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Laughs allowed

Recent books that show a light touch

Laughs allowed

Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living

Jason Gay

Written after his own battle with testicular cancer and his father’s death, Wall Street Journal sports columnist Jason Gay’s book focuses on the little things in life that turn out to be most important: Don’t try so hard to be cool. Marry someone you find interesting. Spend time with difficult family members before it’s too late. And of course, eat more tacos. The book is at times touching, such as portions about his relationship with his dying father, and at times laugh-out-loud funny, like his rules for playing Thanksgiving touch football (Rule No. 10: “No whining, taunting, or sobbing in Thanksgiving touch football. That’s what Thanksgiving dinner is for”).

Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland

Dave Barry

Humor columnist Dave Barry knows his home state is the butt of jokes. Rather than refute that reputation, he takes the reader to the most Floridian attractions: an underwater mermaid show, a search for the Bigfoot-like “skunk ape” in the Everglades, Gatorland, and the world’s largest retirement community. Crazy facts often make the funniest material: Along Route 19 stands a 58-foot-long pink concrete dinosaur originally created to attract people to a wildlife museum. A taxidermy shop specializing in deformed animals replaced that low-attendance museum, and then a fudge shop replaced it. (Caution: some sexually suggestive descriptions, especially in a chapter about the boozy Key West.)

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

Trevor Noah

Daily Show host Trevor Noah was born to a white father and black mother during the apartheid era in South Africa when sex between different races was a crime. So Noah spent his younger years hidden inside his grandmother’s house. Even after apartheid ended, he struggled to fit into a society segregated by color. While the book delves into heavy topics such as racism, domestic violence, and class mobility, Noah humorously describes his relationship with his single mother, a fiercely independent and Jesus-loving Xhosa woman. He clearly loves and respects her for handing out “Old Testament” discipline and providing him opportunities to see that a world existed outside the ghetto. (Caution: some language.)

Based on a True Story: A Memoir

Norm Macdonald

Fans of Saturday Night Live alum Norm Macdonald will be unsurprised that his “memoir” consists of tall tales only loosely connected to the truth. The straightforward comedian often criticizes the current genre of confessional comedy. Instead, he sets up moments where he teases a reveal-all, then follows with more untruths. His love of Russian literature and the absurd (or disturbing?) shines through: At one point he purportedly grants a child’s Make-A-Wish dream to club a baby seal. Halfway through, a fictional ghostwriter tries to hijack the book. Yet through this fable he describes the emptiness of fame and his struggles with gambling addiction. (Includes drug use, nongraphic mentions of rape, prostitution, and other unsavory topics.)


For a lovely picture book with a light touch, try Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall (Candlewick, 2017). Jabari has finished swimming lessons and contemplates diving from the high dive. He says he’s ready and watches other children jumping, but then fear sets in. His dad tells him it’s OK to be scared and shares a trick for overcoming it. Pencil, watercolor, and collage illustrations highlight father/son interactions and give expression to Jabari’s range of emotions. (Ages 4-8)

For ages 6-12, Growing Up Pedro by Matt Tavares (Candlewick, 2017) focuses on the relationship between great Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez and his brother Ramon, a star in his own right. The story begins in the Dominican Republic where the brothers practice pitching by throwing rocks at mangoes in trees. The book shows Pedro’s admiration for his big brother. —Susan Olasky

–Please read the next page in this issue’s special Summer Reading section: "Suspenseful stories"

Angela Lu Fulton

Angela Lu Fulton

Angela is a senior reporter for WORLD Magazine and a part-time editor for WORLD Digital. She is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Angela resides in Taipei, Taiwan. Follow her on Twitter @angela818.