Beyond Crazy Rich Asians: A Look at Humorous Fiction

by Terri Frank
published in Reading

Walk into any coffee shop these days and you’re bound to see java lovers laughing out loud. Upon closer inspection, you’ll notice the source of their laughter is a book. And that book is the uproarious Crazy Rich Asians, or one of its two sequels, by Kevin Kwan.

If you haven’t read it or seen the movie, Crazy Rich Asians is a hoot. It follows New Yorker Rachel Chu’s first trip to Singapore to meet her boyfriend’s family. Only they’re not the normal family she’s expecting. They’re crazy rich—think private planes, billions in investments and no sense of reality. They also employ outlandish schemes and backstabbing to keep Rachel away from their precious can-do-no-wrong Nicholas. With palaces, matchmaking and clever dialogue to boot, it’s no wonder it’s been called a modern-day Pride and Prejudice.

So what do you read after you’ve finished the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy? Or while you’re on the waiting list at the library for the first book in the series?

Comedians, such as Tina Fey and Ellen DeGeneres, are known for churning out witty memoirs. Yet, these books are shelved in nonfiction. There are relatively few authors writing humorous FICTION nowadays and that’s precisely what readers are requesting. In fact, it’s been twenty years since Helen Fielding topped the bestseller list with the campy Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Not to fear! Here at DIY MFA, we’ve scoured the bookstores and blogs to uncover newer books that will keep you in stitches.

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli

Being released in North America in January 2019, this is one to add to your TBR (to be read) list immediately. It’s generating a ton of buzz in the UK where it’s already been published as The Arrangement. Canadian debut author Lalli explores arranged marriage in an Indian immigrant community.

Imagine if your grandmother was the one selecting your dates? As you’ve probably guessed, this premise leads to a quirky list of bachelors both amusing and cringe-worthy. At one point, protagonist Raina even lies about her sexuality to get her “nani” to lay off for a while. Then, the “one” appears and Raina must find a way to undo the lie. The strong, supporting cast of eccentric family, friends and neighbors will make you want to return to this happy little section of Toronto again and again.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Take one stodgy genetics professor who is ruled by data. Add one partying grad student who is ruled by emotion. Mix together. That’s the situation which leads Professor Don Tillman to take on “The Rosie Project.”

Rosie is looking for her father, and Tillman suggests a scientific approach to track him down. As you might expect, logic isn’t always predictable when it comes to matters of the heart. Fans of this book always talk about the hilarious scene where Professor Tillman attempts to dance.  There is also a long-awaited movie in the works and a sequel called “The Rosie Effect.” For writers, it is inspiring to know that the author didn’t begin writing until age 50.

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Speaking of writers turning 50, Arthur Less is failing at his craft. He wants to escape both his half-century birthday and his ex-partner’s wedding. So, he has the brilliant idea of attending all the literary retreats and events he’s turned down over the years. Readers follow him through multiple countries with often comic results. He shows up to one retreat only to find he’s the only writer there!

This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017 yet, I’m amazed at how few readers have heard of it.  Give it a try, but be warned there are parts both funny and sobering. It’s a meaningful, whimsical look at middle age.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

This snarky narrative is split between three women each trying to uncover a betrayal in their ultra-rich Connecticut town. One of the women, Emily Charlton, starred in another Weisberger classic comedy entitled The Devil Wears Prada. Yet, you don’t have to know anything about that book to enjoy the deliciousness of lululemons. As in Crazy Rich Asians, you’ll be in hysterics when you find out what’s really going on behind closed mansion doors.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Reese Witherspoon, an actress and avid reader, recently selected this book for her Hello Sunshine Book Club.  She’s acquired production rights to several of her book club picks including Eleanor Oliphant. So, heads up, read this before the film comes out.

Debut author Honeyman introduces readers to three loveable loners. There’s Raymond, the IT Guy, who’s in desperate need of soap and water. Sammy is an elderly man who has just fallen outside Raymond’s office. And then there’s Eleanor—the outspoken protagonist whose blunt dialogue makes for some wicked witticisms. Together, the odd trio form an unlikely friendship and change Eleanor for the good.

Short Takes: A Speedy Rundown of more Side-splitting Stories

  • Snobs by Julian Fellowes: The creator of Downton Abbey and Gosford Park pokes fun at the English aristocracy.
  • The Windfall by Diksha Basu: A middle-class Indian family suddenly joins the ranks of the nouveau-riche.
  • Five Star Billionaire by Tash Aw: Set in Shanghai, a billionaire plays a pivotal role in the lives of three young people chasing their dreams in the big city.
  • Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman: A mother gains hilarious insights into the families of three children in her daily carpool.
  • The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang: This is the opposite of the get-rich quick stories we’re seeing in this genre. It’s what happens when the 2008 recession hits and one family loses it all. A road trip, reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine, delivers refreshing oddities at every stop.

In a world with one bad news story after another, readers are hungry for some comic relief. This is a genre DIY MFA members should not only read but consider WRITING. There is a real need for more humorous fiction and fresh voices to write them.

Do you have any suggestions for recent, funny reads? What about tips for writing comedic novels?  We’d love to hear from you. Please comment in the space below.

Terri Frank is a professional librarian and holds a Master’s degree in library and information science from the University of Michigan. When she’s not working in a library, she’s probably visiting a library with her husband and two kids. Her current writing projects include a novel about a tuberculosis sanitorium.

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