“What can I do for you?” I ask my friend undergoing chemo. “Oh, just bring me a funny audiobook to distract me.” I used to arrive with stacks of them, but over time I’ve developed a list of greatest hits that work well for our recuperating loved ones. Some criteria: Not too embarrassing for one unrelated adult to read aloud to another, not too many worrying situations (why did I think that book with a scene where the author is interrogated by the protagonist was okay?), and of course, the kind of humor that makes for belly laughs. Some people claim that anything by David Sedaris will work, and there are plenty of those to choose from, but moving beyond that, here are my three greatest hits for the healing, or anyone wanting a laugh.
The story of the beleaguered corporate drop-out Samantha as she tries to fake her way through a live-in cook and cleaning job in Sophie Kinsella's The Undomestic Goddess has left men and women alike unable to stop laughing. Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods seems like it might be a macho mind over matter tale of a journey on the Appalachian trail but is instead a tale of absurd urban warriors. The humor and scenery together make a great distraction. Richard Peck’s look back at his Grandma in the 1930s is so funny because Grandma is not the usual grandma of memoirs. She exaggerates, connives, trespasses, and contrives to help the town underdogs outwit the establishment. While A Long Way from Chicago lives in the children’s section, it's a great read for adults.