Jean Shepherd In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash — Tender and brilliantly funny stories of growing up in the Midwest in the early 50s. Seinfeld was asked who was his greatest influence and, without hesitation, he replied, “Jean Shepherd”. The follow-up, Wanda Hickey’s Night Of Golden Memories And Other Disasters, is also excellent. Many parts of “In God” were used in the classic holiday movie, ‘A Christmas Story’. As hilarious as that is, it’s not as funny as these books.
Ben Stein — All his “How To. . . ” books are provocative and engaging. I was a fan of his TV show, the LOL funny “Win Ben Stein’s Money” that featured Jimmy Kimmel. Alas, it seldom reruns.
Calvin Trillin American Fried, Alice Let’s Eat, and Third Helpings — Also known as “The Tummy Trilogy”, these three books contain the sharpest, and often funniest, observations about American food and dining ever written. Trillin invented a genre, particularly in American Fried, his masterpiece.
Donald Westlake Dancing Aztecs — Witty and entertaining late 1970s “caper” novel that stands out from his many others. Everyone gets in trouble—no exceptions. He’s written many more novels as well. His wife, Abigail Adams, is a very smart Erma Bombeck-style garden writer, of all things.
P. G. Wodehouse Uncle Fred In The Springtime — I have a friend who reads Wodehouse to combat depression, and he says all of his books work. A bit like Westlake, but British and set in the early 20th century. Perfectly normal eccentrics get caught up in sophisticated, idiotic plots.