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NPR's Books We Love includes titles that makes us laugh

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

NPR's Books We Love is our yearly recommendation platform, rounding up all of our favorite books from 2023. And there's a lot to choose from. There are deep dives on historical figures and long novels about family traumas. But today, we're not talking about any of those. Nope. Instead, we're going to focus on some funny stuff. And taking us through all of it is Andrew Limbong, host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast. Andrew, so let's start off with something for the kiddos. What do you got for us?

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: All right. So, like, I'm a big fan of potty humor...

MARTÍNEZ: Me, too.

LIMBONG: ...You know, have been, always will be, right? And so this novel for middle schoolers caught my eye. It's titled "The Year My Life Went Down The Toilet" by Jake Maia Arlow. And there's a lot of poo stuff going on here because the main character...

MARTÍNEZ: (Laughter).

LIMBONG: Yeah. Well, the main character, Al, has Crohn's disease, right?

MARTÍNEZ: Ah, OK.

LIMBONG: And so she spends a lot of time on the toilet. And it's, you know, something the author was diagnosed with in middle school. And so, you know, she's, like, navigating all the regular middle school stuff - right? - with friends and stuff but also Crohn's disease. She's also trying to figure out if she, like, might like girls. And so it's this really funny book about just talking about things that people do but don't want to talk about.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So what about some books for the grown-ups?

LIMBONG: All right. I've got two novels for you. One is "This Bird Has Flown" by Susanna Hoffs. You might know her from the Bangles, right?

MARTÍNEZ: Yes. Yeah.

LIMBONG: And she wrote this book about a one-hit wonder musician who falls in love at a time when her career is kind of popping off in a way that has never - it's never done before. And actually, I talked to her for All Things Considered a few months ago when the book came out, and there's a lot of details in this book that come from just, like, personal road dog experience, you know, playing music across the world. And the book just has big rom-com energy. You know, think, like, "Notting Hill" or "My Best Friend's Wedding" or something like that. Another novel is "Mr. Texas" by Lawrence Wright. He's a longtime writer for The New Yorker. It's a political satire about a rancher who finds himself elected to the Texas legislature. You know, there's cracks about, like, the political dysfunction that goes on in Texas. And, you know, he's from - you know, Lawrence Wright is from Texas. So this isn't some, like, snobby (laughter) take. It comes from someone who, like, both loves it and understands it and, like, can pinpoint what's wrong with it.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. Cool. Now, there are also a couple of interesting essay collections on Books We Love that fall into the funny category.

LIMBONG: Yeah. The first one is Samantha Irby's "Quietly Hostile." She's been building up a pretty solid reputation for essay collections that are both personal and unsparing. I'm just going to quickly read a list of table of contents. Some of the essays are titled "David Matthews' Greatest Romantic Hits," "Two Old Nuns Having Amzing [Sic] Lesbian Sex" and "We Used To Get Dressed Up To Go To Red Lobster" - (laughter) is so funny. And another one is R. Eric Thomas' "Congratulations, The Best Is Over." He's a writer from Baltimore, but he left and has mixed feelings about the city but has to come back because of his husband's job. And it's a really funny look at getting older and finding out some things about yourself and the difficulty in making new friends as an adult and finding your place here.

MARTÍNEZ: Sweet. Now, speaking of funny, there's a book on here also called "Comedy Book." Tell us about it because it sounds pretty straightforward.

LIMBONG: Yeah, it's by Jesse David Fox. He's a comedy writer for Vulture. And it's an interesting argument about taking stand-up comedy seriously as a form to be critiqued and analyzed and placed in society today.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. That's NPR's Andrew Limbong. Thanks a lot, Andrew.

LIMBONG: Thanks, A.

MARTÍNEZ: For more on Books We Love, just head on over to npr.org/bookswelove.

(SOUNDBITE OF TROMBONE SHORTY'S "HURRICANE SEASON") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.