Chronic illness. Substance abuse. Unhappy childhoods. Divorce. These glum topics fill the pages of many a memoir, so much so that Amazon.com is currently featuring a list of “Heart-Breaking Biographies & Memoirs.” In the dark winter months, I find my tolerance for such topics at a low. Here are two of my all-time favorite funny memoirs, guaranteed to bring a smile to your face no matter what the weather.
A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel
Born in 1965, Kimmel grew up in the small town of Mooreland, Indiana. A Girl Named Zippy is filled with the moments that loom large in the world of young children: the ups and downs of friendship, new bikes, and unusual neighbors. She tells such stories with uncommon wit and spot-on observation. Here are a few of her witticisms:
On Jesus: ”Everyone around me was flat-out in love with him, and who wouldn’t be? He was good with animals, he loved his mother, and he wasn’t afraid of blind people.”
On sports: “I later discovered that in order to be a good athlete one must care intensely what is happening with a ball, even if one doesn’t have possession of it. This was ultimately my failure: my inability to work up a passion for the location of balls.”
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
Bryson has made a career writing travel journals and nonfiction about everything from household objects to Shakespeare, all in fine storytelling form. In The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, he turns the lens to his childhood. Growing up in the Midwest as a member of the Baby Boomer generation, Bryson’s early existence is utterly ordinary, and yet his hilarious descriptions of his life make this an ode to boyhood. From lame 1950s toys, debauchery at movie matinees, and learning to read with Dick and Jane, readers will find themselves reminiscing with Bryson only to be interrupted with laughter at his truisms.