These 9 Novels Prove That Classic Literature Can Be Laugh-Out-Loud Funny

by Kerri Jarema

When things are tough there's nothing better than a good laugh...and you might have found yourself needing more than a few these days. But what do you do once you've depleted your supply of Friends reruns on Netflix and have worked through your TBR of all those new humor books? It might be time to turn back the clock and check out some of the more classic funny reads out there. There are countless gems from the era before Mindy Kaling and Samantha Irby; all of the books below were published before 1970, with many having been released in the '30s and '40s and even before that.

But, these reads are anything but dry and old-fashioned. From Oscar Wilde's enduring play The Importance of Being Earnest to Stella Gibbons' Cold Comfort Farm, which has been called "the funniest book ever written", you won't struggle to chuckle at these enduring tales of zany mishaps, kooky characters, and undeniably witty dialogue. Any one of these reads will be a welcome relief from the real world for a few hours; so pick one up and join a world where all disagreements are resolved, all mistakes are totally fixable, and everything always turns out alright in the end.

'The Importance Of Being Earnest' by Oscar Wilde

Cecily Cardew and Gwendolen Fairfax are both in love with the same mythical suitor. Jack Worthing has wooed Gewndolen as Ernest while Algernon has also posed as Ernest to win the heart of Jack's ward, Cecily. When all four arrive at Jack's country home on the same weekend the "rivals" to fight for Ernest's undivided attention, chaos ensues. Only a senile nursemaid and an old, discarded hand-bag can save the day.

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'The Inimitable Jeeves' by PG Wodehouse

Bertie and Jeeves do their best to help, and occasionally hinder, love-struck Bingo Little as he falls head over heels and back again. Honoria Glossop, Mabel the waitress, and gold-toothed revolutionary Charlotte Corday Rowbotham are just a few of the women to cast their spells over Bingo. Meanwhile Bertie must keep aspiring actor Bassington-Bassington from the stage at Aunt Agatha's fiery behest, deal with the energetic Claude and Eustace, and win on the girls' Egg and Spoon Race. Luckily, of course, there is Jeeves: intelligent, loyal, and capable of extricating Bertie from the tightest of tight spots.

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'Cold Comfort Farm' by Stella Gibbons

Flora Poste, a recently orphaned socialite, moves in with her country relatives, the gloomy Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, and becomes enmeshed in a web of violent emotions, despair, and scheming, until Flora manages to set things right.

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'Auntie Mame: An Irreverent Escapade' by Patrick Dennis

When shy young heir Patrick is orphaned at the tender age of ten, the only family he has is his wealthy and eccentric aunt, a fabulous New York socialite named Mame. While prone to dramatic costumes, flights of fancy and expensive whims - not least her lives as a muse and a Southern belle - Auntie Mame will raise Patrick the only way she knows how: with madcap humor, mishaps, unforgettable friends and lots and lots of love.

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'The Pursuit of Love' by Nancy Mitford

The Pursuit of Love satirizes British aristocracy in the '20s and '30s through the amorous adventures of the Radletts, an exuberantly unconventional family closely modeled on Mitford's own. The Radletts of Alconleigh occupy the heights of genteel eccentricity, from terrifying Lord Alconleigh, to his gentle wife, Sadie, their wayward daughter Linda, and the other six lively Radlett children. Mitford follows these characters through misguided marriages and dramatic love affairs, as the shadow of World War II begins to close in on their rapidly vanishing world.

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'My Family and Other Animals' by Gerald Durrell

When the unconventional Durrell family can no longer endure the damp, gray English climate, they do what any sensible family would do: sell their house and relocate to the sunny Greek isle of Corfu. My Family and Other Animals was intended to embrace the natural history of the island but ended up as a delightful account of Durrell’s family’s experiences, from the many eccentric hangers-on to the ceaseless procession of puppies, toads, scorpions, geckoes, ladybugs, glowworms, octopuses, bats, and butterflies into their home.

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'Whose Body?' by Dorothy L. Sayers

The stark naked body was lying in the tub. Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder -- especially with a pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What's more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

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'Three Men In A Boat' by Jerome K. Jerome

Martyrs to hypochondria and general seediness, J. and his friends George and Harris decide that a jaunt up the Thames would suit them to a ‘T’. But when they set off, they can hardly predict the troubles that lie ahead with tow-ropes, unreliable weather forecasts and tins of pineapple chunks—not to mention the devastation left in the wake of J.’s small fox-terrier Montmorency.

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'Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day' by Winifred Watson

Miss Pettigrew, an approaching-middle-age governess, was accustomed to a household of unruly English children. When her employment agency sends her to the wrong address, her life takes an unexpected turn. The alluring nightclub singer, Delysia LaFosse, becomes her new employer, and Miss Pettigrew encounters a kind of glamour that she had only met before at the movies. Over the course of a single day, both women are changed forever.

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