and insecurity are all prominent themes.
The top 10 funniest books almost certainly reflect the opinions of Britain's Baby Boomer Generation. The humor of Spike Milligan probably means very little to Brits under 35. America's leading humorist, David Sedaris, appears to have made little impact on the UK. Just two people suggested a Sedaris book - When You Are Engulfed in Flames and Barrel Fever - as their funniest read and that was two more than Garrison Keillor received. However, Bill Bryson, an American who lived for many years in the UK, received many mentions for his travel writing.
The AbeBooks poll also asked for suggestions regarding the funniest passage or funniest moment in a book, and predictably the results were extremely diverse with many people finding it tough to identify a single laugh-out-loud passage.
The alcohol-fuelled speeches made in Right Ho, Jeeves and Lucky Jim were identified as passages capable of raising more than just a smile. Wodehouse's story features a drunken Gussie Fink-Nottle speaking at Market Snodsbury Grammar School's prize-giving event.