In this review of the best books by David Sedaris, we look at some of the famous American humorist’s most enjoyable works.
Best books by David Sedaris
Humor is often our window to the truth.
When it comes to humor in writing, few do it better than David Sedaris. From his early days writing for The New Yorker to the bestselling books he creates today, Sedaris has successfully used humor to broach awkward topics.
Who is David Sedaris?
Born the second of six children to Sharon and Lou Sedaris, David Sedaris graduated from high school in Raleigh. During his school years, he developed a taste for acting in plays.
Though he enrolled in both Kent State University and Western Carolina University, he didn’t stay long at either. Instead, he embarked on a hitchhiking tour of the United States.
During this tour, Sedaris started keeping a diary, which is how his love for writing developed. On his return, he enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, from which he graduated in 1987.
From there, he worked various odd jobs until he appeared on an NPR broadcast in 1992 reading one of his stories, The Santaland Diaries. That reading was a great success, and within months he was a contributor writing essays for publications like Esquire, Harper’s, and The New Yorker.
As he expanded his repertoire as an essayist and public radio speaker, Sedaris moved into writing books. He published his first, Barrel Fever, in 1994. Since then, he has gone on to publish many books, becoming a bestseller in the New York Times in the process.
Beyond books, Sedaris has also written several plays as part of The Talent Family with his sister. These include classics like Stump the Host, One Woman Shoe, and The Book of Liz. He’s also still a regular contributor to The New Yorker, BBC Radio 4, This American Life, and many other publications.
Interestingly, he’s not the only member of his family with comedic talent. David is the brother of Amy Sedaris, an actress who’s well-known for her comedic roles. He’s also an inductee to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Best David Sedaris books
As a 2001 recipient of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, David Sedaris has the comedy credentials that tell you his books are worth reading. He’s also the recipient of three Grammy awards for the audio recordings of his work. Plus, he received an honorary doctorate from Binghamton University in New York City.
With so many accolades under his belt, you can bet that Sedaris’s work measures up to your comedy standards. Here is a selection of the finest books from this great author’s mind:
Me Talk Pretty One Day
This autobiographical book sees Sedaris sharing funny stories from his childhood. From pranks he and his sister played on their parents to his confusion over the genders used in French, the book is a rollicking read that highlights the best of Sedaris’s humor.
Though Barrel Fever was David Sedaris’s first book, Naked was his breakthrough work. Published in 1997, it’s an essay collection that serves as an early autobiography of the writer.
He talks about many of his strange early quirks, such as a period where he mostly spoke in Shakespearean English. Sedaris leaves the reader in stitches as he recounts tales that helped form his comedic wit.
Rather than a collection of personal essays, Calypso features pieces Sedaris wrote for various magazines and newspapers. The book features some of his best work as a humorist, including the famous articles I’m Still Standing and Company Men.
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
You may see a theme here, as Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is another collection of essays. A comparatively new book when compared to others on this list, this title allows us to meet David Sedaris in a more somber mood.
Though the book still has plenty of hilarious moments, it’s a more heart-warming read than many of his other releases. The spoken word version of the book won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in 2014.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Containing 22 essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames is Sedaris at his blackly comedic best.
The essays focus mostly on Sedaris’s life away from the United States, as he recounts tales from his time in France and England.
Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays
Though his later collections surpassed his first book, Barrel Fever, it still contains many classic stories.
As an examination of Sedaris’s trademark happy-go-lucky style, Barrel Fever is essential reading. Published by Dramatists Play Service, the book sees Sedaris recount his time working as a Macy’s elf in one essay. Another looks at the “persecution” smokers experience.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim
At 270 pages, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is another collection of essays. There’s a nice mix here, with some essays focusing on the author’s childhood, while others give you a brief glimpse into the antics he gets up to with his famous sister, Amy.
Holidays on Ice
Sedaris explores his love, and sometimes disdain, for Christmas in this essay collection. He attacks the commercial nature of the holiday season while also offering a salve for those who don’t want to engage in the good cheer of Christmas.
Theft by Finding: Diaries
We mentioned earlier that David Sedaris’s passion for writing developed when he started keeping a diary.
In Theft by Finding, you can read his most private writing. Filled with fun observations, the book gives insight into what helped mold Sedaris into a great comedian.
Our list of ten titles gives you a cross-section of David Sedaris’s work. However, there are more books that are worth a read from the author:
Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules
A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary
David Sedaris: Live for Your Listening Pleasure
The Best of Me
David Sedaris: Live at Carnegie Hall (Not a book, but the recording of this performance earned a Gong for Best Comedy Album)
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What happened to David Sedaris?
David Sedaris is still writing and performing. He recently held shows in Boston.
Are David Sedaris and Hugh Hamrick married?
No, but they are long-time partners.
What is David Sedaris best-selling book?
Specific details aren’t available. However, Sedaris had sold 12 million copies of his books by 2018.
Where does David Sedaris live?
Though he maintains a beach house in North Carolina, David Sedaris lives in West Sussex, England.