Left to right: Knopf Publishing Group, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown and Company, Spiegel & Grau, Crown Publishing Group
Looking for a book that will make you LOL? These five thoughtful and often-hilarious memoirs are some of our all-time favorites when we need a giggle or two.
I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman
Who better to find humor in the indignities of aging than the wisely witty Nora Ephron? Published in 2006 when she was 65, six years before she died from cancer-related pneumonia, Ephron's book is a comic classic that's as sharp, funny and New York-centric as she was. Yes, she talks about her huge successes (writing the screenplay for When Harry Met Sally, for one) and her failures (marrying Carl Bernstein was a disaster), but her focus is on more universal human experiences, including the saggy-neck effect: “Our faces are lies and our necks are the truth,” she writes. “You have to cut open a redwood tree to see how old it is, but you wouldn't if it had a neck."
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood
Noah, the 36-year-old host of The Daily Show, offers a memoir about his rise to success that manages to be both moving and tragic, as well as very funny. He was born to a black mother and a white father in Apartheid South Africa when that was a criminal act; as a result Noah spent most of his childhood hiding indoors to prevent arrest. But with the help of his fierce, ferociously funny mom, his life became an adventure, leading him to America and fame. Yes, parts of the book are heartbreaking (he ate caterpillars to assuage hunger), but it's ultimately a triumphant story of a remarkable man. Note that the audiobook version, narrated by Noah, is wonderful as well. An Audie Award-winner, it offers asides and conversational inflections that add even more life to the author's already vibrant storytelling.
Fey, a self-described “super nerd” who turned 50 in May, is as funny in her best-selling 2011 memoir Bossypants as she was as the beloved Liz Lemon on 30 Rock. In this series of autobiographical essays, she describes her early years working the Chicago improv scene, then conquering the male-centric Saturday Night Live (she was the show's first female head writer), writing the hit movie Mean Girls and more. Sure, she's wildly successful, but her stories are full of such appealing enthusiasm and funny self-deprecation, it's hard not to relate — and wish she were your gal pal. A New York Times review of the megahit said Fey offers “Nora Ephronisms for a new generation,” which is high praise indeed.
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Forever known as the smart, acerbic Princess Leia of Star Wars fame, Fisher's life as depicted in her 2008 memoir was chaotic and troubled, as well as, at times, hilarious. In Wishful Drinking, which was based on her one-woman stage show, the actress chronicles her childhood spent under the hot lights of Hollywood (her parents were the stars Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds), drug use, bipolar disorder, movie and writing career, and dramatic romantic relationships, including with Paul Simon (they dated, married and divorced, then dated again). Spinning pain into comic gold is no easy feat, but Fisher, who died at age 60 in 2016, does it masterfully here.
Simon & Schuster
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)
Kaling, the 41-year-old creator of the television hit, The Mindy Project, is even funnier on the page than she is on the screen. Her best-selling 2011 memoir details her youth; growing up with immigrant parents and dealing with the trauma of being a chubby kid; and her career, which soared after her stint as a writer and actress on the NBC sitcom The Office (she describes trying and failing to get costar Steve Carell to trade snark with her; he was just too darn nice). Warm and conversational, Kaling also points out spots in the book where readers might take a break, in case they need to go get a snack or put the clothes in the dryer. Who wouldn't want to hang out with an author like that?
Penguin Random House