It’s kinda fun liking something a lot of other people like. We call it popular culture for a reason, right? Popularity is 50 percent of the whole concept. (In some cases, this idea backfires and we end up with America’s Next Top Fetus or Celebrity CAT Scans, but let’s try not to focus on the dark side of Hollywood’s garbage brain.) A show that does exist that lots of people like? Modern Family. It can be watched by multiple generations at once without anyone getting embarrassed. It airs constantly and on numerous channels. It wins all the trophies and awards. It has inspired a line of nail polish, even, and if they paid Sofía Vergara to endorse eating thumbtacks, we’d all get on board. So what is the magic that makes it work? If we knew that, we’d all be off writing hit sitcoms, making millions and riding Arabian horses. While we’re trying to find the magic formula, here’s a list of books for people who love the show (which is basically everyone, as we’ve already established).
Where’d You Go, Bernadette, by Maria Semple
Families are chaos! Families are crazy! But no matter what, families forgive each other—at least in books and movies and TV shows designed to make us feel good about our lives. Right now, you might be thinking to yourself: “How do I know tthis novel is funny? How can I be SURE? Because if I’m giving this book to someone, I’m staking my reputation on its ability to inspire laughter and good feels.” Well, Maria Semple wrote for Arrested Development, Mad About You, and Saturday Night Live, so you can feel confident she’s got the funny thing covered.
Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, by David Sedaris
Any book by David Sedaris has more than a handful of essays about his childhood, which according to him was filled with siblings, cigarette smoke, a deep longing to have a more diamond-filled life than the one he was born into, and parents who had no qualms about mocking their offspring. He has a really great way of writing about imperfect people (including himself), while making you love them and want to invite them all over for wine and tiny appetizers. This title features the typical circus of absurdity but also includes an essay on how his family deals with their starring role in Sedaris’s writings. It’s funny, sure, but also poignant and real.
Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan
A guy from a big family goes on to have a big family and also happens to be a successful standup comedian with the most perfect Midwestern delivery and THEN writes a book about the whole thing. He finds all the humor there is to be had about being a dad and how it feels to be a prisoner in your own home when you have more children than parents. If Phil Dunphy were as intentionally funny as he thinks he is, this is probably the kind of thing he’d write.
The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Wilson
This book chronicles Wilson’s experiments in the art of creating good habits and living a happier life—something we suspect Europeans kind of have handled (what with their luxurious amount of vacation days and casual attitudes toward drinking and cheese-eating) but Americans can’t quite crack (what with our 80-hour work weeks and insistence upon creating movies starring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). It’s about how even though life is hectic and sometimes crappy, we can choose to do things that help us find the joy in it. And that’s nice.
The Comedy of Errors, by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare?! That’s like the opposite of modern!! We know. But what will never, ever go out of style is how hilarious it is when people communicate badly and get things mixed up (infuriating in real life, hilarious in fake life…not sure why that is but maybe we’re all just great sports who love poking fun at ourselves). In one of Shakespeare’s funniest plays, ye olde Barde writes of mistaken identities stemming from not one but two sets of twins. Add in an iPhone and this could conceivably be a Modern Family plot.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Admittedly, this is the dark horse on the list. It’s not so much funny as a terrifying glimpse at marriage and family and secrets and lies and who people truly are inside and whether or not love is real and oh my god is humanity doomed forever?! This is an unsettling read and yes, mildly out of place in this post. So why’s it here? Because Gone Girl happens to be of the most popular books of the last year, and as we mentioned before, it’s fun to like things other people like. So you can read it and talk about it with everyone in the world. And connect as people. And save humanity.
Modern Family: Wit and Wisdom from America’s Favorite Family, by the Writers of Modern Family