As we hurtle (probably) towards Lockdown 2: The Sequel, we could all do with a bit of cheering up in the face of another round of loneliness, existential perplexity and Pringles. Of course, as book lovers, we know we have the perfect way to escape the outside world. But we also have Twitter.
Because Twitter isn't just an information hub for following famous people, sharing recommendations and arguing about politics. It's also still home to some of the funniest voices on the web. And there are plenty of literature-themed feeds that will make you laugh out loud in 280 characters or less. Here are ten of the best.
Writers doing normal sh*t
Want to see James Joyce horizontal in an armchair, head in hand, recovering from a stinking hangover? Or his pal Ernest Hemingway kicking a beer can along a snowy road in a sort of weird drunken goosestep? Anyone for George Orwell, fag in mouth, showing off his Burmese sword in his bedroom? Writers Doing Normal Sh*t does exactly what it says on the tin: photos of (mostly) dead writers living their lives without a typewriter in sight. Because great writers – when they weren't writing, of course – were people, too, y'know? And this feed is here to prove it.
Anybody who's turned on the news in the past six months cannot have helped but notice the “credibility bookcase”. Where once gaudy stock images of skyscrapers, Big Ben or sceptred fields of green were superimposed behind talking heads pontificating on the day's events, heavily-curated bookcases have become the news-commentator background du jour. It's about splashing a touch of authority to their amateurish Zoom video feeds, apparently.
Because, as the writer behind this hilarious account reminds us, “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you”. In April, Bookcase Credibility emerged to critique, lampoon and pay utmost respect to the best-executed bookshelf backgrounds in the news-sphere. And it's really very funny.
The LRB Bookshop
It's the Vatican of book reviewing, and no serious book lover should be without the LRB Bookshop’s Twitter pulpit. But it's not all book recommendations and events notices.
They tell jokes, too. Like this (think it's a joke!): “just sold a book over the phone to a pigeon fancier. apparently due to covid they can't have their regular meets, but they still want to keep the birds in practice. he's come up with a creative solution - taking them on his commute and releasing them out of his office windows … they've been homing from work." You get the idea: gentle weekday afternoon fun for the literary-minded.
How on God's wheezing earth, you might be wondering, does the Twitter feed of a company that summarises classic novels to students have north of 310,000 followers? The answer: it explains said novels in the universal language of memes. And it's kick-you-in-the-Gatsbies hilarious.
The brainchild of 20-something writer and social media editor Courtney Gorter, the feed combines funny memes with on-point references to well-known stories like The Great Gatsby, Hamlet, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Jane Eyre etc. It may well recallibrate the way you think about the classics.
Brooding YA Hero
He's been a little quiet of late, but well worth following to check out his past tweets and wait for him to rejoin the internet (but here's a little secret: he's actually a she, aka the American YA author Carrie DiRisio). It's basically a parody account dedicated to lampooning the swoony male-lead tropes in YA fiction. Here's one: “I tried to get a driver's license but there wasn't enough space to fit 'the deep azure of the sea after a storm, flecked with golden sparkles' on the line for eye color.”
The account became so popular that, in 2018, it inspired an entire self-help book for aspiring heartthrobs, called Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me. If you're a YA fan who likes to laugh at the overdone tropes in the genre, this is an account well worth a sniff.
Bougie London Literary Woman
Since launching the account a few years ago, the mysteriously anonymous women (two friends from London) behind this frightfully droll feed have delighted book lovers with their parody of a Bell-and-Sebastian-listening, farmers-market-frequenting, jam-making book nerd type. Or, as they put it, “A 20-something seabird adrift on the tides of London. Can be found devouring literature, swimming wild and scribbling.”
Her enigmatic observations about life as a literary flâneuse has garnered a vast following of fans that hang upon tweets like,“Have retreated to the coast for the year’s fallow week to commune with my Joan Baez records. 'May I have this dance?' I ask the sea, but coyly she does not reply.”
Author In Your MFA
If you ever did a writing workshop in your early 20s, “Guy in your MFA” (“master of fine arts”) is the pompous self-styled flaneur who namedrops authors you've never heard of, picks up girls by overtly reading Shakespeare in the park, and is always “two rewrites away from his great American novel”. He's a budding writer on the cusp of greatness and you wish you were his friend. Only, he doesn't need friends because his best pals are the ghosts of dead writers. And anyway, he prefers lounging louche on college campuses, flicking ash and staring into the middle distance while pondering his tortured soul.
“Finished another moleskine,” he tweets. “It'll go where all of my used notebooks go - scattered visibly in my room for girls to pick up and page through.” He's actually the alter ego of American journalist and writer Dana Schwartz, and has amassed a legion of followers since launching the account in 2015. She is also well worth a follow herself.
Banned Books Week UK
This isn't strictly a comedy account, more one of sheer bookish fascination. As long as books have existed, there have been people trying to stop other people reading them. From Harry Potter to Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, stuffy headteachers, over-sensitive librarians and righteous politicians across the world have tried to ban books for fear they might sully young minds. Banned Books Week is both a chronicle of those books, and a fascinating insight into the on-going war against free speech.
Big Green Bookshop
With close to 40,000 followers, this is one of the most prolific independent bookshops on Twitter. They retweet literary memes, promote new authors' work and are always happy to throw in the odd joke. But tweeting, as we all know, is a serious business, and in 2017 they tweeted, line by line, the entirety of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to Piers Morgan after he claimed never to have read the multi-million-pound-selling series during an online spat with JK Rowling. He blocked them in the end, but it was funny while it lasted.
Bolu Babalola is an author, but I've put her on this list because, according to our social media editor and resident Twitter guru, she's “legit the funniest person on Twitter”. Plus, the Londoner was a tweeter before she was a published writer. She's high in memes, books, Netflix and memes about books and Netflix, and very low in earnestness. Which is to say, her passion for the things that bring her joy is infectious – the perfect tweet-tonic for these helter-skelter times. Her 71,000 followers would no doubt agree.