Deciding whether one book is funnier than another is, of course, a completely subjective judgement. I’m aware that no two people have same taste and that anyone – myself included – could easily come up with a list of five other books that are equally funny. But this is the definitive list, and it is correct.
Unreliable Memoirs – Clive James
James’ stories of growing up in Australia. Everyone used to tell me how funny this was but I refused to read it because I thought I’d be disappointed. Believe the hype.
Best bit: James and a couple of schoolfriends are watching a couple get it on in the long grass when one of his friends decides to fire a home made bow and arrow:
‘It would have been bad enough if the man had stood up with one hand holding the arrow and the other holding his behind. Unfortunately it was the woman.’
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
World War II madness. Pretty much everyone in the world has this on their favourite books list and they’re all right.
Best bit: Milo Minderbinder (of the US airforce) has agreed a contract with the Germans to bomb his own base.
‘Milo, this is Alvin Brown. I’ve finished dropping my bombs. What should I do now?’
‘Strafe,’ said Milo.
‘Strafe?’ Alvin Brown was shocked.
‘We have no choice,’ Milo informed him resignedly. ‘It’s in the contract.’
‘Oh, ok, then,’ Alvin Brown acquiesced. ‘In that case I’ll strafe.’
England, Their England – Archie Macdonell
A Scotsman is commissioned to right a book about the English. He researches his subject by hanging with the 1920s upper classes – probably the funniest of the lot.
Best bit: The hero Donald Cameron is invited to play cricket alongside the famous Boone, a Cambridge Blue at cricket.
‘Off his first ball the massive Cambridge Blue was easily stumped, having executed a movement that aroused the professional admiration of the Ancient who was leaning upon his scythe.
‘Donald was puzzled that so famous a player should play so execrable a shot until it transpired that a wrong impression had been created and that the famous Boone had gained his Blue at Cambridge for rowing and not for cricket.’
Adolf Hitler, My Part In His Downfall – Spike Milligan
The first of Milligan’s epic war memoirs. Not the best of the series, but the funniest.
Best bit: ‘How it all began.’
‘The last minutes of peace ticking away. Father and I were watching mother dig our aid raid shelter. “She’s a great little woman,” he said. “And getting all the time,” I added. Two minutes later a man called Neville Chamberlain who did Prime Minister impressions spoke on the wireless; he said, “As of eleven o’clock we are at war with Germany.” (I loved the WE).’
Bear V. Shark – Chris Bachelder
America becomes obsessed with a fight between a bear and a shark in a fantastic satire of modern media.
Best bit: The book’s premise tells you all you need to know…
‘Given a relatively level playing field – i.e. water deep enough so that a Shark could manoeuvre proficiently, but shallow enough so that a Bear could stand and operate with its characteristic dexterity – who would win a fight between a Bear and a Shark?’