Librarian’s Choice: Funny Memoirs

This blog comes from Angie, an Assistant Community Librarian based in the east of Leeds.

My reading interests lean towards psychological thrillers but on occasion I like to lighten the load with something humorous. Laughing is a wonderful tonic and respite from the cares of the world and books are as mood busting as a trip to a comedy festival or an old episode of ‘Everyone Loves Raymond’
Some books are just wry and witty, some are light entertainment and others are laugh out loud “whoops there go my cornflakes all over the breakfast table” hysterical. I have often found myself involuntarily laughing out loud much to the bemusement of my fellow commuters. Below is a selection of some of my favourites, most of which are co-incidentally memoirs.

Ang Teenage RevolutionTeenage Revolution by Alan Davies

A very funny trip down memory lane, this time as an adolescent in the weird and wonderful late 1970’s early 80’s. This memoir will resonate with anyone of a similar age set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain. It is a reminder that far from being the ‘time of our lives’’ it can also be a period of high anxiety, of struggling to fit in and find a purpose to life. The book is such a great and painfully honest account of being a teenager, with lots of musical references thrown in, I had to dig out my vinyl collection afterwards to recreate the mood.

ANG Wishful DrinkingWishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

I have always been a big fan, I have enjoyed her previous memoirs films and regular TV appearances. We mourn the passing not only of a space princess but a genuine comic talent. In truth there is an element of ‘celebrity net twitching ‘ going on here which I am not immune to, but the reader is allowed this guilty pleasure since Carrie fisher’s life was full of dichotomies having enjoyed all the superficial benefits of a Hollywood lifestyle coupled with all its dysfunctions. Ms Fisher’s biographies are full of clever observations and acerbic humour.
‘Wishful Drinking’ is one of her later memoirs and as the title suggests offers an insight into her life post rehab. I read it in a hospital waiting room in 3 hours and frequently drew concerned looks from other patients as my whole body writhed with laughter. Sadly, as we now know she never did rid herself of her demons.

Ang The tentThe Tent the Bucket and Me by Emma Kennedy

As a child of the 1970’s I could so relate, my childhood and teens were similarly spent coiled in embarrassment whether by my mother’s cat suits and penchant for fancy dress parties or my dad’s moustache and permed hair, Kevin Keegan has a lot to answer for! Emma Kennedy is able to evoke such awkward but hysterical memories it almost makes me melancholic for the 3 day week and squishy cheese in a tube. The book introduces you to her eccentric family and their disastrous attempts at holidaying in a tent first in the UK then abroad. Be warned all holiday makers check that your tent is weather proof and that you take spare clothes for all eventualities including motorway service stations. This book was made into a BBC T.V series ‘The Kennedy’s, look out for any repeats, it is a must watch.

Ang How to beHow To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran not only lets you glimpse into her past but brings you bang up to date with the trials and tribulations of being a woman in the noughties. It is one long, very funny feminist rant. Caitlin is the funniest feminist commentator of our modern times, not for the fainthearted as it is very ‘earthy’ in tone and language.

Ang Serge BastardeSerge Bastarde Ate My Baguette by John Dummer

This book was borrowed to accompany me on my travels to France a few years back. I really enjoyed this true account of ex brit musician who relocates across the channel to try his hand as an antique dealer. Along the way he meets a fellow Brocante enthusiast Serge Bastarde (Bastarde by name and by nature) and hence the drama begins. Serge reminded me of Dell Boy in ‘Only Fools and Horses’ a hopeless yet likeable rogue. As with any story set in rural France there is lots of wine drinking thrown in, what’s not to like? A very funny foray into the foibles of the French and all the more enjoyed due to a shared passion for antique hunting and flea markets.

Ang How to be a husbandHow to Be A Husband by Tim Dowling

A comical biographical journey through the life and times of 21st century man and confessed non-alpha male Tim Dowling. This books offers a very funny insight into the Guardian columnist life. Having been married over 20 years and with three sons he is more than qualified to comment on the matter. The book is essentially a collection of no-particular-order chapters of which include: “Twelve Labours of Marriage”, “Seven Ways in Which You Might Be Wrong”, “Five Things You Can Actually Fix by Hitting Them with a Hammer”. Basically Tim Dowling portrays himself as baffled and bewildered where even the family dog is a rung higher on the family pecking order.

Ang The HusbandNot to be confused with the equally funny ‘The Husband’, part of a spoof collection of ’How It Works’ Ladybird classics also available in Leeds Libraries

Ang Lady in the vanThe Lady In The Van by Alan Bennett

Camden is my old stomping ground and indeed my children were born there. I am familiar with the uniqueness of London, where the uber rich live cheek by jowl with the homeless. This is such a poignant and funny account of trying to put your principles into practice, the desire to be a good neighbour and humanitarian whilst also begrudging the consequences. For anyone who hasn’t seen the film or play this memoir revolves around a homeless eccentric old lady who lives in a van and after the threat of eviction becomes a sitting tenant in Alan Bennet’s front drive. This is classic Bennett, full of awkwardness and honest self- effacing northern humour

Happy Reading!

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The only prize with a sense of humour

Lost for wordsThey’re having a laugh. Well that’s the idea! The prize that gives a spotted pig as its prize has gone to Edward St Aubyn – the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize 2014 – for ‘Lost for Words’ 

The bestselling author of the Patrick Melrose novels has written a thought-provoking and entertaining insight into a sniping world of literature, celebrity culture and ambition!!

Each of the judges of the Elysian Prize for literature has a reason for accepting the job. For the chairman, MP Malcolm Craig, it is backbench boredom, media personality Jo Cross is on the hunt for a ‘relevant’ novel, and Oxbridge academic Vanessa Shaw is determined to discover good writing. But for Penny Feathers of the Foreign Office, it’s all just getting in the way of writing her own thriller.

Over the next few weeks they must read hundreds of submissions to find the best book of the year, and so the judges spar, cajole and bargain in order that their chosen title gets the recognition it deserves. Meanwhile, a host of authors are desperate for Elysian glory, including brilliant writer and serial heart-breaker Katherine Burns, lovelorn debut novelist Sam Black, and Sonny, convinced that his magnum opus, The Mulberry Elephant, will take the literary world by storm. Lost for Words is razor-sharp and fabulously entertaining. It cuts to the quick of some of the deepest questions about the place of art in our celebrity-obsessed culture, and asks how we can ever hope to recognize real talent when everyone has an agenda.

Everyman Bollinger Prize

Shortlisted were

Sebastian Faulks‘ take on Jeeves and Wooster, Jeeves and the Wedding Bells

Helen Fielding‘s – Mad About the Boy. 

John Niven‘s acerbic satire Straight White Male

Hanif Kureishi‘s The Last Word

Joseph O’Connor‘s The Thrill of it All.

The Manly Art of Knitting

“Only a man would knit a hammock with shovel handles for needles and manila rope for yarn.” it says on the back cover.

Published 1972, ‘The Manly Art of Knitting’ by Dave Fougner will fetch the princely sum of £397.04 on Amazon. Unfortunatley we don’t have a copy in the library!

What can you make? The projects chapter includes how to make: a dog blanket, a beanie, a wall hanging (for your horse’s best-in-show award), a saddle blanket for your horse (knitted circularly with sharpened garden hose and “jumbo” yarn), a slipover (jumper) and a rope hammock (knitted with either shovel handles or pool cues with manila rope).

 Plus there’s a section on problems which tells you how to pick up dropped stitches with the end of a knitting needle and a toothpick instead of a crochet hook!

Who touched base in my thought shower? a treasury of unbearable office jargon

image-medium (10)Steven Poole takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the meaningless corporate jargon that irritates employees up and down the country in Who touched base in my thought shower?.

Do you hate going forward? Do you shudder when a colleague wants to reach out? Are you disgusted by low-hanging fruit, sick of being on the team, and reluctant to open the kimono? If modern business-speak makes you want to throw up, then this book by Steven Poole is for you. It’s for verbally downtrodden workers everywhere which you might like to borrow to cheer you up now you’re back to work.‘

Hauls the jargon words of business and bureaucracy out of context and interrogates them ruthlessly for meaning… he has linguistic sense and sensibility on his side’ — Times