he actual sound of an “lol” is dead silence or a small puff of air through the nostrils. In the 12 years I’ve been sending texts I know this to be categorically true. Sometimes, when I’m watching a movie by myself, I’ll think, This is hilarious, without so much as a smirk. It sounds vaguely psychopathic, but laughter is largely a social signal — we do it to connect and communicate with others. I laugh far more at a live comedy show, for example, than when I watch comedy clips on YouTube. When I’m alone, it takes something really funny to make me laugh out loud. When I do, it’s a delightfully strange experience.
For this season’s MR Book Club, I asked the Man Repeller team to think of a book that made them genuinely laugh out loud. Scroll down to see our picks and then tell us yours, too.
by Sloane Crosley
Recommended by: Edith Young
Genre: Nonfiction essays
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: A compendium of amusing and sometimes strange/serendipitous/cosmic snippets from Crosley’s experiences in New York City and beyond.
Why it made her laugh: Excerpts like these: “In Chelsea, I lived above a piano player, who practiced scales. When I could stand it no longer, I sheepishly knocked on his door. He apologized and vowed never to practice scales in the house again. Which is how I wound up listening to ‘I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy’ every day for a year.”
How she heard about it: I went to Sloane Crosley’s talk at The Wing recently where she read from her new book and gracefully answered all the crowd member’s questions about her craft (though my first encounter with her was on Man Repeller’s Oh Boy podcast!).
by Kevin Kwan
Recommended by: Louisiana Gelpi
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: It’s about these crazy rich (haha) families in Singapore and the gossip and drama that occurs when the boy from one of the families brings home his American-born Chinese girlfriend to the wedding of the season.
Why it made her laugh: I’m from Singapore, so it was really entertaining to read about since the nuances and things they do and talk about in the book are so spot on.
How she heard about it: My mom actually read this book years ago, when it first came out, but I only read it once I heard they were making a movie. (I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
by David Mitchell
Recommended by: Jasmin Aujla
Genre: Nonfiction essays
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: There isn’t so much of a plot as it is David Mitchell picking on a topic, from travel to TV to Brexit, and going in on it in his uniquely dry, funny, but also very smart way. It’s not a new book but I just love it and him.
Why it made her laugh: Have you ever watched Peep Show? It’s written by the same guy, so it’s the style of typically British humor that I truly love more than anything. He walks the fine line between sarcasm and cynicism to just moaning about everything, but he does it perfectly.
How she heard about it: By being a fan of David Mitchell and his work.
by Tiffany Haddish
Recommended by: Nikki Bent
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: Disclaimer: I’m still reading it! The book is full of Tiffany’s personal stories. While the topics themselves are sometimes somber, she finds a way to crack hilarious jokes on every page.
Why it made you laugh: Each story is told like a good joke with a solid setup and punchline.
How I heard about it: I was hanging out with a friend who LOVES Tiffany Haddish and could not believe I didn’t know who she was. After a few YouTube clips, I was hooked and bought the book. Also worth reading: Caity Weaver’s amazing GQ profile on her, a.k.a. the source of the “who bit Beyoncé” controversy.
by Tina Fey
Recommended by: Amelia Diamond
Genre: Nonfiction essays
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: It’s a collection of essays about Tina Fey’s life (and how she came to be, essentially) that somehow read like your own personal collection of essays, even if you have no recollection of any of the things she’s going on about. She talks about her childhood, her career trajectory, her creative process, what it’s like being a woman in power who is constantly reminded of that female qualifier, the lows that come with the highs of being Tina Fey in general, how she “deals” with all of it — and all of it in such a way that, when you finish a chapter, you want to be her best friend even more than you did when you began, but also, you feel comforted. And inspired!
Why it made her laugh: I haven’t read this book since 2011 so specifics don’t stand out, but I remember laughing out loud so hard during a trip home for Christmas that my mom came downstairs to check on me. She has a way of making every single thing — even the pretty depressing or shitty-at-the-time-things seem funny.
How she heard about it: I think it was everywhere at the time!
by Douglas Adams
Recommended by: Ashley Hamilton
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: Earth is destroyed to make way for an intergalactic highway and now, Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect are on a journey through space.
Why it made her laugh: I’ve never been a science fiction person but this book was recommended to me so many times I had to pick it up. This book is so far beyond what I typically read. The characters and situations are completely absurd and this book catches you off guard with every single turn.
How she heard about it: Everywhere.
by David Rakoff
Recommended by: Leandra Medine
Genre: Nonfiction essays
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: Essays from a shrewdly intelligent and wildly hilarious observer of Earth (which lost him too soon) about the idiosyncrasies of both being human and a gay Jew from Canada living in New York.
Why it made her laugh: In one essay, the fiercely uninitiated Rakoff attends Paris Fashion Week during couture season for a glossy magazine that assigns him a feature profile on Karl Lagerfeld. The way in which he describes the experience and the conversation is slap-your-knee-until-it-turns-red funny.
How she heard about it: When I was on my own book tour four years ago, I basically picked up every book in the humorous essays section of McNally Jackson to keep me busy while on planes, on trains and in automobiles. This was one of them. Once you’re done, I’d recommend Don’t Get Too Comfortable, also by Rakoff.
by Alida Nugent
Recommended by: Emily Zirimis
Genre: Nonfiction essays
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: A post-grad talks about the struggles of trying to find a job while living at home with her parents.
Why it made her laugh: It’s the most relatable book I’ve come across in terms of being someone who a) had recently graduated college, b) was looking for a job, c) was living at home with her parents, and d) was swimming in student loan debt, all while being sarcastic and self-deprecating. I love how real she is about being a broke student. Quote from the book: “A few years ago, I graduated college, diploma in one hand, margarita in the other, completely oblivious to the shit storm that was coming my way. Here’s a preview: becoming a living, breathing, job-having, bill-paying, responsible adult? Really fucking difficult.”
How she heard about it: I started following her on Twitter forever ago while I was still in college.
by Samantha Irby
Recommended by: Nora Taylor
Genre: Nonfictions essays
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: It’s a series of essays about love, sex, loss and publicly pooping.
Why it made her laugh: The writing is just so sharp and vulnerable, it’s like a hilarious master class on how to tell a story. Irby is unflinchingly honest about the good and bad, and her razor-sharp observations make her _very_ specific anecdotes universal. Her willingness to take things that most people would never tell a soul about and turn them into gold is pretty inspiring.
How she heard about it: I started reading her blog Bitches Gotta Eat a million years ago and have been obsessed (I stopped her on the street once) ever since.
by Roald Dahl
Recommended by: Harling Ross
Genre: Children’s literature
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: George, the protagonist, is staying with his grandmother while his mother goes shopping. His grandmother happens to be quite a grump (she’s always complaining, never smiles, etc.) In typical Roald Dahl fashion, things take a twisted yet hilarious turn when George decides to poison her…
Why it made her laugh: Once George administers his “marvelous medicine” a.k.a. poison (it includes everything from brown shoe polish to anti-freeze) to his grandmother, chaos ensues, and it’s very, very funny. My dad read this book to my sisters and me when we were kids and I have vivid memories of us laughing so hard we literally cried.
How she heard about it: My dad (he read us all the Roald Dahl books).
by Trevor Noah
Recommended by: Patty Carnevale
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: A coming-of-age story from someone whose very existence was against the law under apartheid. I was already a little in love with Trevor Noah (hilarious host of The Daily Show), but after reading his story I’m absolutely in awe of his mom Patricia Nombuyiselo Noah.
Why it made her laugh: There are many scenes that made me smile, chuckle, shake my head, hold my hand over my heart, but there is one that moved me to outright laughter and one that moved me to full-blown tears. The former takes place in Chapter 3, when he takes a shit at his grandma’s house. I’ll leave it at that. ENJOY!
How she heard about it: A friend invited me to see Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Trevor Noah be interviewed at the PEN America Festival last year. It was incredible, and we received both Born a Crime and Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions to take home. Highly recommend both.
by Meaghan O’Connell
Recommended by: Haley Nahman
Synopsis that won’t give away the plot: Meaghan O’Connell and her fiance are living in New York and on the precipice of pursuing a bunch of personal goals — that definitely don’t involve a child — when she gets pregnant by accident. This book follows the journey from her boobs mysteriously hurting to her becoming the mother she didn’t feel ready to be.
Why it made me laugh: I’ve been following Meaghan’s writing for a long time — from back when she was just posting on a Tumblr blog to when she started writing for tons of different online publications. Her Tinyletter newsletter is the only one I read consistently and right away. Her writing is hilarious, honest, insightful and also just plain good.
How I heard about it: From her whining about how hard it is to write a book on her newsletter for literal years. <3
Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.