Books That Made Us Laugh Out Loud In Public

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Claire Handscombe


Claire Handscombe moved from Europe to DC in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but actually – let’s be honest – because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan, and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives. She also hosts the Brit Lit Podcast, a fortnightly show of news and views from British books and publishing. Blog: the Brit Lit Blog. Twitter: @BookishClaire

Blurbs often claim that a book is “hilarious” or “laugh-out-loud funny.” Usually, though, let’s be honest: they are chucklesome at best. We might smile, or draw a happy face in the margin, or take a picture of an amusing quote so we can post it on social media. But laughing out loud is another thing – especially when we’re in public. Every so often, though, a book really tickles our funny bone, and we can’t keep those giggles inside, no matter where we find ourselves.

Bridget Jones The Edge of ReasonBridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding

I was reading this one on the way home from a trip to Spain more than a decade ago, but I still  vividly remember having to apologise to the girls next to me for constantly laughing out loud. (I’m British; apologies are social currency to us.) I got better at concealing my laughter behind the book, but at one point one of them offered me chewing gum, and when I took the book away from my face to reply, it was obvious I was still giggling. “You were doing so well,” she said. I’m sad that this was before Facebook, because back then strangers remained strangers, and this particular promising friendship never made it to full fruition.

I asked some other Rioters to share books they’ve had laugh-out-loud experiences with.

The Regional Office is Under Attack by Manuel GonzalesThe Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales

There are a handful of nonfiction writers that I can always count on to make me laugh: Chelsea Handler, Sarah Colonna, Periel Aschenbrand, and David Sedaris. But when it comes to fiction it usually doesn’t bring out the LOLs so much as me laughing on the inside. Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to find myself cracking up during some of the fight scenes and especially a bunch of the lines with curses while listening to the audiobook of The Regional Office is Under Attack! From the nod to a Die Hard moment of crawling through the air vents (at least I hope it was an intentional nod) to the satire and ridiculousness I was having a great time and started laughing out loud every time the narrator dropped a perfect f-bomb for emphasis. I may have been outside playing with my dog and since my earphones weren’t visible everyone passing by on bike or walking thought I found my dog retrieving her toy to be hilarious.

Jamie Canaves 

modern romanceModern Romance by Aziz Ansari

The hardcover edition of Modern Romance isn’t exactly slight- it had already attracted more looks my way than I wanted on my morning commute to work by train. Ansari making me laugh out loud every minute didn’t help my case. If you’re reading this having watched Parks and Rec, you begin to imagine his voice in your head narrating the book- Aziz going ‘daaaaaamn’ and ‘oh, shit!’; Aziz talking in all caps; Aziz talking in parenthetical whispers. Modern Romance is a work of extremely acute observational skills, and some of the points Ansari makes with the help of screengrabs of text messages and online dating profiles are exceptionally hilarious. Fortunately, the size of the book also assists in covering one’s giggling face effectively.

Deepali Agarwal

hyperbole and a halfHyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

If you’ve never been to a bachelorette party weekend, you may not know that the mornings are for sitting quietly, drinking coffee, and pretending that the last round of shots the night before was not your idea. It was on one of these mornings-after that I finally opened Allie Brosh’s brilliant Hyperbole and a Half. I started chuckling on page 1. By page 4, I was laughing so hard my friends were astonished and intrigued (and a little annoyed, since I was disrupting their quiet coffee time). Brosh’s illustrated memoir is hilarious and moving – sometimes both – and remains one of my all-time favorite books. I wouldn’t share my copy with anyone that day, but I made up for it by buying a copy for pretty much all of my friends since.  

Trisha Brown

Good OmensGood Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I have always adored Good Omens and it’s wacky cast of characters, but I never had the chance to read it in public until I was on the elliptical at the gym one day last spring. For those who haven’t read it: essentially the story is that an Angel and a Demon working together as frenemies of sorts to stop the Apocalypse, because they enjoy the pleasures of earth far too much for it to end. I specifically remember getting to the part where the demon, Crowley, passive-aggressively threatens his houseplants in order to terrify them enough to grow more beautifully. It’s ridiculous, and I caught myself laughing out loud far too late. Most fellow gym-goers were too involved in their own exercises to notice, but the middle-aged woman on the bike next to my machine couldn’t help but look over at me. Awkward duck that I am, I felt compelled to try to explain the situation… but I think part of the plot got lost in translation. Needless to say, I don’t read Good Omens in public anymore – only in the comfort of my own apartment when I need a good laugh.

Tara Olivero

How about you? What books have made you laugh out loud in public? Tell us in the comments.