1. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
“Who would not love an insane hero who muses, ‘I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.’ If you can imagine Don Quixote mixed with [late comic actress] Margaret Dumont, the two of them shaking their fists at the heavens while eating doughnuts, then this 1980 novel will leave you breathless.”
— Suggested by Elayne Boosler, a stand-up comedian and the founder of Tails of Joy, an animal-rescue nonprofit.
2. What’s Not to Love? The Adventures of a Mildly Perverted Young Writer, by Jonathan Ames
“I just devoured this contemporary collection of autobiographical essays, most of which are set in New York City. The author has mastered the art of oversharing about any subject, from puberty to parenthood. He truly holds nothing back, and it makes for a titillating, hilarious read.”
— Suggested by Nikki Glaser, a stand-up comedian and a cohost of the love-advice podcast We Know Nothing.
3. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
“David Sedaris is so brilliant at describing the trivial parts of a day that drive you nuts. So many lines in this book make me laugh. Here is one: ‘My jacket belongs to the restaurant and was offered as a loan by the maître d’, who apparently thought I would feel more comfortable dressed to lead a high school marching band.’”
— Suggested by Angela Kinsey, who is best known as Angela on The Office and will be starring in the upcoming series The Hotwives of Orlando, on Hulu.
4. Meaty, by Samantha Irby
“The book is so honest and relatable. Irby even manages to turn tragedy into humor, and I love that about her. In one of my favorite chapters, she details a sexual escapade gone ‘shitty’ as a result of her Crohn’s disease, an affliction she curses throughout the book.”
— Suggested by Issa Rae, a writer and the creator of the YouTube series The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl.
5. The Will to Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life, by Eugene Mirman
“This book came out several years ago, but I still have it by my bedside. It’s written in the voice of a fake motivational speaker, and if you flip to any page, you’ll immediately see the absurdity. Here’s an example: ‘In America, “qualification” is simply an attitude. I’ve adopted it. So, yes. I am qualified.’”
— Suggested by Mike Birbiglia, a stand-up comedian who is currently on tour.
6. I Killed, by by Ritch Shydner and Mark Schiff
It's a compilation of some great standup stories about comics’ mishaps, losses and victories while out on the road working. I can absolutely relate to it and for every story in the book, I am sure every comedian has at least a dozen themselves.
— Suggested by Steve Byrne, a stand-up comedian and the star of Sullivan & Son, on TBS.
— Reporting by Andra Chantim