LOL — This Year's Summer Reader Poll Is All About Funny Books

Jun 11, 2019
Originally published on July 25, 2019 3:38 pm

Voting for the 2019 poll is now closed. Thanks for your input! Stay tuned – the final list of 100 favorite funny books is coming in August!

If you could use a laugh right about now — and I think we all could — the NPR Books Summer Reader Poll is here for you! This year, we want to hear all about your favorite funny books and stories, and we don't just mean comedy writing. If it makes you laugh (or giggle, or even snicker quietly), we want to hear about it!

Our expert panel of extremely funny people — Alexandra Petri, Samantha Irby, Aparna Nancherla and Guy Branum; more on them soon! — will use your picks to curate a final list of 100 reads guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

But first, a few guidelines.

What can you nominate?

Series books: We're considering series books as a single entry, so something like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy would count as one entry.

Short story collections: If there's a collection with lots of great stories — me, I love The Oxford Book of Parodies — that's one single entry.

Single short stories or novellas: On the other hand, if there's a story that stands on its own, like Damon Runyon's glorious "A Piece of Pie," you can nominate that as a single entry. (What, no stuffing?)

Limit yourself to 5 choices

You only get five picks, but don't hesitate to nominate something you know other people already voted for — we count everything up, and our expert panelists pay attention to what's popular. (We're expecting a lot of votes for David Sedaris, and that's just fine.)

Don't limit yourself otherwise

You can absolutely vote for anything on the comedy shelf at your local bookstore — and anything anywhere else, too, as long as it made you laugh. Just don't be too sad if your favorite doesn't make the final 100.

Voting is now closed.

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An official marker of summer around here is the NPR Books Summer Reader Poll. And it's back. This year, we want to hear all your favorite funny reads. If there is a book or a story that makes you laugh, tell us about it. Voting is open now. And here to tell us more is NPR Books editor Petra Mayer.

Hi, Petra.

PETRA MAYER, BYLINE: Hi. Happy here.

KELLY: Glad to have you with us. The definition of funny books - just anything that makes you laugh.

MAYER: Anything that makes you laugh. When you're voting for your favorite funny reads, don't restrict yourself to, you know, the comedy shelf at the bookstore. Like, I'm sure we're going to get a million votes for David Sedaris, and that's cool 'cause he's funny.

KELLY: He is funny.

MAYER: But like, anything that makes you laugh...


MAYER: ...Anything - like, whether it's Aristophanes or Erma Bombeck. I'm actually really excited for this year's list 'cause I think funny crosses all the genres. And we're going to get, like, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, comics, plays - I don't even know - just as long as it makes you laugh.

KELLY: I'm feeling the votes for Aristophanes roll in already. Why...

MAYER: I know they're going to be some. Come on. These are NPR listeners.

KELLY: You're rigging it already. Why funny books? Why is that the theme for this summer?

MAYER: Last year's theme was horror.

KELLY: (Laughter).

MAYER: And since I am the person that has to familiarize myself with all 100 books on the final list...

KELLY: You're still freaked out from last summer, so you need some comic respite.

MAYER: I really am. Exactly.

KELLY: OK. The poll works how? Remind us.

MAYER: Right. So it's not - this is important - it is not an actual, straight-up poll. People vote for up to five of their favorite books, short stories, novellas, whatever. And we take that - you know, the votes kind of come rolling in until I look at the final tally and go - oh, God, I can't handle these votes (laughter).

So - and we take that, and we tabulate it. And we cleaned it up, and we count everything. And the top 250 vote-getters become our semifinalists. That goes to a judging panel of - this year - professional funny people. And they will sort of break it down, build it up, hash it out, add their own favorites and come up with a curated list. It's not a ranked list; it's a curated list of 100 books that we hope will make you laugh. I mean, like, quiet giggle, a chuckle - that's fine, as long as you laugh.

KELLY: Right. And who are the professional funny people who are going to be judging this?

MAYER: Aha - so a not-so-secret secret about this poll is that I pick the judges - I mean, for their professional qualifications...

KELLY: Sure.

MAYER: ...But also because they're people that I want to fangirl at. So (laughter) - this year we have such a good panel. We have Alexandra Petri, the humor columnist for The Washington Post. "Star Wars" fans out there, she also writes the Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account. If you don't know about that, you're missing out.


MAYER: We have the amazing comedian/actor/comedy writer Aparna Nancherla - who actually used to be an NPR intern.


MAYER: We have the amazing Samantha Irby. Her essay collection "We Are Never Meeting In Real Life" has already gotten a bunch of votes in the poll - and deservedly so. It's really funny. And then we have Guy Branum, who people may know because he's been on Pop Culture Happy Hour a lot. He's a pal. His memoir, "My Life As A Goddess," is amazing it was an NPR Books concierge pick last year. So yeah, I'm so excited that we have these people to judge this year.

KELLY: And they are going to get to add some of their own picks.


KELLY: Is that right?


KELLY: And they already weighed in?

MAYER: Well, they haven't given me their full list of picks yet. But I did write a post introducing all the panelists, and they each wrote about a book that made them laugh. And I have to say that, like, having read Guy Branum's recommendation for "Heartburn" by Nora Ephron, I'm kind of kicking myself that I've never read it 'cause it sounds amazing.

KELLY: Where do we go to vote?

MAYER: - all the content is there. And just watch that space throughout the summer. We'll have more cool stuff. And the final list is coming sometime in August.

KELLY: All right. That is NPR Books editor Petra Mayer. Thank you so much.

MAYER: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.