Ask Agatha: dyslexic teen readers and literary books that will make you laugh
The latest installment of our book advice column where you can ask our wise bookseller Agatha all your tricky (book-related) questions.
I’m into literature but I think most of it is painfully unfunny. What books can I read that will actually make me laugh?
To my thinking, Lorrie Moore is essential reading for the Literary lover who enjoys funny books. Of her latest short-story collection, Bark, our reviewer writes: ‘Moore’s use of humour is underhanded, her jokes sneaking up on you in clever, unexpected ways’. (For other female American writers with a similar sense of humour to Moore, you might like to try Laura van den Berg or Amy Hempel.)
Looking to other 2014 releases, Joshua Ferris' Man Booker-longlisted To Rise Again at a Decent Hour might tempt you - our reviewer calls it ‘a darkly comic exploration of faith, obsession and flossing’. If you enjoy twisted or ironic humour, Man Booker-winner D.B.C. Pierre has a new novella out, Breakfast with the Borgias, which our reviewer describes as both hilarious and horrific. And Judith Schalansky’s The Giraffes Neck is also a good choice, featuring a long-suffering biology teacher working in a country backwater of the former East Germany.
What can you recommend for my young teenager who is dyslexic?
The first books that spring to mind come from a publisher called Barrington Stoke, who specialise in commissioning great content from popular authors and putting it into a format that encourages dyslexic and reluctant readers. For gritty teen content, printed on dyslexic-friendly paper and with a rounder font, you could try Keith Gray’s The Return of Johnny Kemp. Graphic novels may also appeal. Try Drama by Raina Telgemeier (we’re also eagerly awaiting her new one, Sisters), or The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
Another idea is to buy a popular book and the audio version to go with it. Perhaps this might suit a reader who’d prefer to have a quiet moment with a book without having to ask for help. For teens you could try The Fault in Our Stars (book here, audio here), Tomorrow When the War Began (book here, audio here), or More Than This (book here, audio here).
And for a series of books featuring a dyslexic main character aged 12, have a look at the Hank Zipzer series, which is also a popular TV series. Author and actor Henry Winkler based these books on his own childhood experiences (he has dyslexia and ADHD).
I just read The Rosie Project and loved it. Do you have any suggestions for other good reads of a similar vein?
The book has certainly won many a heart – someone else asked me the same questions a few columns earlier. At the time, I recommended the following:
“If you enjoyed The Rosie Project it’s worth noting that the sequel is due for release in September of this year. In The Rosie Effect, Don Tillman and Rosie Jarman are now married and living in New York when Rosie announces she’s pregnant. Naturally, hilarity ensues.
In the meantime… For another Melbourne-based, unusual love story try Toni Jordan’s Addition. For another charming, quirky tale (one described as a love letter to books) try The Collected Works Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. And for something that takes a surprising approach to the typical rom-com story, try Nora Ephron’s Heartburn (a personal favourite).”
If you have a question for Agatha please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll be publishing her next column on Monday 18 August. All questions answered on our blog will be kept anonymous and questions will be chosen at Agatha’s discretion.