My go-to reading for stressful, anxiety-inducing, or unpredictable times is usually comics or anything that can make me laugh or get out of my head space. If your reading go-to’s are similar to mine, and you’re needing something out of the ordinary, or sweet, or just very funny, here are some suggestions. (For the purposes of this post, I’ve kept the selections to non-fiction- humour and comics. Maybe I’ll do another post about go-to graphic novels, romantic comedies, and other funny fiction!). Some titles here are recently read, some are very new, and some are favourites that I’ve been rereading as of late:
Making the case for a book (or books) finding you when you need them the most, I had the pleasure of reading two humour books courtesy of the kind folks at Thomas Allen & Son in the last week. If you have ever read or perused Sad Animal Facts, then you might be familiar with the work of Brooke Barker. In Let’s Be Weird Together: A Book About Love, Brooke Barker and Boaz Frankel (who are also a real-life couple!), the creators share comics about: what pet a couple should get; couples in history (and their quirks!); the best parts of being in love through each of the four seasons; ‘lesser known love languages’ (like ‘quality silence’ and ‘spotting good dogs in the wild’!); all kinds of nicknames for significant other; real-life relationship records; and more comics about all the strange and cool things about love. There are also wonderful and giggle-inducing diversions such as short spread in the book called ‘Meet Jerry & Ruby’, featuring Brooke Barker’s grandparents who have been together for over sixty years. The couple are asked about the start of their relationship, and the secret to its longevity- Jerry and Ruby’s answers don’t always match up, and the interview is, as you might imagine, all kinds of funny and sweet. Fans of Barker’s work might especially enjoy and flock to this (there are even some animal-related snippets and facts in Let’s be Weird Together!); though on the whole, this is a funny, charming and perfectly off-kilter illustrated gift book. From the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (a non-profit organization) comes Animals Reviewed: Starred Ratings of Our Feathered, Finned, and Furry Friends. A picture-laden (and compact sized) book, Animals Reviews features an animal per page with a photograph (courtesy of an affiliated zoo), a starred rating, and a snippet about the animal and reason for its respective rating. The starred rating was inspired by and comes from the hashtag #RateASpecies that began with the Oregon Zoo, who began ‘rating’ amazing animals as buyers might rate and review items from online sellers! This is definitely a fun book, obviously perfect for animal lovers of any and all ages (my five year old has taken a total shine to it and loves looking at it!). One might not always agree with which animals were given what starred rating- even though they are all lovingly doled and tongue-in-cheek takes on buyer reviews- there is much entertainment (and insight) to be had while reading and sharing this book! (…though, I still say the mountain lion is five stars, for sure! And the bearded dragon!).
While talking about the work of Brooke Barker, I would remiss if I didn’t mention again the collections Sad Animal Facts and Sad Animal Babies! You can follow Barker’s Instagram to get a sense of the comics if it’s new to you! I actually happened upon Sad Animal Facts at a bookstore last year while browsing and brought it home just after reading a few pages. The art is lovely, unfussy and cozy, and the writing is funny and simultaneously bittersweet and educational. Another animal-centered humour book that I read and relished last year: Animal Anatomy: Sniff Tips, Running Sticks, and Other Accurately Named Animal Parts by Sophie Corrigan. Author and illustrator Corrigan takes readers through the anatomy of creatures great and small- everything from duck to dinosaur- and gives readers the true, correct, of course!, makes-much-more-sense!, anatomical names. The illustrations are fantastic and the creativity and presentation of the book are top-notch. Rub-a-dub dubbers, anyone?
A new favourite of mine might just be False Knees: An Illustrated Guide to Animal Behavior by Joshua Barkman. False Knees began as a webcomic and somehow I think I only became truly aware of it just before publication of the debut print collection. Thank goodness for this happy and timely discovery! Did I purchase it? You bet! Did I laugh and am I in awe of how fantastically hysterical and wise it is? Yes and yes. Do I highly recommend it? YES. (I’ve now got my eye on these other two books, which have been recommended as humorous reads in a similar vein: Effin’ Birds: A Field Guide to Identification by Aaron Reynolds, as well as The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America by Matt Kracht…).
An evergreen favourite is the work of Liz Climo, and I’ve been delighting in revisiting comics from The Little World Liz Climo, Best Bear Ever!: A Little Year of Liz Climo, and Lobster is the Best Medicine: A Collection of Comics About Friendship. For those with very wee ones at home, Climo also has a number of picture books out, and has collaborated with children’s author Ame Dyckman for the awesome You Don’t Want a Unicorn!, and the set-for-summer release You Don’t Want a Dragon!.
How many of you readers follow and read Matthew Inman‘s hugely popular The Oatmeal? I cannot get enough of Inman’s comics, and I have a number of his books on standby when I need emergency laughs. A few weeks before our library shut down, I checked out My Dog: The Paradox for the second time because I just needed to reread the sweet, gut-busting, strange and lovely book. In the midst of reading The Oatmeal‘s online comics and print collections, I also started delving into Brian Gordon’s spot-on and truly funny Fowl Language comics, Sarah Anderson’s wonderfully funny Sarah’s Scribbles collections, Philippa Rice’s dreamy and engaging Soppy: A Love Story, and Catana Chetwynd’s lovely Little Moments of Love. Rice’s latest is Baby: A Soppy Story, and Chetwynd’s latest release is Snug: A Collection of Comics About Dating Your Best Friend!
Regarding comic strip favourites, I return again and again to the late Richard Thompson’s brilliant Cul de Sac; Jim Toomey’s Sherman’s Lagoon; and/or Bill Amend’s FoxTrot, when I need to lose myself in comic strips and the reassurance of their format, language and narrative, and humour.
And last, but definitely not least: the work of Tom Gauld. I have mentioned Gauld’s work here more than a few times, and have shared his comics (a lot of literary-based comics!). Three works of Gauld’s I have recently read and thoroughly enjoyed: Goliath, The Snooty Bookshop: Fifty Literary Postcards, and Mooncop. Always superb. (And okay, Mooncop and Goliath are graphic novels, not technically cartoons or in the humour section, but, well, they’re making it to this post!). Anyhow…Gauld has a new book set for publication in April, Department of Mind-Blowing Theories– so look forward to that!
Wishing you some happy and fun- and maybe unexpected- reading!
I received copies of Let’s Be Weird Together and Animals Reviewed courtesy of Thomas Allen & Son in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. The titles have been published and are currently available.