If you search the internet for “funny book recommendations,” you’re sure to see books by David Sedaris on almost any list you find. A legendary humorist, Sedaris appeared on the scene almost three decades ago, starting with his essays on National Public Radio in 1992, followed in 1994 by his first book, Barrel Fever. Part of what makes him endearing is his caustic wit, his remarkable talent for observation, and his ability to make us laugh, even when he’s relating some of the most serious events in his life.
There are not many writers who have consistently published so many bestselling books that manage to make people laugh and cry. In fact, Sedaris might be at the top of his field. He continues to sell out venue after venue, like a literary rock star, partly because David Sedaris events are famous for being spontaneous. He might work out a new essay on the audience, or read a piece he’s never shared before, and he’s always excited to meet with people after the show. If you get a chance to see a stop on the David Sedaris tour, you should take it!
With essays about holidays, siblings, health, travel, and more, there is something for everyone in his collections, which is why they also make great gifts. When I was an indie bookseller, we sold dozens of copies of Holidays on Ice at Christmas and tons of all of his books at graduation time. So whether you’re looking to start reading David Sedaris, a huge fan patiently waiting for David Sedaris’s new book, or you need a suggestion for a gift, here’s a handy rundown of almost every wonderful book he’s published over the years. Fact or fiction, he’s always funny.
This first collection highlights the ridiculousness of human behavior in outrageous stories and essays. There are stories about a disgruntled Santa who abuses his elves, a father who tries to save money by performing surgery at home, revenge encouraged from beyond the grave, and more. Mixed in with these darkly humorous tales are personal asides and bits of self-deprecating humor.
This collection of hilarious tales about Christmas includes one of the most famous David Sedaris essays, "The Santaland Diaries." It's the true tale of the time Sedaris took a seasonal position as one of Santa's helpers at a Macy's department store. It's a great read, and even funnier if you listen to him narrate it himself. (The updated version of this collection also includes essays about Halloween, Easter, and more.)
In Naked, Sedaris gets personal and takes a close look at the inanities of his younger life, with examinations of a job he held at a fruit-picking factory, a family Christmas meal with a sex worker, a road trip with a thief, a bout of obsessive behavior, and more. It's equal parts humorous and sad, just like life.
Sedaris discusses his recent move to Paris and his attempts to learn French, his childhood lisp, his upbringing in North Carolina, odd jobs that he worked in New York City, the time he was mistaken for a pickpocket, his brother's terrible profanity, and more.
In another unforgettable collection, Sedaris once again gets his best material from his own life. These funny, moving essays are mostly rooted in memories of his family, and they include tales of the time his mother locked him and his siblings out in the snow, when he wanted to be a hippie, visits to see his siblings, and meeting his brother's baby.
A delightful collection of absurd animal-themed tales, in which the animals lead lives and have complaints just like humans! There's a toad, a turtle, and a duck, who commiserate over animal bureaucracy; the squirrel and chipmunk, who are star-crossed lovers kept apart by their families; a pot-bellied pig trying to diet, and more.
Once again, Sedaris combines the absurd and the profound to create a hilarious collection of essays, including a discussion of his father's dinner attire, his first colonoscopy, and a visit to a taxidermist, as well as a few tales told from the perspective of fictional characters.
This is Sedaris's most personal book to date, in that it is an actual collection of entries from his diaries. It's quite amazing to read about his youthful misadventures, knowing they will lead to him becoming a famous humorist one day. But it's also enlightening to learn about his humble, sometimes odd, earlier years like he's never told them before.
Did you know that the diaries David Sedaris has been keeping for more than four decades are illustrated? Sedaris's longtime friend Jeffrey Jenkins photographed the originals and features here the most visually arresting examples of Sedaris’s elaborate, three-dimensional, collaged style. The book also includes interactive components, postcards, and never-before-seen photos and artwork. It's a perfect gift for a die-hard fan!
In his most recent collection, Sedaris discusses aging and his health, his family and the death of his sister, his search for a perfect beach home, his love for his Fitbit, and more. It's his most touching collection yet, featuring wise and droll observations about mortality and life like you've never thought of them before.
David Sedaris is the author of the books Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Holidays on Ice, Naked, and Barrel Fever. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker and BBC Radio 4. He lives in England.
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Liberty Hardy is a Book Riot senior contributing editor, co-host of All the Books, a Book of the Month judge, and above all else, a ravenous reader. She resides in Maine with her cats, Millay, Farrokh, and Zevon. You can see pictures of her cats and book hauls on Twitter @MissLiberty and Instagram @franzencomesalive.