Like many Americans today, after coping with whatever fresh disaster the daily news brings, I need to laugh. Fortunately, there are a handful of May books that provide plenty of humor and entertainment; here are four of my favorites.
Calypso by David Sedaris: In the latest from arguably the greatest humorist of his generation, the author isn’t all laughs, but even in his darkest passages, there’s enough cleverness, levity, and wry satire to keep the pages moving. As our starred review notes, “Bad news has sharpened the author’s humor, and this book is defined by a persistent, engaging bafflement over how seriously or unseriously to take life when it’s increasingly filled with Trump and funerals….Sedaris at his darkest—and his best.”
Planet Funny by Ken Jennings: The most successful Jeopardy! contestant of all time “tracks the development of an abiding personal passion: comedy….This book is full of good sense and meaningful interviews, and it would be difficult to find a smarter or more satisfying treatment of a subject so evanescent and idiosyncratic as comedy.”
The Jewish Joke by Devorah Baum: Baum, an affiliate of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, “brings thoughtful analysis to a lighthearted, appreciative, and very funny survey of Jewish humor.”
Robin by Dave Itzkoff: New York Times culture reporter Itzkoff delivers a much-anticipated biography of Robin Williams, who died in 2014. The author “chronicles his career arc and friendships with the likes of Christopher Reeve, Billy Crystal, and Richard Pryor, among countless others. Through their perspectives, along with those of his parents, children, and wives, the author draws out the many different Robins the world has come to know—but as Itzkoff shows, there was so much more….A revealing portrait of the motivations of a quiet comic genius whose explosive persona moved millions.”
Eric Liebetrau is the nonfiction and managing editor.