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Humor Books
Wednesday, February 01, 2006

AmazonIf you’re looking for more satire or insight into Silicon Valley, check out these books listed below. Whether it's Bill Gates' Secret Diary or the latest from Modern Humorist, you're bound get a laugh from these. And of course, don't overlook the new Valley of the Geeks book available now.  You can also view our reviews of serious Business Books and TechnoLustworthy Gadgets.  Order directly from Amazon.com by clicking on the title, author link. Check for updates here regularly.

CompanyCompany, Max Barry

Max Barry is one of my favorite novelists and I was delighted to run into him doing a reading from his newest book at Books Inc, in Mountain View.  His two first novels, Syrup and Jenniver Government, can be hard to find but they are well worth it.  Barry's writing style could best be consider a Gen Y Christopher Buckley or maybe even Joseph Heller.  His style is personal and biting yet always engaging.  While Syrup poked fun of the high-gloss superficial world of marketing sodas, Jennifer Government aims Barry's satirical focus on a much broader scale on the development of corporate nation states. (And yes, Max Barry is nerdy enough to have written an online game called NationStates where you can test out your concepts against thousands of other wannabe rulers.)  Company promises to be the book that breaks Max (or is it Maxx?) into the mainstream.

National LampoonNational Lampoon's Sunday Newspaper Parody, P.J. O'Rourke, John Hughes

The follow up to the 1964 High School Yearbook Parod, The Sunday Newspaper Parody never quite lived up to its potential.  Still, it works as a satire of small town politics, society and business.  And its probably the second funniest thing National Lampoon ever published.  This reissue does away with the awkward newsprint format in favor of a more conventional oversized glossy version of the Dacron Ohio Republican-Democrat.  Complete with color inserts, fake ads, and a fake Pomade magazine supplement. 


Verity StobThe Best of Verity Stob, Verity Stob 

If for some twisted reason you have an affinity for UK computer magazines, then you probably already know that Verity Stob was the long running back page satire column in .EXE (rhymes with "not sexy") magazine.  Or at least, I assume it was satire, and that's likely the position that the editors took in order to avoid potentially serious litigation.  (I'm sure Mrs Bill Gates was very amused by the story of her being caught in their computerized bathroom.)  This book includes every Verity Stob column that ran in .EXE as well as later columns that appeared in The Register and in Dr. Dobb's Journal, plus a few more that presumably were destined for some other publication before they went bankrupt.  It's an awesome collection and a great way to relive sixteen years of futile barroom computing discussions on topics ranging from programming languages to user interface conundrums.  If you've ever wondered how to combine Charlez Petzold, Kernighan & Ritchie, Monty Python and Lewis Carroll, well, this book is for you.  Verity Stob's sheer range of topics is completely English and utterly fascinating. Verity Stob is by far the funniest book about computer programming that has ever been written.  It's one of the few books where I have laughed out loud and realized I couldn't explain the humor to anyone who is not a programmer.  I mean, Cockney Rhyming Basic... who could come up with that?  By all means, prove just how smart the .EXE editors were and buy a copy of this book.   

Who Moved My Soap?Who Moved My Soap? Andy Borowitz

Former TV writer and Time magazine satirist Andy Borowitz has created a timely parody self-help book on the latest management fad: imprisoned executives.  It's a slender book, not much more than most self-help books, and captures the breezy style.  With topics ranging from the Zagat Guide to Prison Dining to Prison Cell Feng Shui, this the ideal book for Enron execs awaiting trial.  Be sure to check out Borowitz's weekly humor column online at the Borowitz Report


National LampoonNational Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody, P.J. O'Rourke, Douglas Kenney

The National Lampoon 1964 High School Yearbook Parody is the best parody ever and frankly, the best thing ever put out by the National Lampoon or by P.J. O'Rourke.  Before Saturday Night Live, before Animal House, before The Onion or SatireWire, Natlamp ruled the world of satire.  Originally published as a regular issue of the magazine in 1974 by magazine by co-founder Kenney (screenwriter for Animal House, Caddy Shack) and editor P.J. O'Rourke (author of "Eat the Rich"), it went on to become a best-selling paperback book and much sought after collector's item.  The book has now been reissued in hardcover with additional bonus material in the form of hiliarously gossippy "where are they now?" class reunion newsletters.  What sets this ahead of most parodies is it manages to be both a flattering homage to high school yearbooks while simultaneously kicking the whole high school experience in the groin.  And best of all, they managed to weave a complete story through the book, told through the scribblings, prom photos, detention slips and class notes of prototypical high school dweeb Larry Kroger.  From the fake ads to the microscopic photos of freshmen students and the dedication to the dead kid no one remembers, you should be laughing out loud as you remember your own high school years.  The only drawback compared to the original is the g-rated cover which obscures the cheerleaders' vital assets. 


Oh, The Things I KnowOh, The Thing's I Know, Al Franken

Al Franken, long time comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer, has written another very funny book following up on the Franken presidency "Why not me?" and his right-wing roast "Rush Limbaugh's a Big Fat Idiot."  His latest effort is a tongue-in-cheek send-up of all the feel-good self-help books out there. Franken definitely pushes the limits of good taste with his self-posessed style of humor, but his wit lets him get away with it.  Franken never quite lets on that he's in on the joke, much like most self-absorbed self-help gurus can give you advice on how to feel good about situations that they never face. And that's what makes the book work.  He covers topics ranging from "Oh, the Person of your Dreams vs. the Person You Can Actually Attract" to "Oh, the People You'll Sue" in a way that is just to eerily close to the pap in most self-help books.


Non Campus MentisNon Campus Mentis, Anders Henriksson

Canadian college professor Anders Henriksson has compiled the best of the worst college world history essay answers in this short but hilarious volume. It's almost embarassing what passes as knowledge.  But still, it's pretty funny.  Somehow I can imagine thousands of history professors crying in their beer while the rest of us laugh out loud.

Tales from the Tech LineTales from the Tech Line, David Pogue

David Pogue, prolific Mac author and New York Times technology columnist, helped assemble this collection of gaffes from the tech support lines in the high-tech industry.  If you've ever manned a tech support line, or worse, called one with a "doh" question, you'll find this book amusing.  It is an admittedly slim volume at 127 pages, and some of these tales have been kicked around for years, but they will still bring a smile to your face.  Unless you're stuck on hold waiting for support that is.

Who Cut the Cheese?Who Cut the Cheese? Mason Brown

Ok, I admit it.  It's a rather juvenile satire of the business book that you couldn't escape in 2000.  But it's still kind of funny if you don't mind flatulance humor.  If you're sick of self-help / management books by fable-tellers, then you'll enjoy this book.  To be honest, I think you'll learn about as much with this book as you would with the original.  Maybe more. 

My Wife & TimesMy Wife & Times, Daniel Will-Harris

Daniel Will-Harris may sound like a man with three first names which is probably just as well since he appears to live three lives.  He's a renowned web designer, a font guru and prolific author of humorous slice-of-life essay.  His twice-monthly web column schmoozeletter leaves tens of thousands of readers in stitches as Daniel pokes and prods everything from men and vacuums to the perils of getting locked out of your house naked.  I bought his book and you should too.  

One Nation Extra CheeseOne Nation Extra Cheese, Modern Humorist

The latest book from the gang at Modern Humorist is based on their excellent series "Foreigner's Guide to America" travel satire.  Covers such bizarre rituals as office dress, entertainment, food and drink, movies and other unique American traditions all topped with extra cheese.  The only disappointment here is that the book is bound as a cheap paperback with black & white rather than color illustrations.  


Rough DraftRough Draft, Modern Humorist

This is another book from the team behind the Modern Humorist web site.  It's short, but is big on visual gags that poke fun at some of our cultural landmarks, skidmarks and lowpoints.  You'll get Dr. Seuss's original "The Monkey Was a Junkie", Woodstock's "Three days of Peace, Love and Monster Trucks", "Gee your hair smells like Shampoo" and more.  It makes for a quick read and very amusing read.  A great gift.  

Dispatches from the Tenth Circle of HellDispatches from the Tenth Circle: The Best of the Onion

These are some of the top stories from The Onion, America's leading humor newspaper and web site.  Not for the faint of heart, The Onion lampoons just about everything ranging from the ACLU ("ACLU defends Nazis rights to burn down ACLU headquarters") to the obese ("Hershey's ordered to pay obese Americans $135 billion").  If you're a fan of the web site or the newspaper, definitely pick this one up.


The Secret Diary of Bill GatesThe Secret Diary of Bill Gates, Bill G.

This is a hilarious send up of Bill Gates written as a fake diary.  What originally started as a humorous website turned into an excellent book.  Read about Gates obsession with the his money, his IQ and, believe it or not, the Spice Girls.  This book is a hoot.


Totally Unauthorized Microsoft Joke BookUnauthorized Microsoft Joke Book, Tim Barry

Tim Barry, former InfoWorld columnist, has released the second edition of his famous Microsoft joke book.  He's collected some of the "classic" Microsoft jokes and added some new twists.  If you're not up on the latest alt.joke forums, this is a great book and guaranteed to make you smile.  Tim has also created the Totally Unauthorized Enron Joke Book, which has some new humor but also reworks some of the classics to lampoon Enron and Arthur Anderson. 


Economy of ErrorsEconomy Of Errors, Andrew Marlatt

Andrew Marlatt is the chief writer, webmaster and all round everything at SatireWire, one of the best Silicon Valley humor sites ever.  This book puts the best of SatireWire in print along with some great new essays.  Includes classic stories on AT&T's 120% downsizing, employee slapping, controlled burn of dot coms, and a hilarious Bill Gates interview ("Oh, you mean that Internet!") and more.      

What Would Machiavelli Do?What Would Machiavelli Do? Stanley Bing

CBS Executive Gil Schwartz writes a monthly column for Fortune magazine under the pseudonym Stanley Bing.  Although his monthly column is somewhat cynical at times, this book is a terrific send up of the dozens of management philosophy and self-help books out there. 



Dave Barry in CyberSpaceDave Barry in CyberSpace, Dave Barry

This is Dave Barry at his laugh-out-loud best. Dave's regular column for the Miami Herald is the most consistently funny satire around; he even earned a Pulitzer for his work.  Dave captures the spirit of techno-geekosity with his great send up of Windows, PCs, software complexity, Comdex and the industry in general.  And unlike Bill Gates' visionary book "The Road Ahead", Dave actually covers the Internet.    



The Dilbert PrincipleThe Dilbert Principle, Scott Adams

Part cartoon collection part soap-box preaching, Scott Adams first book of essays opens up the Dilbert cubicle to provide a cynical yet jaded view of corporate life. Adams takes a dim view of people, but still offers plenty of laughs.



Nudist on the Late ShiftNudist On The Late Shift, Po Bronson

This is a collection of essays on Silicon Valley, many of which originally appeared in Wired magazine. There are hilarious accounts of startups funded by pot growing, an inside look at the IPO process, living on the edge with sales people and more.  Although most of the stories take place in 1999, it is an excellent snapshot of the craziness of Silicon Valley. Whether you were a part of it, or missed out, this book tells the story of Silicon Valley without being judgemental.



Bombardiers, Po BronsonBombardiers, Po Bronson

Before Po Bronson was writer in residence for Silicon Valley he worked in the San Francisco bond trading desk of a large investment bank. This fictionalized story blends Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 with Michael Lewis’ "Liar’s Poker" resulting in a stunning first novel. It tells the story on multiple levels in a compelling, warm and funny style.



E, Matt BeaumontE, Matt Beaumont

One of the most creative books in ages. Beaumont tells the story of a supremely dysfunctional London ad agency all through email. This is a hilarious account of office politics, romance, leadership and creativity.



God is my Broker, Christopher BuckleyGod Is My Broker, Christopher Buckley

If this book doesn’t make you laugh, then you’re obviously too hung up on self-help books. It’s a tremendous satire on the business world, but especially the new-age self help books that have proliferated in the last 10 years.  This follows on Chris Buckley's other great works including "The White House Mess" and "Thank You For Not Smoking."


Bored Of The RingsBored Of The Rings, Harvard Lampoon 

If you missed this classic satire by Henry Beard ("OJ's Legal Pad") and Douglas Kenney ("Animal House") when it was first published in 1969, you can get the "51st anniversary" edition reissued to coincide with the launch of the Lord of the Rings movie.  Some of the references to 1960s culture are a bit dated (does anyone in tech remember Nixon?) but it remains a classic and a definite antidote to all of the movie hype.


Your Computer Thinks You're An IdiotYour Computer Thinks You're An Idiot, Randy Glasbergen

Randy is a syndicated cartoonist whose  Better Half cartoon appears in daily papers around the world.  He also has a cartoon of the day web site and two books of computer and business-related cartoons.


Downloaded: 3rd Collection of the 5th Wave, Rich TennantDownloaded: 3rd Collection of the 5th Wave, Rich Tennant

Rich Tennant provided ComputerWorld’s editorial cartoons for many years. This is a new collection of classic cartoons of every aspect of the tech world from Comdex, to demos, to programmers hard at work. Definitely a hoot.


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