Good old books: My Uncle Oswald, by Roald Dahl

In this feature, we offer up some great book recommendations—but not from the current bestseller list. Instead, we offer up oldie-but-goodies; some will be well-known classics, others not so much. But chances are you can find them in a second-hand store or at the library, and who doesn’t love the smell and feel of a good old book?

Pretty much everyone’s read one of Roald Dahl’s kid’s books; they’re amazingly creative, full of imagination, whimsical characters and vivid imagery. I have a copy of The BFG on my bookshelf, and I’ve read it within the last year. But lots of people don’t know that Dahl (1916-1990), a Norwegian-born ex-fighter pilot, wrote equally imaginative—and very adult—books too, full of dark, inappropriate humor and silliness.

One of my favourites of his grown-up books is My Uncle Oswald. Written in 1979, the unnamed narrator recounts stories from a series of diaries written by his Uncle – unbelievable tales of an eccentric, lascivious character known as “the greatest fornicator of all time.” Uncle Oswald and his raunchy exploits show up in a few of Dahl’s short story collection (Switch Bitch is another great one), but if you’re worried about too much Penthouse and not enough humor, don’t fret: his diaries aren’t just old-school frat tales of male conquest. Some of the tales, like this one—where Oswald discovers the world’s most powerful aphrodisiac and with the aid of a female accomplice places the substance inside chocolate truffles for, ahem, dissemination—have darkly comic surprise twists, and old Oswald doesn’t always come out on top. No matter what, it’s entertaining.


If you want an easy read that’s also clever, hilarious, and more than a little bit dirty, you can do no better than one of Roald Dahl’s novels. James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will always have a special place in my heart–right there alongside Uncle Oswald.

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