Book Reviews by Genre: Humor

Born A Crime
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

This story explains what it was like to be born a crime. Trevor Noah is the child of a South African mother and a European father, which in South Africa, was illegal. Trevor has to learn how to stay positive with a racist government in control. This book does an excellent job explaining what it was like to grow up during Apartheid. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book because despite the bad circumstances, this book made me laugh a lot.

Reviewer's Name: Lotus
Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe
Bryson, Bill
3 stars = Pretty Good

Over time, I've found Bill Bryson's books are hit-or-miss for me. I enjoyed his memoir about childhood, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid , and it was A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail that introduced me to Bryson in the first place. However, since then, I've struggled to find something that's lived up to those two books. At Home: A Short History of Private Life came close, but I was really turned off by I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After Twenty Years Away. Ultimately, I hoped Neither Here Nor There would fit the bill, but it disappointed me once again.

Perhaps Bryson's travels in Europe weren't interesting to me because I haven't been over there myself. Most of the details in this book felt like they would only be understood by someone who knew what Bryson was talking about because they had experienced the same thing. I did appreciate the dueling retrospective look at Bryson's life between his younger days to when he was older and wiser, but most of the focus seemed to be on remembering when he was a young man (and all the negative foibles that come with it).

In the end, Neither Here Nor There doesn't really have anything to say. The author went to Europe and visited the same places twice. That's it. For those looking for some deep philosophical examination of Europe or a comparison of how it's better/worse when compared to the United States, you might end up being disappointed. Sure, there's some of that in here, but it's so light that it merely glances off the main plot of the literal traveling of Europe. It probably doesn't help that much of the humor in this book hasn't aged well either.

Bill Bryson's travel log from his trips to Europe, I give Neither Here Nor There 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Alda, Alan
4 stars = Really Good

After reading If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? , I decided to add some other Alan Alda books to my reading list. Months later, I finally got around to listening to the audiobook for Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself. I appreciate that Alda was the narrator, as he already has such a great voice for narration. That being said, there are a few aspects of this book that were likely lost in the translation to audiobook format.

As a celebrity, Alan Alda was invited to speak at many graduation ceremonies for many decades. This book is a collection of some of the speeches he gave at these events. While there are certainly gems of wisdom spread throughout this book, many of the same points are reiterated from speech to speech, making it slightly repetitive after a while. Also, if you don't happen to agree with some of his political views, you might not find some of the speeches particularly interesting. Despite all this, if you can glean some useful advice out of these speeches, then it was worth the read.

One thing I had trouble distinguishing in the audiobook version was where the speeches started and ended and where Alda's reflections and asides started. I would occasionally notice an echo in the recording, which likely indicated that it was one of his speeches. I think the echo was trying to replicate the sensation of listening to Alda in a large space (like the ones used for graduations), but it was so faint as to be indistinguishable from the rest of the book. I appreciate the attention to detail, but it could have been a little stronger.

Some useful graduation advice from Alan Alda, I give Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself 3.5 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin W.
Dave Barry's Greatest Hits
Barry, Dave
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Dave Barry’s slapstick comedy has never been funnier than it is in Dave Barry’s Greatest Hits. It is filled with the funniest columns of his career, and they are certain to please. Barry’s style of humor will make even the sternest of audience chuckle, and it is sure to brighten your day. I enjoyed this book very much, and it has helped me through some stressful times. I would recommend it to anyone in need of a pick me up, or just looking to have a couple laughs.
Reviewer's Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Question
Munroe, Randall
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

What If? by Randall Munroe is an amazing series of completely impossible and extremely strange scientific questions that are answered with complete scientific accuracy, and a bit of humor. Munroe takes questions people ask over the web and applies physics, chemistry, and other sciences to answer the questions. One of my favorite hypotheticals is what would happen if everybody pointed a laser pointer at the moon? Munroe approaches this by slowly increasing power, until the moon’s surface explodes, and it propels itself away from earth. The hilarious and entertaining questions can provide fun for anyone with an interest in science, and I would recommend it to anyone who’s thought of an impossible hypothetical question.
Reviewer Grade: 11

Reviewer's Name: Harrison
Humans: A Brief History of How We F---ed It All Up
Phillips, Tom
4 stars = Really Good

A thoroughly entertaining account of how far modern humans have come and how often they messed it up in groan-worthy ways despite best intentions. Journalist and humor writer Tom Phillips relies on sound scholarship to inform, entertain and maybe demoralize (in a funny way) the reader. Examples run the gamut from a Chinese emperor who stored gunpowder in his palace then hosted a lantern festival, the inadvertent forensics pioneer/lawyer defending an accused murderer who proved to the jury that the victim may have accidentally shot himself by accidentally shooting himself, the Austrian army that attacked itself one drunken night, and other equally spectacular blunders of modern times.

Reviewer's Name: Joe P.
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Alda, Alan
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!


While miscommunication might be the source of conflict for romantic comedies, it’s a much more significant problem in the real world. If people aren’t able to efficiently and accurately communicate with their fellow man, then we all have room for improvement. Scientists and doctors are often the worst offenders, even though their ideas need to be communicated to the world for the advancement of society. Alan Alda has spent years trying to figure out why people are unable to communicate, and he has also figured out what we can do to improve this situation. As a scientist and writer, I feel many of his insights have merit.

I grew up watching Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers, so I know how often he has interacted with scientists. His conclusions that we can all become better communicators through empathy and understanding of our audience makes sense. I dabbled in improvisational theatre a little in college as I was studying to earn my Masters in Mechanical Engineering. Having first-hand experience of successfully improvising, I always touted its benefits for technical professions. Now I know why. When we synchronize with others, our message has a much better chance of being communicated.

As if to prove his point, this book is not necessarily a scientific account of the research, but merely a personal (and relatable) set of anecdotal stories that should open people’s eyes to the potential communicators trapped within each of us. We all have to communicate on some level, whether it’s orally or written, so if we can all improve our communication skills by learning to empathize with others, maybe society could one day be able to hold civil and vigorous debates without instantly devolving into mud-slinging contests.

A must-read for anyone who communicates (i.e., everyone), I give If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? 5.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Bob, Not Bob!
Scanlon, Liz Garton
4 stars = Really Good

For the parent, teacher or librarian who loves a good read aloud that can only be done with "the voices" - this is your book. A boy with a cold in his head calls for his mom, but it sounds like "Bob," and of course his dog, Bob, comes running instead. Hilarious situations will tickle reader and listener alike in Bob, Not Bob! by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick with pictures by Matthew Cordell. For ages 3 - 7.

Reviewer's Name: Barb
Book Review: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Sedaris, David
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

David Sedaris truly does not disappoint in his autobiography, When You’re Engulfed in Flames. The way that he is able to express himself while being true to his own story is amazing. He takes a normal self-discovery story and adds enough detail and personal insight, that it makes it one of the most entertaining books that I have ever read. I can see, however, that this is not the book for everyone. It uses quite a bit of vulgar language, discusses about adult topics, and talks about multiple controversial subjects (political subjects in our nation). It has a very liberal feel, and would most likely not appeal as much to strict conservatives. But, nonetheless, a book is a book, and this one was extremely well written and hilarious. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud in quiet environments. The wit that David Sedaris has is impeccable and one of a kind and constantly present throughout the book.
I initially picked up this book because it was given to me as a gift. The gift giver had not read the book but had just seen the exquisite artwork on the cover and knew it was going to be good. Since then, I have recommended this book to so many who want a quick, funny, uplifting read. And that is why I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading self narratives with a humorous twist.

Reviewer's Name: Emma K.
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Noah, Trevor
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Trevor Noah's autobiography, which focuses on his childhood in South Africa, gives audiences a funny yet insightful look into life in South Africa before and after apartheid. The book is also a compelling mother-and-son love story. Noah's astute and comedic storytelling makes "Born a Crime" is a very smart and enjoyable read.

Reviewer's Name: Melina
I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories From the Stacks
Sheridan, Gina
4 stars = Really Good

Of course I loved this book since I too work in a public library. Most of the stories, I have experienced from time to time. And could probably add a few! But I am so glad, that no one has ever taken off their shoe and asked me if their foot was inflamed or infected!! LOL! Now that I have said this, it is probably going to happen. But anyway, this is a great book for anyone who wants to know what it is like to work in a public library. Along with the crazy, funny stories, there are some nice ones where someone's life was changed for the better because of the library. That makes the job at the Reference Desk worth it!

Reviewer's Name: Melissa
Toy figurines of Mayflower pilgrims and their boats
Vowell, Sarah
3 stars = Pretty Good

This book takes a look at the lives of the early Puritans that crossed over to make a better life for themselves in America. While that topic doesn't immediately scream, "Read me!" I was forced to read it for school, and I actually really enjoyed myself. The author, Sarah Vowell, has this dry sense of humor that makes her long explanations about the technicalities of the religion and of how society worked back then interesting while still informing you of the topic and the message she is trying to put across. I think whether I would recommend this book depends on who wants to read it. If you are someone who is looking for a non-fiction novel that gives a different perspective to what is generally taught in history classrooms, I say go for it. If not, you might still enjoy it simply because the author is hysterical, but that might not be the case if you are not interested in learning about the actual topic.

Reviewer: Grade 11

Reviewer's Name: Gabrielle K.
Instant Mom
Vardalos, Nia
4 stars = Really Good

Fans of Vardalos get a behind the scenes look at her (generally not-so) glamorous Hollywood life -- and a personal tale about her struggles with infertility and foster-adoption that transformed her in to the "Instant Mom" of the title. While most parents on this journey don't have to negotiate with the entertainment press, Nia's story is funny, sweet, and deeply relatable. She is currently an Adoption Ambassador for the Adoption Council of Canada (and the book does include some information for those starting their family adoption journey) but the story stays close to home, close to the heart, and is a charming personal tale of her family's origins.

Reviewer's Name: Rebecca O.
Live Right and Find Happiness
Barry, Dave
3 stars = Pretty Good

I grew up on the humor writings of Dave Barry. Each week I’d take his humor
column to school and read it to my friends during my lunch break, laughing at
his comedic style and funny topics. Consequently, I found myself enthralled
by his books, each one leaving me in stitches due to his observational humor
of the weird world around us (or at least around Miami, Florida). I was
saddened when he decided to retire from writing these weekly humor columns.
As such, each time he releases a new book full of his writings (mainly essays
now), I usually pick it up out of habit.

While I can usually blow through one of Dave Barry’s books in a couple
hours, I’m finding that I’m not nearly as amused as I used to be. It
could be that I’ve grown up a bit and no longer find boogers as funny as I
once did, but I think the issue lies at a deeper level of Dave’s writing.
Where his previous books written during his heyday were all essentially
centered around a common theme (Cyberspace, Japan, Aging, Home Repair, etc.)
recently his books have been whatever he’s done most recently. The problem
this creates is that each of the individual essays of the book is disjointed
from all the other ones.

Essentially, even though it would mean a much longer hiatus from Mr.
Barry’s humorous writing, I would enjoy his “themed” essay collections
more than the ones he’s put forward in most recent three books. In fact, he
could probably categorize them into three different books about international
travel, teenage daughters, and current homeland topics. As it is right now,
I’ll probably still buy Dave Barry’s books, but I’m not laughing as
much as I used to.

Another adequate collection of humorous essays by Dave Barry, I give Live
Right and Find Happiness 3.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Modern Romance
Ansari, Aziz
4 stars = Really Good

I was honestly surprised by this book. As has been the case with most
comedians and the books they have written, I expected this to be a bit of an
autobiography in the veins of Bossypants , Yes Please , The Bassoon King: My
Life in Art, Faith, and Idiocy , and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Instead, I was presented with a book filled with data, analysis, and
information about how modern relationships work when compared with the
relationships of past generations. Having gone through some of this “Modern
Romance” myself, I could certainly relate to the information being
presented, nodding my head in agreement as things I noticed suddenly had
explanations pinned to them.

But it wasn’t that the book was not an autobiography that surprised me, it
was the humorous way that Aziz Ansari managed to present this subject matter,
while also maintaining high scientific rigor. If I were to put this in a
category of non-fiction humor, it would probably be in the vein of I Am
America but without the tongue-in-cheek satire. Maybe I’m even wrong in
this characterization and it should fall under the collections of humor
around a single topic, like the works of Dave Barry. Either way, this book
was informative and not judgmental in the slightest. It was merely presenting
the facts that had been discovered, but in such a way that made me laugh
about the whole situation.

For those people who are in relationships, want to be in relationships, or
who just want to play the singles game, this book is an optimistic look at
what has changed, what is likely becoming the “norm”, and what we should
all expect from relationships in the future. Simply put, the smartphone has
complicated the world of romance, but it has also given a lot of benefit to
those who know how to use it as a tool to get what they want out of life. I
would almost encourage Ansari to continue writing books like this, because
his humor has made a somewhat dry subject a lot more palatable.

A great book that explores why the dating scene is so different now, I give
Modern Romance 4.0 stars out of 5.

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin M. Weilert
Where's My Jetpack? A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future That Never Arrived
Wilson, Daniel H.
4 stars = Really Good

Some of the best science fiction ever written was strangely prescient with its predictions on how the world would advance, technologically. One of the best examples of this was Jules Verne in his story From the Earth to the Moon. Not only did he figure out what it would take to get away from Earth’s gravity, he predicted that the launch site would be in Florida. Ever since then, we have looked to the authors of science fiction to tell us what could be possible in the future of tomorrow.

Unfortunately, some of these predictions weren’t quite realistic. While jetpacks and moon colonies sound cool in the pages of a fictional book, they just aren’t practical in reality. Still, our childlike wonder and innovation tried its best to create what the science fiction authors of yore dreamt up. In Where’s My Jetpack?, Daniel H. Wilson does his best to explain where all these fantastical inventions and concepts are in their process toward being fully realized. But don’t worry about this being a stuffy tome full of complicated science. Wilson does a good job infusing humor with his research, which helps to show how ridiculous some of these ideas really are.

My one challenge with this book came with the fact that it was published back in 2007. It’s been 10 years since this book came out and now much of its research is either naively optimistic or didn’t pan out. What’s perhaps even more exciting is being aware of the technological developments that have made some of the impossibilities mentioned in this book at least somewhat plausible. Consequently, it’s best to read this book as a snapshot in the technological timeline that is our current reality.

A humorous look at the amazing technological developments inspired by sci-fi, I give Where’s My Jetpack? 4.0 stars out of 5.

For more reviews of books and movies like this, please visit

Reviewer's Name: Benjamin
Book Review: Yes Please
Poehler, Amy
3 stars = Pretty Good

I don't recommend this book to anyone completely stressed out. Amy Poehler is crazy busy and manic in her daily life. That's fine for her, but I was reading it during a stressful/manic period of my life and it wigged me out. Although it's a bit scatterbrained, it is a good book about her life with some very famous improv groups and tv shows.

Reviewer's Name: vfranklyn
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman
West, Lindy
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

If you aren't familiar with Lindy West, she is most famous for being a feminist on the internet... which is a lot harder than it sounds. After writing for The Stranger (Seattle's version of The Independent), Lindy went to work for Jezebel, where she became internet famous for writing about women's issues unapologetically. Because the internet can be a terrible place, and because she is not only a woman, but a fat woman, this led to her getting trolled on an EPIC level. Google "Lindy West trolls" (or, you know, just read this book) and prepare to be horrified. Shrill is the story of how all of it happens.

This was, by far, my favorite non-fiction read of 2016. It definitely blows away any other funny lady memoir I've ever read (and I LOVED Amy Poehler's and Tina Fey's books). West talks about really important issues (body image, puberty, abortion, sex, love, feminism) in a frank but funny tone. I listened to the book with my husband, and the narration (done by West) makes the raw moments more powerful and the funny moments more hilarious - it was spot on. We found ourselves stopping the book every 15 minutes or so to discuss. Lindy takes on rape jokes, fat shaming and internet trolls with a touch of vulnerability and a ton of hilarity, and I DARE you to try to read this book and not learn something about humanity in the process.

Ladies, this is a must read. Men who have ever met a woman, this is a must read. Trolls, THIS IS A MUST READ. As you've likely gathered, I feel that is a must read for pretty much everyone (though there is some "adult" content - see above re: sex, rape jokes, etc). If the best books make you feel something, then this is one of the best books: I laughed, I cried, I raged. 5 unreserved stars. I've already bought a copy for my mother.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo
Schumer, Amy
3 stars = Pretty Good

For whatever reason, I've read a lot of comedian/actor memoirs in the last few years, and this one has pretty similar fare as to what you'd find in, say, a Mindy Kaling or Tina Fey offering. For me, it's in the middle of the pack in terms of quality (Bossypants > Lower Back Tattoo > either of Kalings's books), but was still an interesting, funny listen. It's part anecdotes, part advice, part social commentary, and part random page filler. For instance, one chapter is her fictional funeral rider, which, while it was kind of funny, was mostly a waste of my time. In this book, Schumer's at her best when she's a little raw - telling a sad/funny story and just letting it be what it is.

Even though I mostly enjoyed the book, the editing was not so great. Schumer calls part of the female anatomy by the wrong name for the entirety of the book. I can't believe that no one noticed that. Also, she was constantly saying "remember earlier in the book when" which you know, yes, we do remember, we're capable of basic memory recall. The persistent references to earlier chapters made me think that she maybe thought this book was going to be read by 8-year-olds or something when they were clearly not the target audience.

I mean, if I learned anything from this book about Schumer herself, it's that she's kind of a ridiculous person. For example, in one chapter, she talks about her "genetic predisposition" to black out whilst drinking, and then she lists the drinks she would normally have on a night out in college:

2 beers while pregaming followed by
4 vodka martinis straight up or a little dirty
Various other drinks

It's not genetics, Schumer, it's the martinis.

With that being said, I do admire her courage in telling stories that were real and painful for her, especially since those stories might offer some solace for people in similar situations, or may help young women avoid those situations entirely. I also like that she's found a cause (gun violence, particularly as it pertains to women), and she isn't shy about sharing the facts or her opinions in the book. Overall, I found the book to be an enjoyable listen, and it helped pass the time on a longish car trip. 3 stars.

Reviewer's Name: Britt
Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir)
Lawson, Jenny
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!

Jenny Lawson’s memoir is heart wrenching and laugh-out loud funny, especially if you have been touched by friends or family dealing with mental health challenges. I listened to it in the car and nearly drove off the road laughing.
Jenny knows she has problems and this is her story of how they carved out the details of her life – from her taxidermist father to Victor, her husband, and everything in between. Her stream of consciousness storytelling style is perfect. I could relate to, and actually picture, the absurdity of many of her stories. It was enlightening to see life through the eyes of the person dealing with the severe anxiety, depression and other quirks, and not just from an outsider’s viewpoint, thinking “What’s WRONG with you?”
I felt better knowing there are others that are dealing with the same mental health issues and that my family and I are not alone. You will probably put your family back on the normal and sane spectrum after reading this. I didn't care for some of the language that was strewn through the book, but it is part of the culture.

Reviewer's Name: Robin