A Confederacy of Dunces - cover

Buy A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole). First published in 1980.

When it comes to funny books, the novel A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole certainly fits the bill. This humorous book was first published in 1980, though tragically its author committed suicide some eleven years earlier. Toole committed suicide at the age of 31 in 1969 and through the relentless work of his mother, Thelma Toole, the work was published from a manuscript written by the author before his death. Despite the tragedy surrounding this aspect of the novel, it is still considered a strong work of fiction and for many, an incredibly funny book. Likewise, it was the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 1981.

Set in New Orleans in the 1960’s, the novel follows the life of main character Ignatius J. Reilly who is a lazy but intelligent man in his thirties. He resides in his mother’s basement in New Orleans’ Uptown neighborhood. Though he has long had an easy life, he is now forced to venture out in to the world and get a job. The book weaves through humorous situations as Reilly ventures out of his mother’s basement in order to secure employment. He interacts with several colorful New Orleans characters along the way, whose oddities and strange tendencies lead to funny stories and an interesting plot.

The novel itself is unique, as its format is such that it is divided into both chapters and subchapters. The reader is taken on a lighthearted journey throughout this format, with many stories and additional plots introduced that do not necessarily contribute to the main plot of the novel itself.

The various jobs that Reilly secures along his quest for employment are equally humorous. Many believe the author modeled the main character of the novel after himself, as he also held similar positions after graduating from a prestigious university with multiple degrees. In the novel, Reilly is also a well-educated man, but never seems to garner success through employment. He works for a pants factory, known as Levy Pants and at a hot dog cart known as “Paradise Hot Dogs.”

This highly acclaimed book, which steadily gained popularity after publication, is definitely on our top 10 funny books ever!