Maeve in America: Essays by a Girl from Somewhere Else is comedian Maeve Higgins's wickedly funny essay collection. The 14 pieces in the collection such topics as Rent the Runway, teaching a comedy workshop in Iraq, the Muslim travel ban, and more, all containing incisive humor and deep humility. Higgins picks 10 of her favorite funny essay collections.
1. The Long-Winded Lady: Notes from The New Yorker by Maeve Brennan
Not strictly an essay collection, Brennan’s sketches of life in New York City in the '50s and '60s are full of pathos and wit. They are not very long, but that very brevity is key to their success. You know that scene in the movie Amélie where the heroine links arms with a blind man and gives him a whirlwind tour of hectic cityscape? That’s the breathless feeling you get reading Maeve Brennan, given an edge with her keenly dark sense of humor throughout.
Lucky for us, we have a number of Ephron’s essay collections, but this one is a favorite of mine because it’s so charming, honest and fun to read. Ephron does not tolerate despondency or morbidity, and I wonder what she would make of outlets publishing still-fresh tragedy-struck pieces written by hungry young writers today. In "Moving On," an essay about making a home and a life for herself and her two little boys after an excruciating divorce, Ephron stays focused and funny. She is clear-eyed but not without emotion, a balancing act hard to do on the page, but one she pulls off with style.
This raucous book full of backstage comedy gossip and frank advice about sex and dating was published in 2004, well ahead of other essay collections on similar themes that would later be hailed as "ground-breaking." Tyler’s star has risen since this collection, having co-hosted The Talk and starred in Criminal Minds for many years. These essays are still fresh and lovely to read today, and you can hear Tyler’s voice as you read, so it feels like sitting with your clever friend over drinks, staying up late the way you have to sometimes, and just letting it all come out in the wash.
4. Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit
This book got me good–reading it, I was shaking my head and laughing out loud, sometimes at the same time. Solnit’s succinct reporting on gender, blended with her own lived experience, is a winning combination. At times her writing is all too relatable and elicits the type of embittered laugh that comes with a deep recognition of how messed up misogyny is. This is also the laughter of kinship, the screech of "that happened to me too!" and "I never knew this was a thing." So much fun, and you wind up feeling bolstered and ready to deal with the next mansplainer, who will, no doubt, be along in a minute.
I never knew I’d care so much about Maine until I read this delightful, self-aware, and surprising collection by the very funny and subtly profound writer, known to many from his days on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Hodgman refuses to take himself seriously, which is important, because it helps us to join him as he explores his particular fate as a successful, white, middle-aged man in America today, and adore him all the more by the end of it.
A dizzying, hilarious trip through pop culture, race, and gender from this young comic. Full disclosure: I am friends with Phoebe. That only makes me more sure of her talent, because any memoirist knows it’s almost impossible to accurately portray oneself in words; self- consciousness, vanity, lack of skill often prevent any possibility of actually translating a person into a book. But this is the real woman; full of life and intellect and fun.
A classic for so many reasons, and a book that spawned a hundred imitators. The jokes are so strong, the stories so well-timed and the writing so sly and perfect, it’s impossible not to fall for the woman behind the mishaps of a life not working out as planned. I smile about the essay where Crosley gets locked out at least once a week, and I read this book ten years ago. Perfection.
The latest offering from the master of the funny essay, Calypso will make you laugh and shake your head at the somehow completely relatable oddness of Sedaris and his family and his various preoccupations. Calypso also gave me pause—Sedaris has been writing for many years now, and this collection more than the previous ones reaches that bit deeper into the melancholy parts of life. All the better, because the truth in sadness verifies the truth in joy, and so you have in your hands an authentic book, a real journey, that will make you laugh until you cry and then laugh again. I recommend listening to as an audiobook if you can, Sedaris is a wonderful reader.
I knew Koul from her sparky and witty online presence—she is a culture writer for BuzzFeed living in Canada—and was enthralled by her book which flows beautifully. Her essays feature a few overriding themes: being a woman, being the child of immigrants, being brown, being online. All of these are facets of Koul’s experience in the world, and she navigates through with much humor and a sharpness that is quite thrilling to read. A generous and lovely book. Her depiction of her father and their relationship is nothing short of hilarious.