A few weeks ago, I attended a taping of BBC Radio 4’s program Open Book. The topic was a debate to choose Britain’s funniest book, and the five books under discussion were:
• 1066 And All That, by W.C. Sellar and R.J. Yeatman (championed by John Sessions)
• The Virgin Soldiers, by Leslie Thomas (championed by Tony Parsons)
• The Loved One, by Evelyn Waugh (championed by A.L. Kennedy)
• The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged thirteen and three quarters, by Sue Townsend (championed by Jo Brand)
• Swing Hammer Swing, by Jeff Torrington (championed by Christopher Brookmyre)
The winner was chosen by the studio audience — we voted through several elimination rounds — which made for an interesting experience for me, since I haven’t read any of the books. (Though now I plan to read all of them.) I cast my votes based entirely upon the presentations by the writers, comedians, and book lovers on the panel, as well as the readings from the books we heard. I wanted the Waugh to win. I won’t say which book did win — we were asked not to tweet or Facebook or even face-to-face tell anyone the winner. You can listen to the program tonight at 8pm GMT on Radio 4, and online streaming is available even if you’re not in the U.K. I do recommend it — it’s a highly entertaining show.
Anyway, if I had to pick my funniest book ever, from everything, I would choose The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams. It remains hilarious every time I read it — which must be at least a dozen times now — because the humor is so pointedly satirical about everyday life today. The science fiction is very much metaphorical, and not meant to adhere to any sort of scientific accuracy. Hard SF it is not… it just prompts hard, hard laughs.
What about you? What’s the funniest book you’ve ever read?
(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD/QOTW, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTW sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)