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2020 Book Concierge: The Funniest Books On Our List

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Are you looking for something to read as you curl up on the couch this winter? NPR's Book Concierge has hundreds of recommendations. And, today, we've asked some of our colleagues to suggest four fun books to help us beat the winter blues.

ELENA BURNETT, BYLINE: I'm Elena Burnett, a news assistant at All Things Considered. And let's get into why Allie Brosh's "Solutions And Other Problems" should be on your bookshelf. I've gifted Brosh's first book of illustrated musings and memories "Hyperbole And A Half" to countless people. But this new trip through her brilliant and inquisitive mind might have surpassed her first as my go-to comfort read. There are essays about getting stuck in a bucket investigating mystery poop and babysitting a child afraid of dandelions. Plus, Brosh continues to elevate the funny pet story to a literal art form. But her sharp and honest description of the loss of her sister and her struggled attempts to become friends with herself offered the deepest gratitude for hope and humor as things that continue on even when we think we cannot.

"Solutions And Other Problems" is like a four-hour phone call with the friends who have helped you laugh and cry your way through this absurd and awful year. But even more, it's a nudge to give yourself a hug and ask, hey, buddy, how is this weird world treating you today?

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ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Hello. Happy holidays. Elizabeth Blair here from NPR's Arts Desk. One of my favorite books this year was Colin Quinn's "Overstated: A Coast-to-Coast Roast Of The 50 States." Quinn is a veteran standup comedian born and raised in Brooklyn, revered by other comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Sarah Silverman. The book is like a social study of the U.S. with punch lines. He calls Vermont the old hippie. Wisconsin is the diet-starts-tomorrow state. New York is the quiet state with the city that never shuts up. He writes that the country is in 50-states couples counseling, and we're about to file for divorce. What I love about this book is that Quinn is, like, a really smart, no-nonsense therapist with a wicked sense of humor, picking apart the roots of why we behave the way we do and why we've become what he calls a nation of malcontents. It's a great read.

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ANDEE TAGLE, BYLINE: I'm Andee Tagle. And I'm a production assistant on NPR's Life Kit podcast. My pick is a novel called "Heart Of Junk" by Luke Geddes. This story takes place in a failing antique mall in Wichita, Kan., and it follows this band of mall vendors as they try to do a couple of things - one, save them all from financial ruin, and two, attempt to find a local toddler pageant princess who everyone fears has been abducted. Now, I know how that sounds. But despite that crazy plot line, this was such a light and fun and actually laugh-out-loud funny read. Geddes's this cast of characters are so colorfully crafted and so delightfully, deliciously neurotic. They each have their own brand of unique emotional baggage. And, of course, because it takes place in an antique mall, literal baggage too. For example, you have Delores, who's out to collect every Barbie ever made and enjoys holding one-on-one conversations with each one in her collection. "Heart Of Junk" is a story that's full of wit and packed with nostalgia - highly recommend for any fellow pack rats out there.

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JOLIE MYERS, BYLINE: My name is Jolie Myers. And I am a senior editor with All Things Considered. This year, for the Book Concierge, I wrote about the novel "We Ride Upon Sticks." It's by Quan Barry. It is a genuinely funny novel that takes place in 1989. It centers around the Danvers, Mass., field hockey team. This is a team of girls that just can't win. But instead of practice making perfect, they decide to give themselves over to a dark force known as Emilio. They seal the deal by signing their names in a notebook with Emilio Estevez on the cover. A reminder - this is 1989. What follows is a story of teen girls figuring out where power comes from, who has it, who doesn't and what it means to bump up against gender norms and social conventions. But it's not a serious book, even though it tackles serious issues. It's a genuinely funny, sweet page-turner with enough heart to win any championship.

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GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was Jolie Myers recommending "We Ride Upon Sticks," Andee Tagle recommending "Heart Of Junk," Elizabeth Blair talking about "Overstated" and Elena Burnett, who recommended "Solutions And Other Problems." And you can find the full list of NPR Book Concierge recommendations at npr.org/bestbooks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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