That Will Shakespeare knew a thing or two about writing comedy. ‘Many a true word hath been spoken in jest’ he said, or words to that effect. I concur with the Bard.

I came to pondering the relationship between fiction and comedy thanks to Shepherd.com, a new website for readers and authors. They approached me – among a thousand other authors – to name our favourite books.

I naturally opted for humorous fiction and, after much soul-searching, managed to whittle my choice down to five. How did I choose? First and foremost, of course, the books had to be funny, really funny, with characters that amused and plots that engaged – but not only funny. There had to be something more for the reader to get their teeth into. Not a heavy-handed message, you understand – that would kill the humour – but a subtle use of comedy to present a thought-provoking attitude, opinion or situation.

Compiling the list was a wonderful opportunity to revisit books I’ve enjoyed, and enjoy them all over again. It was also a welcome reminder that funny books don’t have to be trivial or fluffy. In the best of them, I would suggest, humour is laced with poignancy and flights of fancy with hard truths. That’s certainly how I aspire to write, anyway. Heart and humour, laughter and tears.

The best humorous books make you laugh AND make you think.

These are the five books I chose:

  • Reasons to be Cheerful by Nine Stibbe
  • A Very Important Teapot by Steve Sheppard (no relation)
  • A Murder to Die For by Stevyn Colgan
  • Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters by Jane Ions
  • Spencer’s List by Lissa Evans.

You can read my reviews of the five books on my list here.