Books·My Life In Books

5 Canadian novels that made Terry Fallis laugh out loud

Will Ferguson, Amy Jones and Donald Jack are three of the two-time winners of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour's picks.
Terry Fallis is a two time recipient of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. (terryfallis.com)

Terry Fallis knows funny. He is a two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. He won in 2008 for his debut novel, The Best Laid Plans, and in 2015 for No RelationThe Best Laid Plans won Canada Reads in 2011 and was turned into a CBC miniseries. It's also #76 on the 150 bestselling Canadian books of the past 10 years. Not bad for a book that was originally self-published.

His latest novel, One Brother Shy, follows software engineer Alex MacAskill who must face a humilating incident from his past after his mother dies. It sounds depressing, but, like Fallis' other books, is filled with humour and warmth.

CBC Books asked Terry Fallis to recommend five of his favourite funny Canadian titles.

King Leary by Paul Quarrington

Paul Quarrington won the 1988 Leacock Medal for Humour and the 2008 edition of Canada Reads. (CBC/Anchor Canada)

This was the first Quarrington novel I ever read. I loved it so much I now own signed first editions of all of his novels. King Leary won the 1988 Leacock Medal for Humour and the 2008 edition of Canada Reads. It's by turns hilarious and melancholy while examining the life and times of Percival "King" Leary, a long-retired hockey star now living in a retirement home. The story is populated with memorable, outsized characters, sizzling dialogue, and hilarious hockey curiosities, including Leary's famous deke, the St. Louis Whirligig.

The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby

Susan Juby is a two time recipient of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. (Delgado Photography/Harper Perennial)

This is a hilarious and charming tale of a young woman living the dream of moving back to the land. As you might expect, it's not as easy at it appears to be in our imaginations. In Susan Juby's very skillful hands, this story will make you laugh and make you think, a powerful combination. And she is truly one of our funniest writers. In fact, her follow-up novel, Republic of Dirt, won the 2016 Leacock Medal.

Three Cheers for Me by Donald Jack

Donald Jack was awarded the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour three times. (Ashley Colour/McClelland & Stewart)

Sadly neglected now, Donald Jack is one of the few writers who have won the Leacock Medal for Humour three times. Three Cheers For Me is the first in his hilarious series of novels collectively known as The Bandy Papers. Bartholomew Bandy is self-described as a horse-faced farm boy from Eastern Ontario. He's more than an unreliable narrator, occasionally revealing himself as an oblivious narrator, and therein lies much of the humour. He goes off to fight in the Great War, lurching from calamity to calamity, without acknowledging or often even knowing that he is the cause of the mayhem in his wake. Funny stuff with a distinctly Canadian vibe.

We're All in This Together by Amy Jones

Amy Jones won the 2006 CBC Literary Prize for Short Fiction. (Jason Spun/Spun Creative/McClelland & Stewart)

I loved this book and it made me laugh, often. Amy Jones has written a hysterical debut novel about a very special family in Thunder Bay. The action kicks off when the 63 year-old family matriarch plunges over Kakabeka Falls in a whiskey barrel, and the video goes viral. How the indomitable family navigates the aftermath is at the heart of this very funny story. You don't have to take my word for it, We're All in This Together was a finalist for the Leacock Medal.

Happiness™ by Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson has been awarded the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humor thrice, including for Happiness™ in 2002.

It's hard to imagine CanLit's comedy canon without Will Ferguson. After all, like Donald Jack, he's a three-time winner of the Leacock Medal, including for Happiness™ in 2002. As a point of interest that might win you a CanLit trivia contest sometime, the Leacock Medal website lists the name of the 2002 winning book as Generica. This fine and funny satire about the publishing world was subsequently renamed Happiness™ but all the laughs and provocative themes remain. Imagine a scenario when a self-help book actually works and cures humanity's ills. Well, that's what Will Ferguson imagined and now we can all happily laugh ourselves silly.

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