22 of the Funniest Novels Since ‘Catch-22’

This is one of the 305 lists we use to generate our main The Greatest Books list.

  • The Wig by Charles Wright

    This book is a poignant exploration of African American life and identity through the lens of its young protagonist, Lester Jefferson. Set against the backdrop of the 1960s, the narrative delves into Lester's journey of self-discovery and the societal pressures he faces. With humor and sensitivity, the story addresses themes of poverty, racism, and the quest for personal dignity. Lester's transformation, symbolized by his acquisition of a wig, serves as a powerful metaphor for the complexities of racial identity and the desire for acceptance in a rapidly changing America. Through Lester's eyes, readers are offered a unique and insightful perspective on the struggles and resilience of the African American community during a tumultuous era.

    The 9163rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth

    The novel is a first-person narrative, a monologue by a young Jewish man, Alexander Portnoy, who is speaking to his psychoanalyst. He shares his struggles with his identity as a Jewish man in America, his sexual fantasies and frustrations, his complex relationship with his overbearing mother, and his experiences of guilt and shame. The book uses humor and frank language to explore themes of identity, sexuality, and the Jewish experience in America.

    The 151st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Oreo by Fran Ross

    This novel is a satirical and bold exploration of identity, following the journey of a young biracial girl as she navigates the complexities of her heritage. Born to a Jewish father and an African American mother, the protagonist embarks on a quest to find her estranged father, using her wit, her unique cultural background, and a secret guidebook passed down from her grandmother. Along the way, she encounters a variety of eccentric characters and experiences that challenge societal norms and stereotypes, all while showcasing the protagonist's sharp humor and intelligence. The book is a comedic and poignant commentary on race, ethnicity, and the search for self in a world obsessed with labels.

    The 1836th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin

    "Tales of the City" is a collection of interconnected stories set in 1970s San Francisco, focusing on the lives and experiences of a diverse group of residents living in the same apartment complex. The narrative explores various themes such as love, friendship, sexuality, and identity, providing a vivid snapshot of life in this iconic city during a transformative period of social change. The book is known for its candid portrayal of LGBTQ+ characters and issues, a groundbreaking approach at the time of its publication.

    The 600th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Mrs. Caliban by Rachel Ingalls

    In this darkly whimsical novel, the mundane life of a lonely housewife is upended when she befriends a humanoid sea creature that has escaped from a research facility. As their unlikely romance blossoms, the protagonist must navigate the complexities of love, betrayal, and the yearning for connection amidst the backdrop of suburban ennui. This surrealist tale blends elements of fantasy with poignant social commentary, challenging the boundaries between reality and imagination while exploring the depths of human emotion and the consequences of societal norms.

    The 8611th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

    The book is a humorous and touching glimpse into the life and mind of a British adolescent boy, navigating the challenges of teenage life. Written in diary format, the protagonist grapples with everything from acne, unrequited love, school bullies, family issues, and his aspirations of becoming an intellectual. His misinterpretations of the adult world around him, coupled with his overly serious and introspective nature, provide plenty of comedy and make for an endearing and relatable coming-of-age story.

    The 712th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Heartburn by Nora Ephron

    The book is a witty and autobiographical novel that follows the life of Rachel Samstat, a pregnant food writer living in Washington D.C., who discovers her husband is having an affair with another woman. As her marriage crumbles, Rachel must navigate the complexities of love, betrayal, and heartache, all while dealing with her own impending motherhood. Through a blend of humor and pathos, the protagonist uses her sharp wit and passion for cooking to cope with her personal turmoil, sharing recipes and reflections along the way, ultimately finding strength and self-discovery amidst the chaos of her dissolving relationship.

    The 4893rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • Money by Martin Amis

    "Money" is a darkly humorous novel that follows the life of John Self, a hedonistic, self-destructive director of commercials, as he navigates the excesses and depravities of 1980s New York and London. His life is filled with overindulgence in food, alcohol, drugs, and women, leading to a downward spiral of self-destruction. The novel is a satire on the excesses of capitalism and the obsession with wealth and materialism, and it also explores themes of identity, self-loathing, and the destructive power of addiction.

    The 323rd Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker

    The book is a stream-of-consciousness narrative that delves into the thoughts of a young office worker during his lunch-hour escalator ride back to the mezzanine floor of his office building. In this brief journey, the protagonist reflects on various aspects of modern life, from the design of milk cartons to the intricacies of shoelaces. The novel is notable for its meticulous attention to the minutiae of everyday life and its exploration of the inner workings of the protagonist's mind, revealing the complexity and profundity that can be found in the most ordinary of moments.

    The 3684th Greatest Book of All Time
  • A Far Cry From Kensington by Muriel Spark

    Set in 1950s London, the novel follows the experiences of Mrs. Hawkins, a plump, intelligent, and perceptive war widow who works in the publishing industry. Residing in a boarding house in Kensington, she becomes embroiled in the lives of her eccentric fellow residents and colleagues. As she dispenses wisdom and navigates the peculiarities of post-war London society, Mrs. Hawkins finds herself involved in a series of events that lead her to confront a sinister figure exploiting the vulnerabilities of the literary world. The narrative is a blend of mystery, humor, and insight, offering a sharp critique of the publishing industry and a compassionate look at human foibles.

    The 2928th Greatest Book of All Time
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

    The novel is a disturbing and graphic exploration of the mind of a wealthy, young and handsome Wall Street investment banker who is also a psychopathic serial killer. He leads a double life, appearing to be a charming and sophisticated businessman by day, while indulging in horrific acts of violence and murder by night. The narrative provides a satirical critique of 1980s American consumer culture, vanity, and excess, while also delving into the dark underbelly of human nature.

    The 401st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

    The book is a humorous and honest portrayal of a single woman's life in London. The protagonist, a 30-something year old woman, struggles with her weight, smoking, and alcohol consumption, all while trying to navigate her love life and career. The story is told through her personal diary entries, which include her daily calorie counts, number of cigarettes smoked, and other personal anecdotes. It's a modern take on romantic relationships and self-improvement, with a healthy dose of comedy.

    The 741st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Quick And The Dead by Joy Williams

    This novel is a darkly comic exploration of life, death, and morality, set in the deserts of the American Southwest. It follows the intertwined lives of three teenage girls, each dealing with their own personal losses and existential questions. The narrative delves into themes of environmental degradation, the absurdity of the human condition, and the search for meaning in a seemingly indifferent universe. Through its vividly drawn characters and landscapes, the story examines the thin line between the quick (the living) and the dead, offering a poignant reflection on the nature of existence.

    The 5876th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris

    "Then We Came To The End" is a satirical novel that follows the lives of a group of advertising agency employees during a time of layoffs and uncertainty in the early 2000s. The story is told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator and explores the dynamics of office politics, relationships, and the struggle to maintain a sense of purpose and identity in the face of corporate downsizing. The novel is a witty and insightful commentary on modern work culture and the human condition.

    The 6401st Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

    This novel tells the story of Oscar de Leon, an overweight Dominican boy growing up in New Jersey who is obsessed with science fiction, fantasy novels, and falling in love, but is perpetually unlucky in his romantic endeavors. The narrative not only explores Oscar's life but also delves into the lives of his family members, each affected by the curse that has plagued their family for generations. The book is a blend of magical realism and historical fiction, providing a detailed account of the brutal Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic and its impact on the country's people and diaspora.

    The 391st Greatest Book of All Time
  • I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett

    This novel is a satirical and surreal journey through the life of its protagonist, Not Sidney Poitier, a young black man who bears an uncanny resemblance to the famous actor Sidney Poitier. Despite his wealth inherited from his mother, Not Sidney faces a series of bizarre and racially charged adventures across the American South, which mirror plots of Sidney Poitier’s films. Through encounters with characters both absurd and malevolent, the narrative explores themes of identity, race, and society’s expectations, all while blurring the lines between reality and fiction, and questioning the very nature of existence and personal agency.

    The 10501st Greatest Book of All Time
  • Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt

    This novel presents a satirical exploration of American capitalism and sexual politics through the story of a struggling salesman who invents an outrageous solution to sexual harassment in the workplace. His idea, which involves anonymous sexual encounters through a specially designed contraption to relieve male employees' urges without involving personal interactions, becomes a surprising success. As the protagonist navigates the complexities of patenting and marketing his invention, the narrative delves into themes of morality, exploitation, and the absurdity of corporate culture, all while maintaining a sharp, comedic edge. The book challenges readers to consider the lengths to which society will go to address symptoms rather than underlying issues, wrapped in a story that is both outlandish and thought-provoking.

    The 10540th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Pym by Mat Johnson

    This novel is a satirical adventure that delves into themes of race, identity, and the pursuit of the American Dream, all while paying homage to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket." The story follows an African American professor who, after losing his job, becomes obsessed with Poe's only novel. Convinced that the story might be more fact than fiction, he assembles an all-Black crew and sets out on an expedition to the Antarctic. There, they encounter a bizarre landscape filled with strange creatures, a lost civilization, and the ultimate realization of America's racial dynamics. Through a blend of humor, social commentary, and surreal adventure, the narrative explores the complexities of racial identity and cultural heritage.

    The 10540th Greatest Book of All Time
  • The Sellout by Paul Beatty

    This satirical novel follows the story of an African-American man living in a small, agrarian town on the outskirts of Los Angeles. After his father's death, he attempts to reinstate slavery and segregation in his town as a means of creating a sense of identity for himself and his community. The novel explores themes of racial identity and equality in America, challenging societal norms and expectations through its provocative narrative.

    The 1184th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Private Citizens by Tony Tulathimutte

    This novel is a biting and astute satire set in the late 2000s, capturing the lives of four Stanford graduates as they navigate the complexities of adulthood in San Francisco. With sharp wit and keen observation, the narrative delves into the personal and professional challenges these individuals face, from startup culture and activism to personal insecurities and romantic entanglements. The story offers a vivid exploration of ambition, morality, and identity in the digital age, presenting a nuanced portrayal of a generation caught between idealism and cynicism.

    The 10636th Greatest Book of All Time
  • My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

    The novel follows the life of a young, beautiful, and wealthy woman living in New York City who decides to enter a year of drug-induced sleep to escape her disillusionment with life and the world around her. Encouraged by her eccentric, unethical psychiatrist, she spends most of her time sleeping, waking only to eat, watch movies, and occasionally socialize with her best friend. The book explores themes of depression, alienation, and the search for meaning in a modern, materialistic society.

    The 5309th Greatest Book of All Time
  • Lake Of Urine by Guillermo Stitch

    This novel is a darkly comedic and surreal exploration of the lives of two sisters, Nagomi and Bernardette, who navigate a bizarre and oppressive world dominated by eccentric characters and absurd societal norms. Set in a fantastical landscape that defies conventional logic, the story delves into themes of freedom, power, and the quest for individuality. Through a series of strange and often grotesque events, the sisters embark on a journey that challenges their understanding of love, family, and the very fabric of reality. The narrative's unique blend of humor, satire, and grotesque imagery invites readers to reflect on the absurdities of the human condition.

    The 10705th Greatest Book of All Time
About this list

New York Times, 22 Books

Three critics from the New York Times put together a list of 22 of the funniest novels written in English since Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” (1961).

Added 2 months ago.

How Good is this List?

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Here is a list of what is decreasing the importance of this list:

  • List: only covers 1 specific genre
  • Voters: 3-5 people voted
  • Voters: are mostly from a single country/location
  • List: only covers 75 years
  • List: criteria is not just "best/favorite"

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