Extremely funny books by women

Victoria Wood, Ali Wong, Nora Ephron, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Marian Keyes... women have and continue to write some of the funniest books, TV shows and sketches in existence.

And yet, as recently as 2019, to counter the 'women aren’t funny narrative' comedian and actor Helen Lederer felt compelled to found the Comedy Women in Print Prize, which gives out awards in three categories: published comic novels, humorous graphic novels, and unpublished comic novels.

To mark announcement of the 2020 prize longlist, we've compiled some of our favourite funny books by women.

Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe

Nina Stibbe's first book was her account of working as a nanny for Mary Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books. Transplanted from her Leicestershire home to London, Love, Nina is a warm and funny account of a fish out of water. With no idea how to cook or look after children, Stibbe fit right in with the Wilmers, who spent their time discussing the merits of turkey mince and how to swear in German. Stibbe's comedic chops are no one-off; her novel Reasons to be Cheerful is longlisted in the published novels category of the Comedy Women in Print Prize 2020.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend

The diary format lends itself well to comedy (just go back and read your teenage diaries for a glimpse of melodrama that now seems funny), and no one does comic diaries better than Sue Townsend. We first met the author’s now-iconic character Adrian Mole in The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4. Then a hapless teenager who spoke candidly about his parents’ marital troubles and his love for the divine Pandora, in subsequent novels Adrian grew up into a slightly hapless and painfully honest adult, whose chronicles are as hilarious as they are relatable.

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

Aisling is a small-town girl who dreams of the big city. She has a steady job and a loyal boyfriend (who still hasn’t proposed after seven years together), but after a disastrous romantic getaway, Aisling decides to leave everything behind and head for the bright lights. There, Aisling must learn to deal with glamorous new flatmates, a scandal at work and a love square. Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen conjure up a comedic tale of a woman navigating new adventures.

Mutton by India Knight

The question of how easy it is to grow old gracefully is at the centre of India Knight's novel Mutton, which focuses on 46-year-old Clara Hutt. Clara is happy with her life until her old school friend Gaby moves in. Gaby is a yoga mogul who lives off kale, and has perhaps had a little bit of plastic surgery. Confronted with a friend who looks 15 years younger than they really are, and her son's leggy girlfriend Sky wandering around the house, Clara starts to wonder if a nip and a tuck would be so very wrong… 

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Stella Gibbons' classic novel takes the rural novel, and parodies it to perfection. Our heroine is Flora Poste, who's had an expensive education but has no idea how to actually survive and earn her own living. After being orphaned at 20, she throws herself on her relatives, the Starkadders, who own Cold Comfort Farm. There, she meets chaotic family members including Ada Doom, who once saw something nasty in the woodshed, and Amos, who preaches fire and damnation. What is there for Flora to do but take them all in hand and bring about some order and sanity?

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Women have the vote and the Pill, hold positions of power in governments and businesses across the world, and are inspiring change in everything from politics to climate change. But, from the big issues to the small, it's still difficult to be a woman today. Enter Caitlin Moran, who answers the nagging questions many women have – from whether Brazilians and Botox are ok to how to answer if someone asks if you’re going to have children – in her own, funny, style. Part memoir and part rant, this is a book for modern women everywhere. 

Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

Marian Keyes’ latest novel is the story of the glamorous Casey family. The three Casey brothers, their talented wives and all their children spend birthdays, anniversaries and weekends away together. But their happy family facade is cracked when Ed Casey’s wife Cara gets concussion, and can’t keep her thoughts to herself. After making a careless remark at her brother-in-law’s birthday party, Cara starts spilling the family’s secrets. Combining darkness and light, Grown Ups is entertaining and will make you laugh out loud. 

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