Wodehouse & Saki, informally speaking
My dad always had a couple books he could pick up any evening, and spend anywhere from a few minutes to a couple hours with. [it is okay to end with a preposition, btw]. My two authors for that purpose are P.G. Wodehouse and Saki (H.H. Munro]. Wodehouse's Bertie and Jeeves series are a remarkably interconnected collection of stories that can make me laugh openly each time I read them; sometimes the anticipation of what I know is coming next is amazing. He paints perfect pictures of his characters with just a few words of description, while much of their imagery comes from their language and behavior. There's a bit of deeper undertone, I think, in that while Jeeves is perfectly subservient to Bertie on the surface, he does very well for himself and also seems to get some passive-aggressive pleasure. The one downside to Wodehouse is his casual racism, typical probably for the era, but nonetheless unsettling and irritating. But it happens rarely, and while I can't forgive it, I can almost ignore it. I read him whenever I want to laugh and feel better.
Saki is a good and sharp writer (I read one reviewer said his stories are "like one long cat-scratch"). Most stories are very short, can be very cutting about people's foibles and pretense, especially and usually (but not always) about the British upper-class, and nearly all have an unexpected twist. Many, too, contain tight words and phrases that I love to read and have not been above lifting from time to time. One of the longer stories, Sredni Vashtar, is so not funny that it was included in Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural; it's touching and sad and does indeed have [spoiler alert] a gruesome ending. Saki died at a young age in the First World War, and I can't help but wonder what he would have produced had he lived. I read him whenever I want to think and be entertained by sharp writing.
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